Justus Ndukaife wins Optica Foundation Challenge Prize to advance optics research and solve global challenges

Justus Ndukaife has received an Optica Foundation Challenge Prize to advance his optics research. He is one of 10 awardees and one of only three researchers in the United States to share the $1M prize.

Justus Ndukaife

The 2023 Challenge awardees were announced today during the opening plenary session at Optica’s Frontiers in Optics/Laser Science Conference. The awards recognize researchers who are harnessing optics and photonics towards solving global environmental, health and information problems. Ndukaife, assistant professor of electrical engineering, was recognized for Next-Generation High Throughput Plasmonic Nanotweezers for Nanoplastics Analysis.

In July, Ndukaife received a $1.9 million Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to back his project to expand the fundamental understanding of nanoscale sub-cellular particles using next generation optical tweezers.

The development of optical tweezers was recognized with the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics for their efficacy in trapping single cells and larger EVs (extracellular vesicles). Ndukaife developed the first-ever stand-off optical nanotweezers that can trap and manipulate objects on the sub-10 nanometer scale at Vanderbilt in 2020.

Ndukaife’s research includes the study of optically resonant nanostructures, with an aim to confine and manipulate light at a deeply sub-wavelength scale. He maintains his dedication to outreach by creating activities that provide local and international students with hands-on experiences in optical trapping using lasers. In August, he received the  2023 Kaminow Outstanding Early Career Professional Prize for his commitment to teaching, mentoring, and community service, both locally and in Africa.

Contact brenda.ellis@vanderbilt.edu