Cecilia Fasano

Cecilia Fasano, PhD student, physics

Crafts components for space telescopes

“Cecilia is truly an exceptional early-career scientist. Her research is a full-circle of fabrication, characterization, and deployment of grating technologies developed entirely in-house at the University of Iowa.” – Casey DeRoo, assistant professor

Monmouth, Illinois

Faculty mentor/advisor:
Casey DeRoo, PhD, assistant professor, physics and astronomy; and Keri Hoadley, PhD, assistant professor, physics and astronomy, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

What is your degree program and anticipated graduation date?
PhD in physics, spring 2025

Please describe your research:
Using a number of techniques borrowed from the semiconductor and computer chip industry, I make components that will be used in future space telescopes. Currently, I use a beam of electrons to pattern structures only a few hundred nanometers wide, which make up a technology called a diffraction grating. Diffraction gratings spread out and direct light coming from stars, galaxies, and planets, unpacking it in a way that reveals the physics occurring throughout the universe.

In simple terms, why does this research matter?
For astronomers, these technology improvements will enable future space-based missions, like the recently launched James-Webb Space Telescope, and allow us to looker deeper into space than ever before. In addition to applications in astronomy, a general improvement of our ability to make devices at nano- and micro-scale opens a world of advancements from biomedical applications to more efficient clean energy production.

How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research?
I started reading papers and working with my advisor my very first semester at Iowa.

How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa?
I’ve met people in a variety of disciplines through my research at Iowa which has opened many doors for collaboration. This cross-disciplinary collaboration allows me to encounter challenging problems and continues to prepare me to be a contributing member of my scientific and professional communities.

What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation?
I plan to seek a career in technology research and development which builds on the skills I’ve gained at Iowa. Ideally this future work will focus on tackling a variety of real-world problems and contribute meaningfully to my community.

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