Growing up in Rosario, a beautiful city in the province of Santa Fe, Argentina, Carmen Menoni displayed a keen interest in mathematics and physics at an early age. "I was always very good in math and also enjoyed physics and chemistry. I went to an all-girls high school in Argentina. It was the place where girls were trained to be teachers, and I wanted to be a teacher," she says.
Soon after, Professor Menoni decided that instead of teaching she wanted to pursue a research career. She went on to attend the University of Rosario, receiving her B.S. in Electrical Engineering in 1978. For her undergraduate thesis, she went to the National Atomic Energy Commission in Buenos Aires. "That was my first introduction to materials science, where I worked with metals", she says.
Professor Menoni and her husband chose to pursue graduation education in the United States. They traveled to Fort Collins, Colorado when her husband accepted a research position at Colorado State University (CSU). In 1987, Professor Menoni received her Ph.D., specializing in spectroscopy of semi-conducting materials. "I always had a strong interest in materials and in optics, and that is what I have been doing throughout my professional career," she says. Since 1991 Professor Menoni has been a member of the faculty in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at CSU.
Professor Menoni's research unites both materials and optical sciences. One of her current projects involves using lasers that produce extreme ultraviolet light of a very short wavelength to develop microscopes that can see very small features, such as 50 nanometer carbon nanotubes.
Carmen Menoni with students
"We are also using the short wavelength light for other applications, for nanomachining, ablation and spectroscopy," adds Professor Menoni. This research is sponsored by the NSF Center for Extreme Ultraviolet Science and Technology, a partnership between Menoni's group at CSU Fort Collins and other groups at CU-Boulder and UC-Berkeley.
Her other major project involves developing optical coatings for high powered lasers. "We have a system in which we can grow oxide materials and we stack these oxide materials in certain ways to generate a specific response in a given spectral range. What is important to us is to understand how we can alter the response of these coatings to high intensities," explains Professor Menoni.
For example, in research sponsored by the Office of Naval Science Professor Menoni and her team are developing coatings for free electron lasers, which have enormous power. "What we do is a combination of materials research and optics, because we have to understand the processes that control the structure and characteristics of the film, how this affects the absorption laws, and many other factors," she says. Professor Menoni involves undergraduate, graduate, and even high school students in these projects.
Professor Menoni believes that having fantastic mentors and a supportive network is extremely valuable to a young woman physicist. "That was very important for helping me to develop the skills necessary to succeed in an environment where, as a woman, you are different," she reflects.
While she can't foresee the future, Professor Menoni has a clear vision of the path that lies ahead. "What I see myself getting into next is all related to my current projects; I have several ideas of things I would like to pursue, such as new materials for optical coatings. There are tons of things to do with our microscopes, like for example, biological applications."
She continues, "What I am doing to do in the future is research, because that is what I truly enjoy". In her spare time, Professor Menoni enjoys growing fragrant plants like basil, entertaining family and friends, and plenty of outdoor activities. .
In 2008, Professor Menoni and her team received a "R&D 100 Award" for the invention of a table-top 46.9 nm wavelength microscope that can capture images in a single 1 nanosecond with wavelength spatial resolution. Professor Menoni is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers (IEEE), fellow of the American Physical Society, the Optical Society of America and member of SPIE. She also has served IEEE LEOS in the capacity of the Board of Governors member from 2006-2008 and Vice-President for Publications since 2007.