Physics Graduate Student Awarded Order of Pegasus

The Order of Pegasus is the University of Central Florida’s most prestigious student award. Student recipients are recognized for their academic success, university involvement, leadership qualities and community service activities. For graduate student applicants, UCF also considers previous publications or research experiences.

It was his research with optics and nanoscale materials that brought physics graduate student Dan Franklin into the forefront of consideration. Now, he’ll be inducted into the 2018 Order during the ceremony on April 2.

“Winning the award feels like an affirmation of the five to six years I’ve spent here at UCF,” he said. “Graduate students, in general, do so much to compete and be recognized on a global stage. It’s nice to know that whatever happens on that global stage, your efforts have been appreciated here by the people around you.”

Franklin developed a new color-changing surface, which can be tuned through electrical voltage.

“My research focuses on optics and how it interacts with nanoscale materials, nanostructures,” he said. “I then try to use this knowledge to improve current technologies, like television, phone screens, cameras or sensors. And if I’m lucky, create brand new types of technology.”

His research breakthrough may lead to three times the resolution in televisions, smartphones and other devices. This is because current technology relies on three tinier subpixels of red, green and blue to make up one single pixel in a screen. Franklin figured out a way for an individual pixel to forego the tinier subpixels and instead contain the color all on its own, changing to any gradation on the RGB scale with only a change in voltage. This means the individual pixel can do the same job the three smaller subpixels were doing, eliminating the need for them. Individual pixels can then decrease in size, and more of them can be packed into the screen. And bam, higher resolution with brighter screens.

Using subpixel-less displays can be adapted to existing hardware, so older devices wouldn’t need to be re-designed. Rather, Franklin’s research increases the breadth and possibility of current technology.

“Expanding the capabilities of our tools and knowledge is expanding the capability of humanity,” he said.

Franklin knew he wanted to study physics from an early age. Since middle school, he was set on becoming a physicist.

“I was a very inquisitive kid, and science class always seemed to have answers to the questions I had—how the world works, and why it is the way it is,” he said. “I was extremely fortunate to have teachers that encouraged this curiosity and provided me with resources when they were unsure of the answers.”

He got his undergraduate degree from the Missouri University of Science and Technology, but was unsure if he wanted to pursue planetary science or nanoscience when he graduated.

“I had also heard about the optics and nanoscience programs from my undergraduate advisor and knew UCF would have the facilities needed for research in those fields,” Franklin said. “That, along with UCF’s strong emphasis on planetary science, would allow me the opportunity to pursue whatever I decided.”

When he graduates from UCF, Franklin hopes to continue researching as a post-doctoral fellow and ultimately become a professor.

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