Lehigh University
Lehigh University


Koch named director of Center for Optical Technologies

The center, a multi-institutional initiative based at Lehigh University, has a charter to advance research and applications of optical and optoelectronic technologies. Koch replaces interim director James C.M. Hwang.

"We are thrilled to have a person of Tom’s caliber and stature in the industry lead the center," says Mohamed S. El-Aasser, dean of the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. "With his vision, wealth of experience in optics, international contacts and proven success record leading research initiatives and teams, Tom will enable the center to realize its full potential."

Koch, who sees the center functioning as a regional, national and international resource, is excited about the challenge. "It’s truly an honor for me to be able to play a role here – it’s a great team and a great mission," Koch says. "We are targeting not only research, but educational outreach programs and deep relationships with our industry partners."

Koch believes that while portions of the industry are still reeling from the telecommunications bubble, the timing of the investment in the center is excellent. "We find that many commercial concerns are now turning to institutions like ours for our scientific depth, facilities, and longer-term outlook," he says. "And we are diversifying applications well beyond telecommunications."

An endowed chair

Koch joins Lehigh as the Daniel E. ’39 and Patricia M. Smith Endowed Chair of Director of the Center for Optical Technologies and as a professor in electrical engineering. The director’s chair was endowed by Lehigh alumnus Daniel E. Smith Jr. ’71, president and chief executive officer of Sycamore Networks Inc.

Most recently, Koch served as vice president for technology platforms at Agere Systems, where he was responsible for research and development of the underlying technologies required to support Agere’s optoelectronic and IC product portfolio.

Koch received his bachelor’s degree in physics from Princeton University. He earned his doctoral degree in applied physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1982, and joined the research organization of Bell Labs, where he was a member of technical staff in Holmdel, NJ.

He worked on Bell Labs’ first high-performance DFB lasers with record-setting transmission rates and basic advances in tunable lasers, among other projects. Later, as department head, he led the research team that developed the first generation of semiconductor photonic integrated circuits (PICs). In 1995-96, Koch was vice president of research and development at SDL, Inc., where he managed a broad portfolio of semiconductor laser research.

In the international scientific community Koch has served on numerous conference, technical and governance committees for the OSA and the IEEE, and has chaired several major conferences, including OFC, the IEEE LEOS Annual Meeting, and the IEEE International Semiconductor Laser Conference. He has received the Distinguished Lecturer Award and the William Streifer Award for Scientific Achievement from the IEEE LEOS, and is a Bell Labs Fellow, and a Fellow of the OSA and the IEEE. Koch holds 32 patents and has authored 130 journal publications, 147 conference presentations, and several book chapters. He was recently co-editor of the book, Optical Fiber Telecommunications III, with Ivan. P. Kaminow.

Focusing on growth

Lehigh is partnering with Pennsylvania State University, Northampton Community College, Lehigh Carbon Community College and Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania in this endeavor. Additionally, the center will be working closely with local and national companies in optical technologies, both in joint research programs and through the use of its highly specialized equipment and materials expertise.

During the initial phase of the center, activities have been coordinated into two major spheres of activity: optical networking technologies, and display and sensor technologies. Today, there are five active thrusts in these areas: all optical networking, optoelectronic packaging, optical interconnect, flexible display, and optical sensor technologies.

Started with an initial grant of $1M in January of 2001, the center secured an additional five-year, $15 million grant from the state of Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development in 2002, coordinated through the Ben Franklin Technology Investment Authority. Lehigh is matching the state grant to provide for additional faculty positions, facilities renovations, and new scientific equipment. Recently $2.4 million has also been secured by the center for collaborative optical research programs with the Department of Defense.

Lehigh has also announced that Kimberly D.C. Trapp, former marketing operations director at Agere Systems, has been appointed as the industry liaison officer. In her role, Trapp will be responsible for identifying, defining, and facilitating university-industry-government partnerships.

"We will be working closely with partners in the region as well as across the state and nation," Trapp said. "With our partners, we will be focused upon driving growth and diversity in the optical industry as well as supporting the movement of commercially viable science and technology into the marketplace."

--Kim Plyler

Posted on Tuesday, March 18, 2003

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