For the eighth summer in a row, the Center for Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications (LESA) sponsored undergraduates and teachers for an in-depth summer research experience.    25 undergraduates and 9 educators from as far west as New Mexico and as far south as Puerto Rico participated in an eight week Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), Undergraduate Research Program (URP), and a Research Experience for Teachers (RET) where they learned about advanced solid-state lighting technologies and developing new LED-based applications. 

LESA’s REU, URP and RET programs allow visiting students and teachers to work directly with LESA graduate students, staff and faculty on state-of-the-art projects with exciting lighting applications that incorporate advanced materials, devices and system integration concepts.   REU and URP students gain valuable insights on new technologies and approaches to performing advanced research.  RET participants develop new lighting and applications-based curriculum used in the pre-college courses they teach, expanding the overall impact of LESA’s STEM K-12 outreach program.

This year’s summer program theme was “Synthesizing Light for the Benefit of Humanity.” Teachers and students learned about innovative lighting, control systems, power, and sensor technologies and how they can be integrated into real world, sustainable, and well-engineered Smart Systems.

Under the guidance of LESA graduate students, faculty and staff, participants develop research plans, attend lectures and seminars from subject matter experts, and visit local high-tech companies to see science and engineering at work.

Projects that explore how lighting systems can address today’s social, environmental and sustainability challenges covered a wide range of topics, such as: developing advanced sensors for visible light communications, researching improved occupancy sensing using digitized lighting, exploring novel biofluorescence sensing for both optimized plant growth systems and bacterial contamination detection,  and new approaches to optical materials for higher efficiency color tunable lighting systems.

“We had a great turnout of some very bright and remarkable undergraduates, who will change the future of the world and lighting as we know it,” commented Elizabeth Herkenham, director of K-12 Education Outreach at Rensselaer.  Samantha Atchinson, an undergraduate from the College of St. Rose, in Albany, NY,  writes, “I have greatly benefitted from the LESA program at RPI…I learned valuable life skills that will be extremely applicable to graduate school, my future career and the world around me.”

“We have two key goals in this program: Recruit underserved minority undergraduates to become graduate students by engaging them in exciting research in advanced solid state lighting system applications, and expand our research by partnering with a very bright set of enthusiastic students and teachers looking to enrich their technical capabilities,” said Robert F. Karlicek, Jr., Ph.D., director of LESA, and professor in Electrical, Computer and Systems Engineering department at Rensselaer.

About the Center for Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications (LESA)

Funded primarily by the National Science Foundation, LESA is an interdisciplinary, multi-university center developing “Smart Lighting Systems that See and ThinkTM”The Center engages faculty members, graduate students, research staff, and undergraduates to develop advanced smart lighting systems with adaptive and controllable properties that will not only illuminate, but generate lighting enabled system applications in healthcare, communications, building management and horticulture.  The Center combines academia, industry, and government in partnership to produce transformational-engineered systems, along with engineering graduates who are adept at innovation and primed for leadership in the global economy.  The LESA Center is headquartered at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, and partners with Boston University, The University of New Mexico and Thomas Jefferson University to achieve its objectives.