Nils Asplund FAST Prize

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The Kavli Nanoscience Institute's

Nils Asplund FAST Prize:

A Faculty-Staff Technical Collaboration

In recognition of former senior research engineer Nils Asplund and his four decades of contributions to the Caltech and KNI communities, this prize is dedicated in his honor. Nils exercised resourcefulness, ingenuity and skill to create new systems and solutions to advance scientific discovery during his time at Caltech. The KNI Nils Asplund FAST Prize aims to encourage faculty, researchers, and staff to create new tools and techniques to advance nanoscience and nanotechnology research at Caltech.

The Nils Asplund FAST Prize fosters collaborative efforts between Caltech researchers and KNI technical staff, combining expertise from each contributor's perspectives to create new, tangible advancements for current and future members of the KNI Laboratory and to advance the sub-fields of nanoscience research. The prize provides a platform for faculty and researchers to pursue small-scale, nanoscience-based projects that will drive new capabilities in the KNI Laboratory.

The award comes with $25,000 unburdened gift to directly facilitate the project's ability to expand techniques within the KNI Lab, along with up to $10,000 to cover KNI Lab fees for use specifically on this effort.

Along with financial support, the prize includes collaboration and co-management from KNI technical staff, up to 10% effort, subject to their availability (average of 4 hours/week per staff member).

Eligibility: The award is open to lead principal investigators who are affiliated with one of Caltech's academic divisions and are able to conduct research on campus.

Period of Performance: 24 months


1) A two-page proposal (single-spaced, 11-point font, 1-inch margins); references are not included in the two-page limit.

2) A completed Application Form

Successful proposals will:

1) Cover a novel or under-explored area of research within the KNI’s core areas, e.g. photonics, quantum information, electronics, bio- and medical engineering, novel materials, sustainability, etc.

2) Demonstrate a collaborative effort between faculty, academic researchers and KNI technical staff. Note: Applicants are expected to discuss the collaborative effort with KNI staff prior to submitting their proposal. Faculty agree to meet regularly with the team (minimum: quarterly) to provide technical input and guidance.

3) Devise a new technical capability that will benefit existing and/or future users of the KNI Lab.

4) Provide realistic timeline, budget and outcomes during the 24-month period.

Submission Deadline: 5 pm PT on September 30, 2023

Upload proposals and application forms to this Box folder. For questions or more information, contact Tiffany Kimoto, Executive Director, at

Download and share the KNI Nils Asplund FAST Prize Flyer

About Nils

Nils Asplund retired from Caltech in 2017 having contributed 41 years of service to the Institute. His first position was in Geology and Planetary Sciences, working in Gerald Wasserburg’s “Lunatic Asylum” research laboratory that performed high precision, high sensitivity isotopic analyses of meteorites, lunar and terrestrial samples.

In 1985 Nils transferred to Low Temperature Physics, where he provided support as an expert engineer in both low temperature cryogenics and microfabrication. A master of custom design and fabrication, he crafted various pieces of research-specific instrumentation. Many of the instruments he created are in use in research labs around the world.

In 2006 Nils became a senior research engineer in Applied Physics, specifically at The Kavli Nanoscience Institute. He worked on everything during the construction of KNI Laboratory, from designing safe engineering solutions for handling the vast array of chemicals used to the details of providing electricity, vibration isolation, soundproofing, and water cooling for all the new lab equipment. He loved his work and all the challenges that arose regularly in the lab. In 2010, Nils received Caltech’s Thomas W. Schmitt Annual Prize recognizing staff members whose contributions embody the values and spirit that enables the Institute to achieve excellence in research and education.

About the KNI

Since 2003, the Kavli Nanoscience Institute (KNI) has emphasized nanoscale research at the frontiers of electronics, photonics, quantum matter and technology, medical- and bio-engineering, and sustainability. The KNI is an intellectual hub and facilitator of cross-disciplinary research in the areas of nanoscience and nanotechnology. It is the home of an advanced multi-user nanofabrication facility (“KNI Laboratory”) which helps support these endeavors.

Managed by a team of full-time technical staff, the KNI Laboratory spans 10,000 sq. ft. across two facilities, including a 7,500 sq. ft. controlled-environment cleanroom where the majority of lithography, deposition, etching, microscopy, and supporting instrumentation are located. The KNI lab user community is comprised of 130+ scientists from more than 30 research groups within the divisions of EAS, PMA, BBE, CCE, and GPS at Caltech, and includes researchers from local academic and government institutions and companies. Since opening its doors in 2008, the KNI Laboratory has been critical to realizing exciting breakthroughs in nanoscale photonics, materials science, and biotechnology.

Previous Recipients

2022: Chiara Daraio, Israel Kellerzstein, and Lena Wolff, "Serial section tomography by dual beam microscopy for nano- and micro-structural analysis".