Pioneering Photonics Institute Celebrates 30 Years of Innovation

Institute for Ultrafast Spectroscopy and Lasers, first research center focused on ultrafast light, hosts conference October 9 at CCNYIUSL-logo

The supercontinuum light source with interference.

The supercontinuum with interference. (Credit: IUSL)

The Institute for Ultrafast Spectroscopy and Lasers (IUSL) at The City College of New York, a pioneering center for photonic science and technology, will commemorate three decades of research into the generation and harnessing of light with a celebratory conference in October.

The 30th Anniversary Celebration Conference will take place 8:55 a.m. – 6 p.m. Tuesday, October 9, in the Great Hall of Shepard Hall on the campus of CCNY, 160 Convent Ave., New York, N.Y. 10031. A reception dinner will follow at 6:30 p.m. in the Faculty Dining Room of the North Academic Center (NAC).

Scientist, entrepreneur and citizen space traveler Dr. Gregory H. Olsen will give the keynote address at the reception. The third private citizen to orbit the Earth, Dr. Olsen co-founded and chaired Sensors Unlimited Inc., which developed several optoelectronic devices used in space and for commercial and military applications.

Other conference speakers and participants will include journal editors, innovators, CEOs and students discussing the field’s history, theory, medical and communications innovations and future.

Established at CCNY in 1982, IUSL pioneered an entire field of research. “At that time there was no such thing as photonics, no field itself,” said institute founder Dr. Robert Alfano, distinguished professor of physics at CCNY. While other major centers for optics research existed, IUSL was the first research institute of its kind devoted to the study of applications for ultrafast light. It has produced 52 PhDs and generated $53 million in research grants to date.

IUSL investigators study biophotonics, mediphotonics (medical applications), optical and laser physics, and solid-state physics. “These are all real-world applications: we detect disease with light, communicate with light, image with light,” said Professor Alfano.

The institute’s missions include the identification and development of emerging technologies in laser imaging and medical diagnosis and development of commercial photonic technology to foster economic development.

The invention of lasers in the 1960’s preceded, and made possible the field of photonics. Over the past three decades, IUSL fostered many steps in the evolution of optical spectroscopy, one of the primary subfields of photonics.

Professor Alfano’s crowning achievement was discovery of the supercontinuum. The ultimate white light source, the supercontinuum enables many applications in science, biology and engineering. An image of the supercontinuum is the IUSL’s logo.

In 1984, Professor Alfano and IUSL colleagues were the first to invent and employ fluorescence to detect cancer. Three years later, they used vibrational information from Raman scattering of light to detect cancer.

They advanced the ultrafast processes used in condensed matter physics, and their innovations in multiphotons in 1996, formed the basis of the multiphoton microscopes of today that could be used in deep-tissue imaging. The institute’s optical imaging research through hazy or cloudy materials, such as breast tissue, brought about the development of ballistic light and snake light, both of which can penetrate such tissues to allow clearer images.

Professor Alfano credits IUSL engineer Yuri Budansky as the secret weapon behind the institute’s success. Mr. Budansky built many of the photonic and optical devices envisaged by its physicists, making their ideas into physical realities.

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Conference Highlights:
(Full conference agenda available upon request)

Among the presenters at the conference will be Dr. Jim Fujimoto, Dr. Steven Jacques, Dr. Bruce Tromberg, Dr. Joseph Izatt, Dr. Brain Pogue, Dr. Irving Bigio, Dr. Robert Fisher, Dr. Nasser Peyghambarian, Dr. Anthony Johnson, Dr. Lihong Wang, Dr. Barry Masters, and the presidents of the Optical Society of America and SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics.

9:45 a.m. Dr. Anthony M. Johnson, (IUSL PhD) professor of physics, University of Maryland: “Femtosecond Mid-IR Spectroscopy of Quantum Cascade Lasers.”

10:05 a.m. Dr. Lihong Wang, distinguished professor, Washington University in St. Louis: “Photoacoustics Tomography.”

11:20 a.m. Dr. Steven L. Jacques, professor, Oregon Health & Science University: “Optical Probing Cells and Tissues.”

11:40 a.m. Dr. Brian W. Pogue, professor of engineering, Dartmouth University: “Imaging Radiation Therapy with Diffuse Light,” on the medical imaging of cancer.

2:15 p.m. Dr. Bruce Tromberg, professor of biomedical engineering, University of California – Irvine: “Medical Imaging with Diffusive Photonics.”

2:35 p.m. Dr. Robert A. Fisher, inventor, laser physicist and founder of RA Fisher Associates, LLC: “A Journey to the Early Days of Pulse Compression and Self-Phase Modulation.”

4:10 p.m. Dr. Jim Fujimoto, professor of electrical engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology: “Optical Coherence Tomography” – the first FDA-approved clinical laser optical diagnostic method.

5:00 p.m. Dr. Peter Delfyett, (IUSL PhD) professor of optics, College of Optics and Photonics, University of Central Florida: “Optical Frequency Combs for Ultrafast Coherent Optical Signal Processing.”

6:30 p.m. Dr. Gregory H. Olsen, scientist, entrepreneur & citizen space traveler: Keynote address, “From Entrepreneurship to Spaceship.” (Reception)

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