Jorge Rocca awarded prestigious U.S. Department of Defense Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship

University Distinguished Professor Jorge Rocca
University Distinguished Professor Jorge Rocca

Colorado State University Distinguished Professor Jorge Rocca is one of only eight scientists in the nation awarded a $3 million U.S. Department of Defense fellowship.

Rocca, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Physics, joins seven other scientists and engineers awarded the Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship – its most prestigious award for single investigators – to conduct cutting-edge basic research that holds promise for transformative impact. Rocca is the first-ever CSU faculty member to receive the fellowship.

“This highly competitive award speaks to the caliber and impact of Jorge’s work,” said Tony Maciejewski, department head of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “He is regarded as a leader in laser science and engineering, and we are proud he is representing our department and CSU in this program of national importance.”

As a fellow, Rocca will receive up to $3 million over the next five years to take basic research a step further in the area of ultra-high field nanophotonics. He aims to understand how the energy of intense laser pulses of the shortest duration is coupled and transported into nanostructured materials as compared to uniform solids. The fundamental understanding gained can impact the ways in which materials can be engineered to control their interaction with ultra-intense light.  That could result in the efficient creation of gigantic electromagnetic fields, in materials that are heated to enormous energy densities similar to those encountered in the center of the sun, and in transformative technologies such as compact sources of high energy atomic particles and bright x-ray and gamma-ray beams with potential applications in materials diagnostics, medicine and national security.

Career marked by innovation

Rocca has a long and successful track record of leading basic research to drive scientific innovations in the areas of lasers and applications, including x-ray lasers and relativistic laser-matter interactions.

He is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), American Physical Society (APS), and Optical Society of America (OSA). He is also the recipient of the Arthur L. Schawlow Prize in Laser Science from the APS and the Willis E. Lamb Award for Laser Science and Quantum Optics.

More than 200 white papers were submitted for the 2020 Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship competition sponsored by the Basic Research Office within the Department of Defense. Rocca and the rest of this year’s winners “join a cadre of 56 current fellows who conduct basic research in areas of importance to DOD, ranging from materials science and cognitive neuroscience to quantum information sciences and applied mathematics,” the Department said in a release.