Give Light Impact: Endowed Faculty, Outstanding Students

May 30, 2024
Alan Wang, Ph.D., and students

Strong teams are great at recruiting, and Baylor has been blessed to land multiple “top recruits” in the university’s pursuit of excellence — not just in athletics, but in the ranks of faculty as well.

Dr. Alan Wang was the first endowed chair hired through Give Light’s Foster Academic Challenge, coming to Baylor from Oregon State to serve as the Mearse Chair in Biological and Biomedical Engineering. A prolific researcher and inventor, Wang developed at Oregon State a device described by Science Daily as “the world’s smallest electro-optic modulator.” His expertise in photonic materials and devices research features applications for health care, communication, environmental protection, food safety and more

As Baylor continues to recruit elite faculty to join the institution, the University further welcomes the top students drawn to work alongside them.

Second-year doctoral candidate Sudipta Biswas discovered a deep interest in photonics as an undergraduate at North South University in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in electrical and electronics engineering. Much to the shock of his parents, Biswas decided to pursue a doctorate in electrical engineering, concentrating on photonics — a field of study not available in his home country of Bangladesh. Rather than going to Qatar, where his parents live, he chose to look at American universities. 

“The main reason I chose Baylor was Dr. Wang,” Biswas said. “Although a research facility is a very important factor, your Ph.D. supervisor is the most important. I looked him up and saw he was joining Baylor, and that’s what brought me here.”

The Baylor campus is now his home away from home for at least five years while he works with Wang on plasmonic metasurfaces.

Wang’s projects include working with NASA investigating the electrically tunable optical filters for viewing different light wavelengths that can be used for satellite imaging. Another effort involves working with Intel on a photonic integrated circuit chip for high speed, high bandwidth communication, widening the information highway and making advances possible in everything from high performance computing to immense data storage. He also holds patents for biosensors that use photonic crystal materials for surface-enhanced Raman scattering to achieve preeminent sensitivity and cost-effectiveness. The device could enhance the detection of cardiovascular biomarkers, toxicants in food, water pollution or drug residues.

His research record speaks for itself, but also begs the question—why leave Oregon State and come to Baylor?

“There are multiple reasons,” Wang says with a smile. “The first one is that Baylor is a Christian university, and I’m a Christian. I really enjoy teaching and doing research in a Christian environment where most of your colleagues are Christian, and you can freely preach the gospel to the students and in teaching.”

“The second reason is because of the Mearse Endowed Chair. An endowed chair is a big promotion for a faculty member because, in each university, there are only a small number of faculty who can hold an endowed chair position. So this is a big promotion for my career as faculty.”

The Mearse Chair, established in 2019 by Bill, B.B.A. ’78, M.B.A. ’79, and Tanya Mearse of Houston, provides annual support for Wang, as well as funding for his research. During a tour of his laboratory, Wang spoke fondly of the new instrumentation and research opportunities the Mearse Chair provided. 

The impact of that generosity comes with a multiplier effect. Through students like Biswas, it could someday stretch around the world.

“The steps I had to take to get here were not easy,” Biswas said. “But I believe I have a long way to go, because I have a long-term plan for my country. If I am able to get done with my Ph.D. here, I wish to establish a research institute in my country someday. As an engineer or someone working in photonics in Bangladesh, I did not have the facilities that I needed. I hope to establish a research institute in my country so that others have what they need.”

The Mearse Chair in Biological and Biomedical Engineering is one of 46 endowed chairs and professorships established during Give Light to have a lasting impact as they attract top scholars from around the nation and perpetuate long-lasting research and scholarship to meet the needs of the ages to come.