Gerd Leuchs
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, Germany

Awards & Distinctions


Gerd Leuchs has been leading research groups since 1985, including a period from 1990 to 1994 in industry in Switzerland. He then moved on to the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg. Following a 5-year block-grant by the Max-Planck Society, the new Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light was established in 2009. There Leuchs served as a director until 2019, at which point he received emeritus status and continued leading a smaller scale research group. Leuchs has been serving the scientific community in numerous ways, including several committees of The Optical Society and currently on its Board of Directors.

Early on in his career, Leuchs worked in laser spectroscopy, making the first observation of quantum beats in both field- and photo-ionization. Later, he contributed to a wide range of topics from quantum to classical optics, including studies of non-classical light and quantum communication, gravitational wave detection, focusing of light, nanophotonics and optical communication and testing. His list of publications is available under ORCID number 0000-0003-1967-2766.

After having worked in industry, Leuchs found, to some extent the differences to working in academia were small. When developing a device, you have to be a detective and find out why things are not working as planned, same as in a fundamental research lab. But the criteria for success are different: in academia, success is when your manuscript is accepted for publication, when you are invited to a talk at a prestigious conference or when you receive a renowned award. In all these cases the decisions are done by reviewers or referees who make a decision to accept or invite or bestow, but they do not have to pay for their decision. However, success in industry requires an additional step: Someone needs to open his or her purse and buy your device- a fantastic feeling! And there is a third aspect: when working in R&D in industry, you have a product in mind and you need to make it work and time is money. Spending time to dig deeper to better understand is not efficient as long as it does not improve your product. In academia, he found, it is easier to fully enjoy the physics of a problem. After almost 5 years in industry, he accepted an offer from the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg. Later some of his students would work on some of these still unresolved physics problems from my industry experience.

Shortly after arriving in Erlangen, Leuchs helped The Optical Society organize a meeting at the World of Photonics in Munich. He then served on the Steering Committee of the European Physical Society (EPS), which ultimately led to CLEO-Europe/EQEC finding a home in Munich. In the early 2000s, Leuchs chaired the Quantum Optics division of the German Physical Society (DPG) and convinced DPG to change the name to Quantum Optics and Photonics Division and bring in more applied science. During the International Year of Light 2015, Leuchs served on the EPS Executive Board for two terms, taking over the responsibility of Treasurer.

Personal Statement

I was surprised and honored when I was invited to be a candidate in the upcoming election. OSA has been a home for me during my whole professional life, and I have profited greatly. I felt that it might be time to pay back and serve the community, if this is what a majority wants me to do, and so I decided to run. The following are aspects I will view as priorities if I am elected.

The services best provided by a learned society are scientific meetings and scientific publishing—but also community building and supporting its members in their careers. Openness, inclusivity and embracing all facets of the community are key, and The Optical Society has done outstanding service to the community in the past, always striving to adapt to new developments. The support of women in science, of minorities and of young scientists are topics which OSA has and will continue to focus on.

One project we are currently working on is finding a measure for rating recent publications that is better than just using the impact factor of the journal where the paper appeared. Almost any other measure should be superior to journal impact factor, and if this project were successful, early career scientists would benefit most.

The optics and photonics community, and The Optical Society itself, have become increasingly global, a process that is still continuing. This growth is underlined by the fact that a majority of OSA’s members now live outside of the United States. Currently, this is a challenge and an opportunity for the society, and it would be a focus for me. OSA now has two staff positions in Europe. To be a truly global player, this expansion has to continue. Members in other parts of the world such as South America, Africa and Asia would likewise benefit from a presence of The Optical Society in their countries or on their continents. And The Optical Society will benefit from being more connected to its members.

The dreadful COVID pandemic reminds us of the importance of meetings, and has already taught us that hybrid or fully online meetings do have a value that is higher than some of us had expected. On the other hand, in-person meetings provide opportunities that are missing in online meetings. Therefore, it will be important to put more focus on topical and local meetings. And the society likewise should think about developing new publishing formats.

Last but not least, I would like to see more involvement of scientists working in industry. Hopefully, we will find more formats appealing to this part of our community. In the past, The Optical Society has put substantial emphasis on connecting with members outside academia and this has my full support. Currently, quantum science, related to what some call the second quantum revolution, is bridging over to industry. Quantum science and engineering holds significant promise and is a great opportunity for many of us—and also for The Optical Society.