Optics doctoral student Nabil Hoque is one of 78 globally to receive SPIE scholarship

Nabil Md Rakinul Hoque

Nabil Md Rakinul Hoque with the ultrahigh resolution fiber-optic sensing system he created in the Precision Ultrafast Light Sciences laboratory.

Lingze Duan / UAH

Nabil Md Rakinul Hoque, a doctoral candidate in optical science and engineering at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of the University of Alabama System, is one of 78 students globally to receive a 2021 SPIE Optics and Photonics Education Scholarship.

A $4,000 SPIE scholarship winner, Hoque is from Dhaka, Bangladesh, and completed his undergraduate degree in physics at the University of Dhaka before coming to UAH. He will use the funds for further research studies at UAH.

He is advised by Dr. Lingze Duan, a professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy. Both Dr. Duan and Dr. Don Gregory, distinguished professor of physics and astronomy, recommended Hoque for the scholarship.

“At the beginning of this year, my advisor Dr. Duan suggested and encouraged me to apply for this prestigious scholarship,” Hoque says. “His encouragement motivated me to apply for this scholarship and I am really thankful to him for that.”

SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, awarded $298,000 in optics and photonics education scholarships to its student members based on their potential contribution to optics and photonics or a related discipline. Award-winning applicants were evaluated, selected and approved by the SPIE Scholarship Committee. Since the program began, SPIE has distributed over $6 million dollars in individual scholarships.

Hoque researches fiber optic sensing in Dr. Duan’s Precision Ultrafast Light Sciences (PULS) laboratory. He says he found out he had been awarded a scholarship on the day before his doctoral qualifying examination.

“After my qualifying exam, all my distinguished PhD dissertation committee members congratulated me on receiving this international scholarship, which was really special and encouraging for me,” he says. “It also felt really great to be one of the 78 recipients around the world in the field of photonics.”

Dr. Duan says Hoque has been an outstanding student throughout his career at UAH, maintaining a 4.0 grade point average.

“He received the highest overall score in his class in the PhD comprehensive exam, published two journal papers as the lead author with two more under preparation and has presented his research at CLEO, the top photonics conference, for three consecutive years,” Dr. Duan says.

“Moreover, he is a three-time recipient of the Alabama Graduate Research Scholars Program fellowship, which is a great feat by itself,” Dr. Duan says. “This SPIE Scholarship simply adds an exclamation point on his already stellar achievements as a graduate student.”

In the PULS lab, Hoque has been working on a National Science Foundation-funded project to map the spectral profile of the fundamental thermal noise in fiber-optic sensors.

“Under the guidance of Dr Duan, starting from scratch and over the course of time, I was able to design and develop a novel ultrahigh resolution fiber-optic sensing system using only off-the-shelf components,” Hoque says.

The system is capable of detecting a very tiny strain induced by external disturbances. It has already achieved record ultrahigh strain resolutions that have been reported in renowned optics journals and conferences.

“These achievements have given me the opportunity to perform the peer-review work for some top-rated optics journals such as Optics Express and Journal of Lightwave Technology,” Hoque says.

The research will help scientists understand the ultimate limitations of fiber sensors, and at the same time will lead to more sensitive sensor designs, says Dr. Duan.

Because the thermal noise is extremely small, Hoque undertook the very challenging work of developing the unprecedentedly high-resolution fiber-optic sensing system to measure it, Dr. Duan says. He says it took tremendous focus and perseverance to do it.

“That's what impressed me most about Nabil,” he says. “Not only did he build the whole experimental setup from ground up, he also incorporated several novel ideas to make it work better.”

Apart from his academic achievements, Hoque volunteered for community service outreach events including Huntsville STEM fairs, Alabama Science and Engineering Fairs, North Alabama Regional Science Olympiad, the UAH College and Career Fair and UAH Discovery Days.

In the future, Hoque says he wants to position himself as a researcher in a renowned photonics research organization in order to contribute to human well-being. “This prestigious scholarship will undoubtedly give me a step forward in reaching my ultimate goal.”