Nathaniel Coirier Awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Coirier aims to continue conducting impactful, multidisciplinary research in the field of optoelectronics

Nathaniel CoirierNathaniel Coirier, a PhD student in electrical engineering at Northwestern Engineering, received the competitive Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF) from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in recognition of his demonstrated potential for significant research achievements.

The GRF program awards a five-year fellowship to outstanding individuals early in their graduate career who are pursuing a full-time, research-based graduate degree in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) or in STEM education. Coirier will receive three years of financial support, including an annual stipend.

“Receipt of this fellowship signifies that external reviewers and experts consider my proposed research direction worthwhile, which will serve as a constant motivator and validator whenever progress is slow or frustrating,” Coirier said. “In addition, the external support will allow me to devote my efforts toward research in a full-time capacity.”

Coirier’s research centers around advanced semiconductor device fabrication projects with the laboratory of Hooman Mohseni, AT&T Professor of Information Technology and professor of electrical and computer engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering.

“I’m working to push our group's current optoelectronic devices to ever-higher levels of sensitivity and speed,” Coirier said. “Equipping a project with an advanced, customized sensor device can raise the overall quality of a measurement system quite significantly.”

Passionate about conducting scientific research, Coirier aims to further develop and study optoelectronic modulators, or devices that change in light transparency depending on the level of electronic signal applied.

“My work will proceed in an ‘end-to-end’ fashion,” Coirier said. “I will be involved in everything from fine-tuning the material we use to create these devices, to working on how we can best connect to these devices and measure their responses, up to and including partnering with other research groups and companies to use these devices as a platform to create novel high-performance sensing systems.”

Coirier collaborated with medical researchers from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences to use modulators as self-powered, tetherless neural signal probes. This became the foundational work for his NSF GRF proposal.

“In the future, I aim to continue conducting impactful, multidisciplinary research in the field of optoelectronics, with an eye toward creating systems that have disruptive or novel applications,” Coirier said. “Professionally, I would eventually like to become the head of my own research group in academia or industry.”

Coirier earned a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical engineering at Northwestern Engineering in 2021. He was awarded the outstanding graduating senior in electrical engineering award at the annual departmental awards ceremony.

McCormick News Article