The Osgood Group, A Hot-Bed of Research

Photo: Prof. Osgood stands next to an apparatus to study the surface chemistry of atomic layer-by-layer growth of semi-conductor crystals. On this project, he works with Ming Han, a Ph.D. student in chemistry, Dr. Yi Luo, an applied physics Ph.D, and Dr. Nick Camillone III, a research scientist.


Prof. Richard M. Osgood, Jr., Higgins Professor of Electrical Engineering and Professor of Applied Physics, was featured in the Spring 2000 Engineering News article:

"The Osgood Group, A Hot-Bed of Research"

Standing at the whiteboard with various colored felt pens, Richard M. Osgood is the quintessential professor, breaking up the complicated topics that he is researching into manageable intellectual bites. Dr. Osgood, Higgins Professor of electrical engineering and applied physics, has just returned to his office after a quick morning trip to Washington, DC.

It is not unusual for Dr. Osgood to be in the nation's center for federal funding because much of his research is supported by government grants. This year alone, Dr. Osgood's research grants total more than $1.5 million for five separate research projects that span two entirely different areas of expertise.

His research covers (1) surface physics and chemistry and (2) optical science and technology. Two research projects are in surface physics and chemistry while optical science and technology has three research projects. A sixth, smaller effort lies somewhere between the two major categories.

"We have an interdisciplinary effort," he said, "encompassing physics, chemistry, electrical engineering, applied physics and materials science." Dr. Osgood's academic background itself is interdisciplinary. He received a B.S. degree from the U.S. Military Academy, his M.S. in physics from Ohio State University and Ph.D. in condensed-matter physics from MIT. He is co-founder of the Microelectronics Sciences Laboratories (MSL) and has remained its technical director for many years.

"The main goal for the surface physics and chemistry research groups is the basic study of surfaces, matter, and chemical reactions. The goal for optical science and technology is the applied aspect of electrical engineering and applied physics," he said. "Eight years ago we decided to separate our different goals and foci."

Dr. Osgood is the driving force behind the resulting five distinct research groups. In surface physics and chemistry, two umbrella groups are responsible for the research areas: EMSI (Environmental Molecular Sciences Institute) and JSEP (Joint Surfaces Electronics Program). EMSI is environmental chemistry, modeling and perfecting crystals to look at reactions in surface chemistry on model systems. JSEP is concerned with laser surface interactions, irradiating surfaces in femtoseconds.

In the optical science and technology field of research, FAME, NIST and AFOSR research groups work on different aspects of optics. FAME (Frequency Agile Materials for Electronics) researchers have successfully begun to create a microchip with electronics and photonics. Light can go in only in one direction, making it an effective routing device in a fiber optic network. "Columbia is the only institution that can produce the thin films," said Dr. Osgood, "and this technology can be used to build a whole new range of miniaturized systems, from medical sensors to ultra-small but powerful lasers."

In a related effort, NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) is funding an effort to create software to design fiber optic communications equipment. Optoelectronics computer-aided design software, or photonics CAD (P-CAD), allows an engineer to design an optoelectronic component and then simulate it to determine how changes in design will affect performance. The technology developed through this initiative has resulted in a start-up company, R-Soft, whose co-founder Richard Scarmozzino had been a senior research scientist with the Osgood group for 10 years.

While the work ethic is clearly in evidence in all laboratories of "the Osgood group," there are occasions for joint celebrations. Dr. Osgood hosted a holiday party at his home in Westchester for his graduate students and research scientists. More recently, senior research scientist Miguel Levy, co-inventor of the thin-film optical microchip, provided the opportunity for a party, although bitter-sweet, as he accepted a faculty position at Michigan Technical University.

The researchers can sharpen their thoughts about their work at weekly group meetings with their colleagues. "Dr. Osgood is a grad student's dream come true advisor," said Antonije Radojevic, a fourth year graduate research assistant. "When we go to conferences and people call and want to collaborate with us and give us feedback, I really appreciate the depth of my research experience and its importance and am grateful that Dr. Osgood is my mentor."


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