Roopali Kukreja receives 2019 Air Force Young Investigator Research grant

uc davis materials science engineering air force young investigator grant 2019 kukreja
Roopali Kukreja (right) and students in her lab, August 2018. Photo: UC Davis/Reeta Asmai.

Assistant Professor Roopali Kukreja has received a 2019 Air Force Office of Science and Research (AFOSR) Young Investigator Research grant for her proposal, “Unraveling the Speed Limit of Magnetization Dynamics in Magnetic Heterostructures.”

Kukreja studies methods to manipulate magnetism in nanomaterials at femtosecond (1x10-15 second) timescales. She uses x-rays to better understand the fundamental mechanisms that enable her to control magnetism with optical lasers.

The ability to reliably switch magnetization using laser pulses at ultrafast time intervals will drastically increase the computing speed and energy efficiency of hard drives while making them non-volatile. This will provide a significant upgrade over the current- or magnetic field-controlled computing devices available today.

“This grant allows us to address an important problem that will advance the development of new computing devices,” she said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to pursue my research.”

Her project involves two major steps. First, she and a graduate student will grow thin films, characterize them and study the ultrafast magnetic response of the overall structures at UC Davis. She will then take the films to national user facilities such as the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park or the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago to study them at the nanoscale using x-rays.

She plans to use the grant money to bring aboard a new graduate student for the project, perform research at UC Davis and fund all the necessary travel both to the national labs and to conferences to present the research.

“I’m excited to get started on the project,” she said. “This opportunity will allow me to establish myself and become a leader in ultrafast control of functional materials.”

The Young Investigator Research program promotes early-career development for researchers who are solving problems that are of interest to the Air Force and tackling cutting-edge science and engineering challenges. Kukreja was one of 31 scientists and engineers across the country to receive the grant of $450,000 over three years. She is the first of her colleagues in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering to receive this grant.

More information on the program and a list of winners can be found on the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base website.