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Prof on cutting edge of liquid crystal tech


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Sacramento State Physics Professor Vassili Sergan’s liquid crystal research has led to several patents that affect television viewing and could dramatically change the design of prescription eyeglass lenses.

Sergan’s findings have helped refine the clarity of flat-screen television during the last 16 years. He has a patent pending on a manufacturing process to create a flat lens that would improve eyeglasses. The lens would bend light through the optical properties therein. This, in turn, would eliminate the need for bifocals and trifocals since the lens can be tuned electronically.

“You can build glasses with variable focal distance,” Sergan says. “You won’t need trifocal or bifocal lenses. You can use the same glasses, which will be electrically tuned so they can be automatically switched for close-up or distance viewing via an electrical signal.”

The charismatic professor, who is this year’s recipient of the President’s Award for Research and Creative Activity, also is involved in liquid crystal research that could complement green technology in lighting office buildings during the day with solar energy.

After getting his Ph.D. from the Institute of Physics, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine in 1990, Sergan, spent four years there as a researcher, concentrating on liquid crystals.

In 1994 Sergan headed for France, where he was awarded a post-doctoral position by the National Center for Scientific Research, similar to the National Science Foundation. Three years later he was granted a post-doctoral fellowship to pursue his specialty at Kent State University, renowned for its Liquid Crystal Institute. “I was managing several multimillion-dollar grants,” he says, “and began looking for another position where I could do what I want – research and teach.”

Sergan came to Sacramento State in 2002 and remains an integral part of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. He teaches two classes that include laboratory work. His no-nonsense academic approach is leavened by a sense of humor and a friendly manner. “I teach as I was taught,” he says, noting that his affinity for physics began at an early age when prompted by excellent instructors.

Sergan’s students relate to his wry sense of humor as he navigates the esoteric points of physics. “He’s great,” is a common refrain among student evaluations of their instructor, who speaks five languages.

For media assistance, contact Sacramento State’s Public Affairs at (916) 278-6156.

– Alan Miller