PUCV researchers are seeking to launch the first specialized center on adaptive optics for Valparaíso

The project, which is called Center of Adaptive Optics of Valparaíso (CAOVA), seeks to be one of the main pillars in the exploration and generation of knowledge related to the multidisciplinary research in optics.

Dr. Darío Pérez, from the Physics Institute of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, and Dr. Esteban Vera, from the School of Electrical Engineering of the same institution, are working on the creation and launching of the first specialized center on adaptive optics research of the Valparaíso Region, which will be called Center of Adaptive Optics of Valparaíso (CAOVA).

The center, which has funding of CONICYT’s Quimal Funding of Astronomy-QUIMAL 190002-, will reunite the work that both academics have been doing within their respectives laboratories: the Atmospherical and Stastistical Optics laboratory and the Optoelectronics lab.

Towards the launch of this center, the researchers commented about the expectations they have for this process:

How was conceived this project?

Esteban (E): This was conceived after we saw a necessity, on a nationwide level. Basically, we’re the only ones at the university which are developing research in optics. We had visited Paranal a long time ago and it was there when we noticed of the big necessities that this huge observatory have in optics, adaptive optics and the connection with the academia sphere, which is very scarce.

With the arrival of the big telescopes, it will be a great demand of engineers prepared in electronics and optics, that can understand everything about this adaptive optics, fundamental technology that supports these telescopes and the actual one that make them work. It is seen people which is trained in foreign countries as Ph.D., but they don’t have any place to come back. In that sense, the center will try to give opportunities, so those who can return, can do it to develop high quality research, with the support of adequate tools and spaces. Finally, the main goal is to train new scientifics and engineers on this.

Which research areas are going to be developed and which challenges are carried with them?

Darío (D): What I’ve been doing since almost fifteen years since I arrived to Chile is working light propagation related stuff. What the atmosphere is doing to the light when it enters. To understand which phenomena affects the light, among other things.

This arises because the common interest points. Esteban has a career in everything about sensors implementation. So, the knowledge that Esteban has about sensing and optimization, instrumentation, makes us say “well, let’s use this that you know with this that we know about the atmosphere and see how it goes”.

In which phase is the project now and how do you see the student’s and researcher’s interest in it?

E: It’s getting started. It has two stages. The first one is for implementation, where we have to buy some equipment, discuss some ideas, among other stuff. The second one is the recruitment of postdoctoral researchers, so the center will start to functioning. After that, the idea is to generate a posgraduate course related to the area. Finally, hopefully we can have graduate engineers in these topics, as a major goal for us also.

D: The student’s interest have been growing. Some years ago, I had one Ph.D. student if I was lucky, but during the last few years there are more and more students that want to do things in the laboratory. This year, for example, one student is coming to do his doctorate, but he’s also looking to stay working here. I think is essential because they see that the lab seeks to solve some theoretical problems that are real. Important technical challenges, but that are very close of the application, which is the last goal, when the scientific work is done. And that motivates them even more.

These academics will count on the support of the undergraduate and graduate students that currently work as research assistants in both labs: Camilo Weinberger, from the optoelectronics lab, and Jharlan Rivero, Marco Sepúlveda and Óscar Acuña, from the atmospherical and statistical optics lab.

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