Scholarship Winners

Winner of the 2016 Michael Pate Optical Sciences Memorial Scholarship: Tanya Das. 

Tanya is currently in the final year of her studies as a Ph.D. Candidate in the Electrical Engineering department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. As a member of Professor Jon Schuller’s research group, she works to advance research in the field of metamaterials. Specifically, Tanya works on developing theories to describe the interaction between different types of light polarizations and nanoscale elements in order to enable new metamaterial phenomena. She received her B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.    

In addition to her Ph.D. research, Tanya works to promote the field of optics through her work as a Graduate Student Evaluator with the Center for Science and Engineering Partnerships. There, she is part of the AIM Photonics Workforce Development team where she is developing and improving programs to expose students to and prepare students for careers in the integrated photonics industry. She also serves as the External Advisor for the UCSB Photonics Society, and serves on the organizing committee for the Beyond Academia conference, aimed at helping PhDs and post-docs explore careers beyond the traditional tenure track. Tanya is very interested in applying her knowledge and training as a scientific researcher to a career that will allow her to promote the fields of optics and photonics in the government sector by pursuing a career in science policy. In her free time, Tanya enjoys going on road trips, camping, reading, and writing.


Winner of the 2015 Michael Pate Optical Sciences Memorial Scholarship: Alex Anderson.

Alexander Anderson is currently a senior in optical engineering at the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester. This past summer, he developed a suite of software tools and performed a design survey of freeform telescopes at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. While at NASA, he was selected as a 2015 John Mather Nobel Scholar. The prior summer, he participated in the Harvard-MIT HST Summer Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital, developing a new microscopy technique, oblique back-illumination microscopy, which will enable medical researchers and clinicians to examine cells under flowing blood. He presented this work at the 2014 Biomedical Engineering Society Annual Meeting, and has applied for a patent for this work. At University of Rochester during the past school year, Alex worked as a research assistant in Dr. James Fienup’s Phase Retrieval and Image Science group, as well as serving as a workshop leader for geometrical optics. During the upcoming year, he will conduct research on freeform optics in Dr. Jannick Rolland’s lab.

Following the completion of his undergraduate degree, he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in either optics or electrical engineering. On campus, Alex is involved in several organizations, including Tau Beta Pi, Phi Beta Kappa, OSA, and SPIE, as well as the Strong Jugglers and Cru. In his spare time, he enjoys running, playing trombone, juggling, and slacklining.


Winner of the 2014 Michael Pate Optical Sciences Memorial Scholarship: Cheng Zhang.

Cheng Zhang is a 4th year PhD candidate in Electrical Engineering at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. He works with Professor L. Jay Guo on research projects in the field of micro/nano-scale optical device physics and fabrication. He started his PhD work using imprinted polymer micro-ring resonators as ultrasound detectors. Cheng and his lab mates have demonstrated a detector of unprecedented detection bandwidth, and employed it in efficient real time Terahertz pulse detection using the photoacoustic effect. Currently, in addition to new micro-ring designs and applications, Cheng’s research also includes plasmonics and meta-materials. He made important contributions in a structural color filter project, using sub-wavelength nano-scale patterns to generate different colors across the visible spectrum. He is now exploring Al-doped Ag film based devices including organic solar cells, plasmonic waveguides and hyperbolic meta-materials. His research has been published in high impact journals such as Advanced Materials, Nature Photonics, Physical Review Letters and reported by various media.

Cheng obtained his Bachelor degree in Electrical Engineering from Shandong University, China in 2010. He was one of the ten recipients of the national-wide “Chiang Chen Overseas Fellowship” in 2010, whose goal is to encourage and assist outstanding students to pursue advanced studies at top-grade universities overseas. He was awarded “Optics and Photonics Education Scholarship” twice by SPIE in 2010 and 2013 respectively. Outside of the lab, Cheng is actively involved in promoting Optical science and education. He worked as vice-president of “the Optical Society at the University of Michigan” from 2012 to 2014, and is now the president. He is the co-chair of “Engineering Graduate Symposium 2014”, an annual engineering graduate student conference at the University of Michigan. 


Winner of the 2013 Michael Pate Optical Sciences Memorial Scholarship: Michael Finch.

Michael Finch is currently an Electrical Engineering Masters student and Lab Instructor for the Electrical and Computer Engineering department at Florida Institute of Technology with plans to pursue a PhD. His research interests are in the field of coupling of optical metameteral phonon resonances which has application in molecular identification, infrared imaging, thin film photovoltaics, and electromagnetic induced transparency properties. Michael also has research interest in Free Space Optical Communication through an internship at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) working on Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD). An abstract was submitted to SPIE conference, Photonic West 2014, pertaining to Michael’s work on LCRD. His also has two publications in the field of optical communication that was presented at SPIE’s Defense Security and Sensing conference in Baltimore, MD in May 2013. Michael is a student member of IEEE, SPIE, and OSA as well as held the position of Vice-President of IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu at Florida Tech for two years.

Michael has several awards including Honorable Mention in NSF GRFP 2013, 2013 John Mather Nobel Scholar, and he was ranked “one of the 10 top academic year 2011-2012 graduating Electrical and Computer Engineering students in the nation” by Thomas Rothwell Chair of the HKN Alton B. Zerby and Carl T. Koerner Outstanding Electrical and Computer Engineering Student Award. Michael graduated summa cum laude with Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Florida Institute of Technology. He also has an Associates of Science in Engineering from Frederick Community College graduating with high honors. Michael has also passed the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam in the state of Florida and holds the certification of “Engineer in Training” (E.I.T). Michael plans on pursuing a professional Engineering (P.E.) license in electrical engineering. Michael’s interests include NASA and space exploration as well as science fiction like Star Wars and Star Trek.


Winner of the 2012 Michael Pate Optical Sciences Memorial Scholarship: David Carlson

David Carlson is currently enrolled as an Optical Sciences PhD student at the University of Arizona.  His research focuses on extending optical frequency comb technology into the extreme ultraviolet (XUV) spectral region.  Harnessing the precision and stability of these light sources in the XUV may enable the next generation of frequency standards and atomic clocks!

As an undergraduate student at Bethel University in Minnesota, David majored in physics and computer science - a very useful combination for studying optics!  Outside of the lab, he enjoys the
graduate student life on two wheels by racing, commuting, and touring around the southwest by bike.  He also enjoys woodworking, rock climbing, and playing the euphonium.


Winner of the 2011 Michael Pate Optical Sciences Memorial Scholarship: Michael Steinbock.

Michael Steinbock is currently an Electro-Optics Masters student at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT), with plans to follow up with a PhD. His research focuses on an optimized wavefront reconstructor for adaptive optics in strong atmospheric turbulence, but Michael also is exploring various non-traditional hardware acceleration techniques applied towards wave optics simulations. He has presented research at both SPIE and DEPS conferences, and has been accepted to present two additional papers at IEEE Aerospace. Recently elected president of the AFIT student SPIE chapter, Michael has already led the chapter to accomplish two firsts with additional goals to double chapter involvement and increase community outreach.

Prior to AFIT, Michael completed his undergraduate degrees in both Electrical and Computer Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis. Following graduation, Michael plans to continue research within Electro-Optics, hoping to have a positive impact within the field. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking/kayaking around the world and high performance driving. Moreover, Michael has extended his hobbies with two entrepreneurial projects that he hopes to market soon.