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3 February 2020

The Optical Society Awards Ursula Keller the 2020 Frederic Ives Medal/Jarus W. Quinn Prize

Highest honors for ultrafast lasers technology pioneer

WASHINGTON -- The Optical Society (OSA), the leading global professional association in optics and photonics, today announced that the 2020 Frederic Ives Medal/Jarus W. Quinn Prize will be presented to Ursula Keller, ETH Zurich, Switzerland.

Keller is honored for fundamental contributions to ultrafast lasers technology, especially in the development of high peak and average power oscillators and important breakthroughs in attosecond science.

“Ursula Keller shines as an extraordinary leader in the optics and photonics community, providing fundamental research pivotal to the development of ultrafast lasers technology,” said 2020 OSA President Stephen D. Fantone, founder and president of the Optikos Corporation. “Keller’s many accomplishments have contributed to significant advancements in the field of applied optics.”

Ursula Keller received a Physics "Diplom" from ETH Zurich, Switzerland and a Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Stanford University, USA. During her first year at Stanford, she held a Fulbright Fellowship, and for the following year was an IBM Predoctoral Fellow. She was a Member of Technical Staff at AT&T Bell Laboratories, USA from 1989 to 1993 where she conducted research on photonic switching, ultrafast laser systems, and semiconductor spectroscopy. Keller joined ETH Zurich as a tenured professor of physics in 1993 and currently serves as a director of the NCCR MUST, an interdisciplinary research program launched by the Swiss National Science Foundation to bring together Swiss research groups working in Ultrafast Science across the fields of physics, chemistry and biology.

Her research interests include exploring and pushing the frontiers in ultrafast science and technology: ultrafast solid-​state and semiconductor lasers, ultrashort pulse generation in the one to two optical cycle regime, frequency comb generation and stabilization, attosecond experiments to test fundamental processes in quantum mechanics using the attoclock and attosecond pulses from high harmonic generation, and attosecond science.

Keller invented the semiconductor saturable absorber mirror (SESAM) which enabled passive modelocking of diode-​pumped solid-​state lasers and established ultrafast solid-​state lasers for science and industrial applications. She has pushed the frontier of few-​cycle pulse generation and full electric field control at petahertz frequencies. Pioneered frequency comb stabilization from modelocked lasers, which was noted by the Nobel committee for Physics in 2005. She invented the attoclock which measured the electron tunneling delay time and observed the dynamical Franz-​Keldysh effect in condensed matter for the first time.

She is the only individual to receive OSA’s Frederic Ives Medal/Jarus W. Quinn Prize, Charles H. Townes Award and Joseph Fraunhofer Award/Robert M. Burley Prize. Her many other awards and honors include: the IEEE Edison Medal, European Inventor Award for Lifetime Achievement, Weizmann Women & Science Award, IEEE Photonics Award, SPIE Gold Medal, LIA Arthur L. Schawlow Award, Leibinger Innovation Prize, and Zeiss Research Award. She is a Fellow of OSA, SPIE, IEEE, EPS and IAPLE and a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Academy Leopoldina and Swiss Academy of Technical Sciences. She has served the community through her work on international advisory boards, international conference committees, editorial boards and association boards including the OSA Board of Directors.

First presented in 1929, the Frederic Ives Medal recognizes overall distinction in optics, and is the highest award of the Society. The medal was endowed by Herbert E. Ives, a distinguished charter member and 1924 – 1925 OSA President, to honor his father’s pioneering contributions to color photography, three-color process printing, and other branches of applied optics. The Quinn Prize was added in 1995 in recognition of OSA's first Executive Director, Jarus W. Quinn.

About The Optical Society

Founded in 1916, The Optical Society (OSA) is the leading professional organization for scientists, engineers, students and business leaders who fuel discoveries, shape real-life applications and accelerate achievements in the science of light. Through world-renowned publications, meetings and membership initiatives, OSA provides quality research, inspired interactions and dedicated resources for its extensive global network of optics and photonics experts. For more information, visit

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