Robert Alfano Awarded 2019 SPIE Gold Medal

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Robert Alfano received the 2019 SPIE Gold Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the society, during the awards banquet at the SPIE Optics + Photonics conference this month.

Alfano, professor of science and engineering at The City College of New York and a member of the Photonics Media advisory board, was recognized for his numerous achievements and contributions to the advancement of knowledge on the fundamental properties of materials and their interaction with light in areas of biology, condensed matter, semiconductors, tunable lasers, and biomedical optics.

Robert Alfano (r) receiving his award from SPIE President-Elect John Greivenkamp. Courtesy of SPIE.

Among Alfano’s most notable achievements is the discovery and subsequent development of supercontinuum light produced with an ultrashort pulsed laser. He also contributed to the field of biophotonics in the 1980s and 1990s, yielding techniques for optical biopsy. Alfano’s work on time-gated diffusive light propagation in tissue during the same time period also helped develop the fields of near-infrared spectroscopy and imaging in random media.

“Alfano is, and has long been, one of the most widely respected and influential figures in laser physics,” said David Andrews, professor of physics at University of East Anglia and SPIE vice president.

Most recently, Alfano has studied structured light, another field he has made important contributions in, including the theoretical construction of a new Poincaré sphere for the total angular momentum of light. Andrew Forbes, professor of physics at University of the Witwatersand, Johannesburg, commented, “It is no small feat to reinvent a concept so ubiquitous in optics.”

Published: August 2019
Supercontinuum refers to a broad spectrum of light that spans a wide range of wavelengths, typically from the visible to the near-infrared or even mid-infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. This phenomenon occurs when intense laser light is coupled into a nonlinear optical medium, such as a photonic crystal fiber or a nonlinear crystal. The process of supercontinuum generation involves nonlinear effects such as self-phase modulation, stimulated Raman scattering, and four-wave...
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