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Koch elected to National Academy of Engineering

Thomas Koch leads Lehigh's Center for Optical Technologies.

Thomas Koch, who has gained international renown for his research into optoelectronics and for helping build Lehigh University’s Center for Optical Technologies into one of the premier research institutions in its field, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).

Election to the NAE—one of the highest professional accolades conferred upon engineers—honors individuals who have made outstanding contributions to engineering research, practice or education, and who have pioneered new fields of technology.

Koch, whose election to the NAE brings Lehigh’s total active NAE faculty membership to nine, was cited “for contributions to optoelectronic technologies and their implementation in optical communications systems.” He is widely known for exploring the fundamental performance limits of lasers used for telecommunications, and for the design and demonstration of semiconductor photonic integrated circuits.

Koch was appointed the Daniel E. ‘39 and Patricia Smith Chair and director of Lehigh’s Center for Optical Technologies (COT) in 2003. He is also a professor of physics and a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Lehigh.

To read more about Lehigh’s Center for Optical Technologies, see Focus on Optics.

The NAE, a private, independent, nonprofit institution, advises the federal government on engineering and technology issues while promoting the technological welfare of society. Its 2,200-plus peer-elected members and foreign associates are among the world’s most accomplished engineers.

“We are delighted that Tom Koch has been elected to the NAE,” says S. David Wu, Iacocca Professor and dean of Lehigh’s P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science.

“Recognition of this magnitude underscores the continuous progress achieved by Lehigh’s optics program,” Wu says. “Tom has made tremendous contributions to optoelectronics engineering throughout his career, and we are fortunate to have a researcher of his caliber directing our efforts in this area.

“Tom is also an outstanding educator and his work has impacted students and colleagues well beyond his immediate research group. Simply put, we are honored to have Tom as a colleague.”

Decades of optical engineering leadership

After earning his bachelor’s degree in physics from Princeton in 1977 and his doctorate in applied physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1982, Koch joined Bell Labs, where he conducted basic research on lasers and photonic integration technology for optical fiber communications.

In 1995-96, Koch was vice president of research and development at SDL Inc., where he managed a broad portfolio of semiconductor laser research. Later, as vice president for technology platforms at Agere Systems, Koch was responsible for research and development of the underlying technologies required to support the company’s optoelectronics and integrated-circuit product portfolio.

Koch is widely recognized in the international scientific community. He is a fellow of Bell Labs, of the Optical Society of America (OSA), and of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). He has served on numerous conference, technical and governance committees for OSA and IEEE, and he has chaired several major conferences, including the Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exposition (OFC), the IEEE LEOS Annual Meeting, and the IEEE International Semiconductor Laser Conference.

Koch has also received the Distinguished Lecturer Award and the William Streifer Award for Scientific Achievement from IEEE LEOS. He holds 35 patents and has authored more than 130 journal publications, 150 conference presentations, and several book chapters. He recently co-edited the book Optical Fiber Telecommunications III with Ivan. P. Kaminow.

Lehigh: Optics momentum continues to build

Koch’s election to the NAE follows closely on the heels of the October 2005 opening of Lehigh’s Smith Family Laboratory for Optical Technologies, a state-of-the-art facility designed to contribute to the global pursuit of optics innovation across a broad set of applications and technologies.

The four-story Smith Family Lab provides researchers with the ability to make and analyze new classes of optical materials, and to model, design, test, and fabricate new optical devices—all in one building. The lab will enable researchers from various fields to apply their talents to a host of issues, including the use of novel photonic integration techniques for biomedical, military, pharmaceutical, and communications applications.

Lehigh’s Center for Optical Technologies (www.lehigh.edu/optics), which has received $63 million in funding since opening in 2001, is a partnership that includes Lehigh, Penn State University, Lehigh Carbon Community College, Northampton Community College, the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, and two dozen firms in the optics and technology industries.

--Kurt Pfitzer

Posted on Thursday, February 16, 2006

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