Professor receives $499,728 grant

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Somnath Chattopadhyay, an engineering and computer science professor at CSUN, has received a $499,728 grant from the U.S. Army to conduct research that will advance military operations and help improve national security.

His project, funded by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Army Research Development and Engineering Command Acquisition Division, is designed to develop a new class of photo detectors, or optical signals, that will help improve military applications, including missile defense, optical networking, earth-observing stations, and anti-jamming communication systems.

Chattopadhyay’s research on the use of optical signals will allow the military to establish a faster and more secure communication system to prevent enemy tracking.

Nagi El Naga, chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at CSUN, said this research will advance the department, as well as be a good resource for students who want to learn and stay competitive in the world of electronic and optoelectric devices.

“The students will get hands-on experience,” said Chattopadhyay regarding how the grant will benefit the department and its students.

Along with funding Chattopadhyay’s research, the grant money will go toward purchasing equipment for the department’s “clean room,” a dirt and dust-free work facility that also works in nanotechnology.

“Nanotechnology is a new and emerging technology,” El Naga said. “(The clean room) can take us one step ahead of all CSU campuses, because CSUN (engineering) students will be exposed (to) something not all CSU students have a chance to be exposed to.”

Receiving the grant was exciting, Chattopadhyay said, who taught at CSU Fresno for three years before accepting a position at CSUN in January 2005.

“God blessed me,” Chattopadhyay said. “(The grant) is a big Christmas gift from God.”

After submitting two proposals to the National Science Foundation and getting turned down both times, Chattopadhyay said he dedicated four months of his life to trying to get the U.S. Army to fund his research, sometimes spending up to 20 hours a day writing proposals and doing research on his own. He received notification this month that he won the grant, which he said was a reward for his hard work and long hours.

To Chattopadhyay, it is not just about receiving close to a half-million dollar grant. He said he hopes by buying better equipment for the clean room and researching optoelectric devices, people will start to see that CSUN is a competitive school in the field of engineering.

“It’s not about how much money or honor you get,” Chattopadhyay said. “CSUN has exceptional facilities, and others in the community should know. The more people who know, the more who will enroll and come to CSUN (to pursue engineering degrees) instead of UCLA or other places.”