Engineering professor Michael Escuti has won the U.S. government’s top award for early-career scientists and engineers.
Escuti, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, will receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers later this fall, the White House announced Monday. The awards program, established by President Bill Clinton in 1996, honors researchers for working at the frontiers of science and technology and serving the community through scientific leadership, public education or outreach.
Winners receive research grants of up to five years to support their work.
Escuti was honored for developing liquid crystal “polarization gratings,” a thin layer of liquid crystal material on a glass plate. His research has shown how polarization gratings, as well as devices and applications based on them, can solve problems in optics previously thought unsolvable.
The White House also recognized him for educating students through collaborations with international academic teams and industries, as well as for outreach work in underserved communities.
One result of the Escuti’s research is a precise, energy-efficient way of steering laser beams that is relatively inexpensive. The research has potential applications in laser radar and free space communication, which uses lasers to transfer data between platforms—such as between satellites or between aircraft and soldiers on the battlefield. Escuti’s team, consisting of NC State students along with partner Boulder Nonlinear Systems Inc., has already delivered prototypes of the technology to the U.S. Air Force and is working on other applications.
Other developments based on Escuti’s work include a low-loss light switch and high-resolution spectral/polarization cameras, which enable compact and low-cost imaging for aerial vehicles, satellites and biomedical imaging.
Escuti is commercializing his research through several industrial partnerships, including his own start-up company, ImagineOptix Corp., that has already prototyped a tiny, highly efficient projection display that could revolutionize displays on hand-held and mobile devices.
His work has resulted in a National Science Foundation (NSF) Career Award, three awarded patents and nine pending patents. He has also received $4.3 million in external research funding from NSF, and many other federal, state and private sources.
Escuti earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Brown University in 2002 and joined the NC State faculty in 2004.