Peter E. Powers

In Memoriam:  Peter E. Powers, 1965-2014

Peter E. Powers, a professor of Physics and Electro-Optics at the University of Dayton, USA, died Saturday, 10 May 2014, after a long battle with cancer.  He was 49.

Powers had been a member of the University of Dayton faculty since 1997.  He built up a laboratory on campus with capabilities ranging from time resolved femtosecond processes to laser remote sensing.  His research centered on nonlinear optical devices with an emphasis on optical frequency conversion, which enabled applications including laser radar, remote sensing, trace species detection, and terahertz generation.  At the time of his death, Powers was also completing a term as the College of Arts and Sciences' Brother Leonard A. Mann Chair in the Sciences, a position he had held since 2010. As the Mann Chair, he worked to promote the sciences through research, faculty development, outreach to the community, and teaching.

Powers received his Bachelor of Science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1988, and his Master of Science and Ph.D. degrees in applied and engineering physics from Cornell University in 1990 and 1995, respectively.  From 1995 to 1997 he worked at Sandia National laboratories as a post-doctoral research associate, where he focused on nonlinear optics and laser remote sensing.

Powers published two books: Fundamentals of Nonlinear Optics (2011), an introductory text on nonlinear optics, and Field Guide to Nonlinear Optics (SPIE Press Field Guide FG29) (2013).  He also published over 40 refereed papers, contributed to 60 conference presentations and held five patents.  He was awarded the 2007 University of Dayton Alumni Award in Scholarship and the 2004 University of Dayton College of Arts and Sciences Award for Outstanding Scholarship.  Powers was named an OSA Fellow in 2014 “for fundamental studies of nonlinear parametric interactions and for practical applications to the development of optical parametric devices operating from infrared to terahertz regimes.”  He was also a Fellow of SPIE.

"Dr. Powers was a brilliant, compassionate man, researcher and faculty member," said Tony Saliba, dean of the University of Dayton School of Engineering.  "He was a true role model with a humble spirit, a love for the UD family, and a remarkable ability to build bridges across units within the University and beyond the walls of our campus.”

Powers is survived by his wife and four children.

If you would like to make a memorial donation to an OSA Foundation fund or endowment in honor of Peter E. Powers, please visit