Long ago, sort of, scenes from Star Wars triggered a child’s imagination, so that today it’s informed one of his research goals as a chemist.

Discover Canada’s science magazine show Daily Planet reported on the research of SMU organic chemist Alex Lippert, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

Lippert’s team develops synthetic organic compounds that glow in reaction to certain conditions. He led his lab in developing a new technology that uses photoswitch molecules to craft 3-D light structures — not holograms — that are viewable from 360 degrees. An economical method for shaping light into an infinite number of volumetric objects, the technology will be useful in a variety of fields, from biomedical imaging, education and engineering, to TV, movies, video games and more.

For biomedical imaging, Lippert says the nearest-term application of the technique might be in high-volume pre-clinical animal imaging, but eventually the technique could be applied to provide low-cost internal imaging in the developing world, or less costly imaging in the developed world.

The Daily Planet segment aired Dec. 12, 2017.

Lippert’s lab includes four doctoral students and five undergraduates who assist in his research. He recently received a prestigious National Science Foundation Career Award, expected to total $611,000 over five years, to fund his research into alternative internal imaging techniques.

NSF Career Awards are given to tenure-track faculty members who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research in American colleges and universities.

Lippert joined SMU in 2012. He was previously a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, and earned his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, and Bachelor of Science at the California Institute of Technology.

Watch the full Dec. 12 show.