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Purdue Student Joseph Lukens to Receive the 2015 Marconi Society Young Scholar Award

Joseph Lukens

Recognized for groundbreaking work on “temporal cloaking”

Mountain View, CA • Joseph Lukens, Ph.D., a researcher at Purdue University Electrical Engineering School, has been selected to receive the 2015 Marconi Society Paul Baran Young Scholar Award. The 26-year-old American researcher will receive the award at the Royal Society in London on October 20, 2015.

“Joseph’s accomplishments in two quite distinct experimental research topics both connected with secure optical communications are quite impressive,” says Bob Tkach, a Marconi Fellow and researcher at Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs who chairs the selection committee. “We look for individuals who are on track to make breakthrough contributions in our field—and he meets that standard.”

“In the area of temporal cloaking, Lukens has shown how to open up and then reclose temporal gaps in a continuous, single-frequency laser field, such that any events that take place within the temporal gaps are rendered undetectable or cloaked,” says Prof. Andrew Weiner, Lukens’ primary advisor at Purdue. “Although spatial cloaking has received much attention, there was only one experiment on temporal cloaking prior to his Nature paper, which made significant advances over the prior work and used only telecom components, suggesting potential compatibility with lightwave communications. In a second paper he introduced completely new concepts, demonstrating both a multi-wavelength cloak and the use of cloaking to avoid corruption of existing data.”

Lukens also has used pulse shaping technology to manipulate time correlation functions of entangled photon pairs (biphotons), seeking to bring modern photonic signal processing technologies to bear on problems relevant to quantum communications. “He has a number of firsts in this area of research,” says Prof. Weiner.

Lukens dreamed of being a musician while growing up in Evansville, Indiana, but eventually decided to apply to engineering schools, and attended the engineering school at the University of Alabama. He was still undecided on a career in engineering a year before he was accepted into Purdue’s graduate electrical engineering program in optics.

“The deeper I got into it, however, the more I enjoyed it,” he says. “I realized it was a better choice than bass guitar,” he jokes. He also credits Prof. Weiner with providing him with exceptional opportunities. “He has helped me develop as a researcher,” Lukens says. “When I began, it never even crossed my mind that I would work on these projects, but Prof. Weiner got the funding and he essentially let me run with it. These turned out to be very impactful areas of research.”

Lukens’ work is drawing high praise from other researchers.“The overall accomplishments of Lukens’ PhD dissertation are off-scale in quantity and quality and demonstrate exceedingly strong experimental and theoretical skills,” says Professor Stephen Harris, a Stanford professor whose research group has tackled related issues. “During his PhD Lukens has been first author on two PRL’s, an Optics Letter, and a Letter to Nature. Specifically, this ingenious 2013 Nature paper demonstrates an analog to the Talbot effect that allows the complete cloaking of a temporal signal. In his most recent work Lukens and colleagues demonstrate a new technique for controlling the quantum mechanical correlation function of down-converted biphotons. This novel technique is based on a property now termed as nonlocal dispersion compensation combined with the use of a variable frequency pumping laser. All of this is exceptional.”

After graduation, Lukens, a married father of two daughters, plans to work at Oak Ridge National Laboratory on research into quantum key distribution. “A single academic research group doesn’t have the same resources as a national lab,” he says. “This project has the potential to create the commercial version, but the jury is still out.”

“The Marconi Society Young Scholar Award is an exceptional honor,” he says. “I’m encouraged and inspired that people so eminent feel I have the potential to succeed. It will challenge me to live up to their expectations.”

Young Scholar candidates are nominated by their academic advisors. Winners are selected by an international panel comprised of engineers from leading universities and companies, and receive a $4000 prize plus expenses to attend the annual awards event. Two other Young Scholars were selected this year: Ken Pesyna from the University of Texas, and Kartik Venkat, from Stanford University. For more information about the Young Scholars program, go to www.marconisociety.org.

Lukens will receive his award at the same event where Professor Peter Kirstein, considered the “father of the European Internet,” will be honored with the $100,000 Marconi Prize.

About the Marconi Society

The Marconi Society was established in 1974 by the daughter of Guglielmo Marconi, the Nobel Laureate who invented radio. The organization promotes awareness of key technology and policy issues in telecommunications and the Internet, and recognizes significant individual achievements through the Marconi Prize.