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NSF Engines Development Award

Advancing Laser Technologies in the Rochester Region (New York)

About the Project

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded the University of Rochester a $1 million Regional Innovation Engines grant to develop the structure for an advanced laser and optics ecosystem in Rochester and Upstate New York. The grant supports the Science, Technology, and Engineering for Laser and Laser Applications Research (STELLAR) aspiring engine project, led by Thomas Brown (Institute of Optics), Jonathan Zuegel (Laboratory for Laser Energetics), Sujatha Ramanujan (NextCorps/Luminate), Stefan Preble (Rochester Institute of Technology), Alexis Vogt (Monroe Community College), and Leah VanScott (Greater Rochester Enterprise). This initiative aims to create and grow a diverse, workforce-focused laser ecosystem, leveraging the University’s expertise and fostering innovation in the field.

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“Rochester has a rich history of innovation and education when it comes to optics, photonics, and imaging technology, in large part because of the creative academic and research environment at the University of Rochester, Rochester Institute of Technology, and Monroe Community College. STELLAR promises to continue this legacy by growing an advanced laser and optics ecosystem that will provide educational and economic opportunities for many future generations.”

Tom Brown, Director of the Institute of Optics, and PI for NSF STELLAR Engine Planning Grant


The current state of laser science and technology has seen remarkable advancements in various fields, such as healthcare, telecommunications, defense, and manufacturing. But there is a growing need to further develop and strengthen local expertise, research and development, and manufacturing infrastructure to maintain a competitive edge in the global market. It is crucial to invest in developing a skilled workforce, fostering innovation, and building a robust manufacturing infrastructure so the local laser ecosystem can thrive and the United States can regain its position as a leading player in the global laser market.

NSF Engines Program

National Science Foundation logoThe NSF Engines program is an initiative by the National Science Foundation aimed at stimulating innovation-driven economic growth in regions lacking well-established innovation ecosystems. The program focuses on fostering regional innovation by providing funding and support to projects that have the potential to boost local economies, create jobs, and promote cutting-edge research and development. Learn about the NSF Engines Program

Project Goals

The STELLAR Engine project aims to create and grow a diverse, workforce-focused laser ecosystem in the Rochester and Upstate New York region. This project will make the United States globally competitive in this critically important field by leveraging local resources in:

  • Technical expertise
  • Research and design
  • Manufacturing infrastructure
  • Education
  • Workforce development
  • Entrepreneurship


  • Laboratory for Laser Energetics logo
  • Monroe Community College logo
  • Rochester Institute of Technology logo
  • NextCorps logo
  • Greater Rochester Enterprise logo
  • University of Rochester logo

Key Personnel

  • Thomas Brown

    Project Lead, Director, Institute of Optics

  • Jonathan Zuegel

    Co-Project Lead, Professor of Optics

    Division Director, Laser and Material Technologies, Laboratory for Laser Energetics

  • Alexis Vogt

    Tenured Professor of Optics

    Endowed Chair, Optical Systems Technology Program, Monroe Community College

    Executive Director, Workforce and Higher Education, AmeriCOM

  • Stefan Preble

    Professor of Electrical and Microelectronic Engineering

  • Sujatha Ramanujan

    Managing Director, Luminate

  • Leah Scott

    Executive Vice President, Greater Rochester Enterprise

September 11, 2023

In the News

Sydor Technologies Receives Grant

Rochester-based Sydor Technologies has been awarded a $200,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to work with the LLE to assess the commercial feasibility of the mid-scale Plasma Electrode Pockels Cell (mPEPC) system developed at LLE.

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