Jennifer Dionne, associate professor of materials science and engineering, recently received the National Science Foundation (NSF) Alan T. Waterman Award. The award recognizes outstanding young researchers in science or engineering and is among NSF’s top distinctions. Dionne received the award for her pioneering work in nanophotonics and its wide-reaching influence on health, renewable energy and the environment.
Included among her many contributions to science and engineering is Dionne’s work on the development of a rapid screening technique for bacterial infections. The technique uses nanoparticles that efficiently absorb and scatter light and is designed to speed up treatment time while helping to mitigate antibiotic resistance. Dionne and her team hope that the tool will minimize hospital stays and expand affordable treatment options for patients. Her team is also building the tool with a mind for future applications. The group hopes that with minor adjustments the tool will be able to test for other diseases, such as cancer, and to detect bacteria in food and water.
“Jen’s research highlights the important, interdisciplinary applications of materials science, and we are excited by the possibilities and opportunities that will result from her continued dedication to the field,” said Paul C. McIntyre, chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.
Dionne’s research lab, which includes materials scientists, applied physicists, chemists and engineers, studies light-matter interactions at nanoscale. Dionne and her team are responsible for developing materials and methods that enable visualization of dynamic processes with nanoscale resolution. She has used these tools to explore and understand processes ranging from photocatalysis to chiral molecule separation. “We are entering an era where atomic, molecular and cellular processes can be watched in real time, in situ and in vivo, with incredibly high resolution” Dionne said. “These observations reveal extraordinary beauty and complexity at the nanoscale, and inform how we might better address key challenges in energy, the environment and health.”
Dionne is a faculty director for the Stanford Photonics Research Center and the director of the Photonics at Thermodynamic Limits Energy Frontier Research Center. She has been a Stanford faculty member since 2010.
As the recipient of the Alan T. Waterman Award, Dionne will receive $1 million toward her research. The National Science Foundation will present Dionne with the honor this May in Washington, D.C.