The mission of VCU’s Precision Imaging Research Laboratory (PIRL) [pronounced \pərl\] is to search and explore novel pathways to customized imaging for the primary purpose of ensuring that fundamental chemical, electronic, and photonic processes can be better understood and leveraged for the development of enabling technologies that improve quality of life.
The motivation for our research activities involves enhancing our environment, protecting our homeland, and improving the quality of life for others. Given that the nature of our work is multi-disciplinary, researchers in PIRL come from a variety of academic backgrounds including engineering, computer science, materials science, physics, health sciences, and psychology. PIRL undergraduate and graduate researchers perform mathematical and computational research, materials analysis and spectroscopic studies, as well as prototype development. Many of the technological problems that the PIRL group investigates are relevant for critical defense capabilities (such as cyber-physical systems), environmental protection (such as detection, monitoring, and assessment), and the study of biological processes (such as post-translational modification, cellular proliferation, and differentiation). This undertaking involves emerging instrumentation capabilities that enable a closer look at chemical reactions on surface structures, biochemical reactions in situ, and resolved analysis of cell signaling in controlled environments. The research activities taking place in PIRL are exciting, cutting edge, and have the potential to develop new technological capabilities well beyond imaging, including nanotechnology, particle science, and big data analysis. Our collaborative nature is what makes us who we are.
PIRL members also realize the moral imperative to be active members in the community. We participate in outreach activities for kindergarteners through adults. While the mission of the lab is to explore new concepts and theories, an important component to PIRL is the dissemination of knowledge to all academic fields and the invitation to those who are interested in exploring potential collaborations.
In PIRL, safety is priority number one. All research members are required to exercise situational awareness and maintain a safe work environment. With that being said, PIRL offers a variety of sophisticated instruments and analytical tools for studying material properties, thermal signatures, electronic and optical transitions, and biochemical reactions. Using precision alignment tools, diverse sets of focal plane arrays, advanced optical instruments and probes, and device fabrication equipment, PIRL researchers use the flexible workspace to design, build, and test new approaches to image acquisition and analysis, as well as explore existing and new concepts about molecule-molecule interactions. PIRL also employs advanced computation techniques such as data mining, experimental design, and process modeling. Through industry partnerships, PIRL also performs traditional materials research that involves traditional III-V semiconductor structures from the wafer-level using molecular beam epitaxy, a technique that enables atomic layer deposition in an ultra-high vacuum environment. Semiconductor structures are studied for the purpose of tailoring structural, quantum, and optical properties across a single wafer platform, which is critical for imaging across spatial, spectral, and temporal modalities.