Monday, November 21, 2022

By News and Internal Communications

By María González

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – Dr. Hamidreza Ramezani, associate professor in the UTRGV Department of Physics and Astronomy, has received a three-year (2022-2025), $800,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to perform research in quantum optics.

Quantum optics is the study of how photons as individual quantum particles can be used to build the next generation of quantum computers and devices.

The research project, “Photonic Lattices for Robust All-Optical Quantum Devices,” will conduct a pioneering research project to propose innovative photonic lattices to study relatively unexplored quantum phenomena.



Quantum mechanics, a subfield of physics discovered in 1925, has produced many of the electronic devices people use in everyday life, such as transistors and lasers.

Ramezani, principal investigator of this project, said the potential applications of quantum mechanics are vast. One of the findings of quantum mechanics is that light is made up of tiny packets of energy, which physicists call “photons.” In the past decade, scientists and engineers have learned to use the quantum behavior of atoms and photons to create new devices for computing, sensing and communicating, with unprecedented capabilities.

Given that development, the Nobel Prize in Physics 2022 was awarded to Alain Aspect, John F. Clauser and Anton Zeilinger “for experiments with entangled photons, establishing the violation of Bell inequalities and pioneering quantum information science” – the same research topic as UTRGV’s newly NSF-funded project.



In addition to the cutting-edge research performed in the project, the award also supports development of academic synergy between UTRGV, Louisiana State University and the University of California (UCLA), by creating a Scholar Academy for all students participating in the project.

Ramezani said an interdisciplinary research program in quantum information science and engineering (QISE) does not currently exist in the Rio Grande Valley, but there is much student interest and great potential at UTRGV to make it happen.

“This is a big step for the Department of Physics and Astronomy and UTRGV,” Ramezani said. “To my knowledge, this is the first-ever quantum award to UTRGV. My dream is to use this award as a seed to build a quantum center in the Rio Grande Valley that serves our region and our nation.”

Through its development, this project will invest in building capacity by training students as the future workforce, he said, and their skills will be essential to progress and commercialize the rapidly expanding field of quantum mechanics and its related technologies.

“This award exemplifies that UTRGV is moving in the right direction in its journey to research excellence with a solid societal impact that matters at a regional and national level,” said Dr. Can (John) Saygin, senior vice president for Research and dean of the Graduate College at UTRGV. “I highly commend Dr. Ramezani and his colleagues for impacting UTRGV’s research profile and productivity.”

The NSF award reflects its mission to bring together researchers from multiple disciplines to tackle critical challenges in science and technology. Moreover, the Expanding Capacity in Quantum Information Science and Engineering (ExpandQISE) award seeks to help institutions like UTRGV develop new research programs in the field. And the collaboration with leading scientists at LSU and UCLA will help achieve that goal by enhancing UTRGV’s research capabilities and creating new opportunities for students, Ramezani said. 

The award-winning interdisciplinary team consists of:

  • Principal investigator (PI) Ramezani, associate professor, UTRGV Department of Physics and Astronomy.
  • Senior personnel, Andreas Hanke, professor, UTRGV Department of Physics and Astronomy.
  • Senior personnel, Neda Dadashvand, Lecturer II, UTRGV Department of Physics and Astronomy.
  • Co-PI Prineha Narang, professor, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry.
  • Co-PI Omar Magana-Loaiza, assistant professor, LSU Department of Physics and Astronomy.


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.