Ryan Dowdy receives Wilson Graduate Fellowships from Argonne National Laboratory

ECE News

Charlie Johnson, ECE ILLINOIS

Story Highlights

  • ECE grad student Ryan Dowdy received a fellowship from Argonne National Laboratory.
  • He will collaborate with Argonne on developing photodetectors.
  • He will work on making the detectors larger while also providing good resolution.

Ryan Dowdy
Ryan Dowdy

PhD candidate Ryan Dowdy, a student in the group of ECE assistant professor Xiuling Li, was recently awarded a Robert Rathburn Wilson Graduate Fellowship by the Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Illinois. The competitive fellowships are granted to master’s and PhD students who are working on innovative research on detector and sensor technologies. The Fellows will work collaboratively with Argonne scientists on the development of Argonne’s Large-Area Photo-Detector (LAPD) project.

"It’s great to win. It’s exciting to work on a project with a renowned national lab like Argonne," said Dowdy. "And, the money is great, of course."

The LAPD that Dowdy will be working on is an ambitious, three-year project undertaken by Argonne to build prototype photodetectors that can eventually cover thousands of square meters with very high resolutions, millimeters in space, and tenths of nanoseconds in time. A photodetector is a device that captures photons, turns them into an electrical signal that can be detected. Dowdy will be working on developing the photo-cathode using III-V semiconductor materials, the part of the detector that captures the electrons that are being emitted after a photon is charged and amplified by a micro-channel plate.

In conventional photodetectors, larger area means poorer resolution. Dowdy's collaborators have figured out a way to get very good resolutions while making the detectors much larger; however, it remains to be seen if it will work.

"By giving the detector a larger area, researchers can get the spatial resolution they want. You can detect not only that an event occurred, but where the event occurred," said Dowdy. "Also, we’re trying to make the production more economical."

It’s one of the stated goals of the project to design the LAPD to have a wide variety of applications. Potential applications for a larger and more economical LAPD exist in the fields of microelectronics, materials science, and nanotechnology. The LAPD could also be used for flight measurements in particle accelerators, biomedical imaging, and possibly to detect radiation in nuclear power plants and in the fight against nuclear proliferation.

"The big thing with this project is after three years, they have to have a prototype done. It’s really a huge endeavor with over 100 people in material science and nano-science, high-energy physics, electronics, nuclear engineering, and computational mathematics working on the project. It’s not one of those research grants that just keeps going and going. They want results," said Dowdy.

Included in the one year fellowship is a $30,000 award that may be renewed for a second year. With about three years left on his PhD, Dowdy, who did his undergraduate work at Morgan State University in Baltimore, is hoping that the Wilson Fellowship can carry him into his graduation and on into a career in industry.

"I’m excited to get going," said Dowdy.

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