Thomas M. Baer

Thomas Baer has been active in many scientific areas employing optics: atomic and molecular spectroscopy, optical metrology, ultra-fast lasers, pulse compression, solid-state lasers, laser scanning fluorometry of blood cells, laser capture microdissection of biopsy samples and microgenomics. He has worked in industry and academia, and has participated in a number of successful collaborations with academic and government research groups, resulting in numerous successful commercial products that incorporate lasers and optics.

Baer graduated with a B.A. in physics from Lawrence University and received his Ph.D. in 1979 from the University of Chicago, where he studied atomic physics. After that, he worked with John Hall at JILA on high resolution spectroscopy and co-invented new techniques for frequency stabilizing lasers.

In 1981, Baer joined Spectra-Physics (SP), where he held positions as vice president of research and Spectra-Physics Fellow. His research focused on ultra-fast lasers, pulse compression, diode-pumped solid-state lasers and non-linear optics. His group developed and patented the first commercial optical pulse compressor, high power, fiber-coupled diode-pumped solid-state lasers, and mode-locked Ti-Sapphire lasers.

After leaving SP, Baer joined Biometric Imaging (BMI) and changed his research focus to biophotonics. At BMI, he led an interdisciplinary group that developed the scanning laser instruments used in diagnostic tests for bone marrow transplant therapy and immune system monitoring in AIDS patients. Following his departure from BMI, Tom founded Arcturus Bioscience and served as CEO and chairman until 2005. 

Arcturus Bioscience pioneered the area of microgenomics—the precise molecular analysis of microscopic tissue samples. Arcturus technology is widely used in life science research laboratories and in molecular diagnostic tests for cancer. He left the company in 2005 and joined Stanford University, where he is the executive director of the Stanford Photonics Research Center and a member of the applied physics department.

Baer has co-authored scientific publications in the fields of atomic physics, quantum electronics, laser applications and biotechnology. He holds 58 U.S. patents and was named entrepreneur of the year for emerging companies in Silicon Valley in 2000 by the Silicon Valley Business Journal

Baer has provided leadership to a number of optics-related endeavors including visiting committees and advisory groups with NIST, NIH and the Physical Sciences Division of the University of Chicago. He has held many leadership positions within OSA such as CLEO general chair and OSA Annual Meeting chair. He was elected to the OSA Board of Directors and has been division chair of both the Quantum Electronics Division and the Optics in Biology and Medicine Division.

Baer is a fellow of OSA and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Lawrence University.

For more on Thomas Baer watch his OSA History Interview.