The technology of generating and using light and other radiant energy forms, photonics is best known for fiber-optic communications, but its potential in a wide range of fields of applied science is vast: from diagnosing cancer without a biopsy to detecting bioterrorism. Researchers also use photonics to explore areas such as plant photosynthesis to advance basic scientific knowledge.

Photonics was chosen as an ASRC flagship initiative because it has become a strength for CUNY—an area that has been expanded over the last several years through the University’s “cluster hiring” initiative in the sciences—and because it offers unusual potential for collaboration across disciplines. Photonics research encompasses biology, medicine, physics and technology fields such as computer display and lighting, as well as the futuristic fields of quantum information processing and quantum encryption, in which data reside on single photons, which are to light what electrons are to electricity.

Andrea Alù, renowned engineer and photonics researcher, is the founding director of the Photonics Initiative