Student Spotlight: Thomas Frost - First generation college grad goes all the way

Thomas Frost

Thomas Frost
Specialty: Solid-State Optoelectronics
Advisor: Prof. Pallab Bhattacharya
Honors: NSF Graduate Student Research Fellowship
: HKN, Tau Beta Pi

Thomas Frost is the first person in his family to go to college, and he is going to take it all the way. Having received his B.S.E. and M.S.E. in electrical engineering from Michigan, Thomas is now in the first year of his PhD candidacy under Prof. Pallab Bhattacharya.

“All the people here are really amazing," said Thomas. "And I really enjoyed all of the research opportunities that were available even as an undergrad.”

Thomas applied to the undergraduate research program his freshman year and has been doing research at Michigan ever since. After starting in mechanical engineering his first year, Thomas began doing research under Prof. Bhattacharya through the undergraduate summer research project. He worked on semiconductor lasers for the development of faster, smaller optical devices that could one day replace their electrical counterparts, which are reaching the limits of their capability.

Thomas enjoyed the work and his advisor so much he stayed, and stayed. He is now conducting original research in the area of solid-state optoelectronics as a member of Prof. Bhattacharya’s research group.

One of the groundbreaking projects he has worked on is visible spectrum semiconductor lasers. For the first time, his group was able to make red devices with nitride-based materials, which previously had only been shown in blue and green. Now, they are able to span the visible spectrum.

“It is now possible to make full color RGB devices with a single material, rather than having to combine a bunch of different materials into one device,” explained Thomas.

The group’s research is drawing a lot of industry attention for applications from head-up-displays in cars that project dash information onto the windshield, to miniaturized projectors that fit in your pocket.

“It’s really interesting to work on the practical side of research, which is why I got into engineering in the first place. It’s really nice to work on practical things that in 5 or 10 years could be a real device that you’re carrying around in your pocket.”

In more recent research, he and the group demonstrated a new, practical and potentially more efficient way to make a coherent laser-like beam. They made what's believed to be the first room-temperature polariton laser that is fueled by electrical current as opposed to light. [read more]

This work could advance efforts to put lasers on computer circuits to replace wire connections, leading to smaller and more powerful electronics. It may also have applications in medical devices and treatments, and more.

As for what lies in Thomas’s future, he is undecided between academia and industry. He received an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, has co-authored more than 25 journal and conference papers to date, and received a Best Student Paper Award at the 2013 Device Research Conference. In addition, he received an EECS Department Instructional Aide Award in 2012 for his contributions as an undergraduate instructional aide, and enjoys teaching. ┬áHe is a member of the national engineering honor societies, Tau Beta Pi and Eta Kappa Nu.

June 11, 2014