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Feb. 5, 2020

UArizona Wyant College of Optical Sciences Announces Two Newly Established Endowed Chairs

TUCSON, Ariz. — Two accomplished scientists in field of optics and photonics have established endowed chairs in their names at the University of Arizona James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences.

Dean Thomas L. Koch announced the news at a reception for the college's alumni and corporate partners in San Francisco on Feb. 4. Koch said the two generous $500,000 donations received from Jack L. Jewell and Nasser Peyghambarian have enabled the creation of two new faculty positions at the college.

Each of the Jewell and Peyghambarian gifts has immediately established a $2 million endowed chair, benefitting from an offer made by James C. Wyant, who gifted $20 million in November 2018 to establish new positions as endowed chairs at the College. Wyant offered to transfer $1.5 million from his gift fund into a separate endowment in optical sciences when a donor or a donor group offers $500,000 to create a named endowed faculty chair.

"These endowed chairs, carrying the names of two renowned leaders in our field, will enhance our ability to recruit faculty members who will make transformational discoveries, ignite new fields and teach our students to lead," Koch said. "Our faculty, through their research and discovery, are the engine that drives innovation. Investing in our faculty, just as Jack and Nasser have done, will continue to provide rich, lasting dividends – to our students, to the university, and to society."  

Other recently established endowed chairs at the Wyant College of Optical Sciences include: the Harrison H. and Catherine C. Barrett Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences for Cancer Imaging; the J.W. and H.M. Goodman Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences; the Robert Shannon Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences; the SPIE Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences; and the John P. Schaefer Endowed Chair in optical Sciences.

Jack Lee Jewell

In 1977, Jack L. Jewell came to the University of Arizona to study optical sciences. He worked with professor Hyatt Gibbs from 1980 to 1984, exploring nonlinear optical resonators that could function as logic gates for all-optical computing. Jewell earned both master's and doctoral degrees in this pursuit, demonstrating nonlinear gating by creating new high-Q resonators containing semiconductor multiple-quantum-wells grown by molecular beam epitaxy.

After graduation, Jewell worked at Bell Laboratories for seven years. In a collaboration with Bellcore, he extended his prior work using similar structures to create the world's first practical vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers, which are now called VCSELs.  Jewell's team demonstrated more than 1 million VCSELs – the smallest lasers ever made, as small as 1.5 micron in diameter – on their prototype chip of approximately 6-by-8 millimeters.

In 1991, Jewell left Bell Labs to co-found Photonics Research Inc., the first company committed to commercializing VCSELs. In 1995, he founded Picolight Inc. Though small, both companies were leaders in VCSEL innovation and standards development. Over the course of his career, he amassed 74 patents and more than 150 publications. In addition to promotion to Distinguished Member of Technical Staff at Bell Labs, Jewell received the Distinguished Inventor Award in 1991, was an IEEE LEOS Distinguished Lecturer, was awarded the Best Technical Advance in Optical Communications in 2001, and received the Aron Kressel Award from the IEEE Photonics Society in 2009.

Thanks in large to Jewell's work, VCSELs have become a multibillion-dollar industry. Since gigabit ethernet was standardized in 1998, for example, VCSELs have played a key role in short-distance optical interconnects. VCSELs are also critical components of the laser mouse and handheld atomic clocks, and VCSEL arrays for structured light are used for 3D sensing, such as the iPhone's facial recognition.

Jewell has been an independent consultant since 2008, continuing his contributions in the field while pursuing his interests in photography, extreme sports such as 100-mile mountain footraces and supporting NASA on occultation expeditions.

In addition to his endowed chair donation, Jewell made an initial gift to the Wyant College of Optical Sciences in 2007 to kick off the Roland V. Shack Graduate Student Scholarship in Optical Sciences. The scholarship endowment has since received multiple donations from others who admired Shack. In 2017, Jewell established the Jack Jewell Extreme Optics Graduate Student Research Award by making a $100,000 gift for the endowment.

Nasser Peyghambarian

Nasser Peyghambarian grew up in Iran, where his interest in optics and lasers was ignited by experiments on holography working with American teachers as a member of the Iran-American Society. At age 22 he moved to the U.S., where he earned his doctorate at Indiana University studying the Bose-Einstein condensation of biexcitons in semiconductors.

Peyghambarian joined the University of Arizona in 1982 as a post-doctoral fellow working with Hyatt Gibbs. He soon became member of the faculty, and today is a full professor of both optical sciences and materials science and engineering. In addition to serving as chair of photonics and lasers for the college, Peyghambarian is director of the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Integrated Access Networks, or CIAN.

In 39 years at the University of Arizona, he has successfully directed the activities of 61 doctoral students and 56 students receiving their master's degrees within Peyghambarian's program. He has supervised 85 post-doctoral researchers and research scientists in his multidisciplinary, multi-university research programs. He has collaborated with institutions such as Columbia University, Cornell University, the University of California, San Diego, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of California, Los Angeles, the California Institute of Technology, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Norfolk State University and Tuskegee University, in addition to many national laboratory, defense and corporate entities.

Since the 1990s, Peyghambarian's research has spawned innovations in the areas of 3D display, vision optics, augmented reality glasses, laser technology, nanoscale materials and devices, solar energy, and optical communications and the internet.  He has authored more than 600 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals, authored or co-authored 28 books and book chapters, and is the inventor on 40 patents.  Peyghambarian's work has had high impact and citations, with an h-index of 74 on the Web of Science.

As a mentor and teacher, his students and postdocs have been employed as professors in universities in the U.S., China, Germany, Korea, Canada and Italy, and are in leading positions around the world in industry and government labs.

Peyghambarian is a fellow of SPIE, The Optical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society. In 2016, he was elected as a fellow for the National Academy of Inventors, a prestigious honor recognizing him for his spirit of innovation and the societal impact of his career.

Peyghambarian has also enjoyed success as an entrepreneur, founding NP Photonics Inc., TIPD LLC, and iCrx Inc. to develop products resulting from his research in the areas of lasers, optical fiber devices, optoelectronic devices, AR glasses, devices for ophthalmology applications, subsystems, and systems for government and industry.  Most recently, Peyghambarian co-founded EARDG Photonics Inc., introducing a new type of holographic display technology that can be incorporated into eyeglasses for augmented reality.

"These endowed chairs create an environment to attract both the world's best and brightest faculty as well as top-flight students," Koch said. "The endowments provide a critical competitive edge to attract emerging leaders in the field to the college while also representing a significant growth in the size and scope our program. We could not be more thrilled with the support we are receiving to pursue our mission."

Media contact:
Kaye Rowan
Wyant College of Optical Sciences
The University of Arizona, a land-grant university with two independently accredited medical schools, is one of the nation's top public universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. Established in 1885, the university is widely recognized as a student-centric university and has been designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. The university ranked in the top 20 in 2018 in research expenditures among all public universities, according to the National Science Foundation, and is a leading Research 1 institution with $687 million in annual research expenditures. The university advances the frontiers of interdisciplinary scholarship and entrepreneurial partnerships as a member of the Association of American Universities, the 65 leading public and private research universities in the U.S. It benefits the state with an estimated economic impact of $4.1 billion annually.