Couillaud Prize

Recognizing excellence on the frontiers of ultrafast lasers.

Application Dates
15 Jan 2022 - 28 Feb 2022
Program Prize

US$20,500 stipend, US$5000 in travel expenses

The Optica Foundation and Coherent, Inc. partnered to create the Bernard J. Couillaud Prize, which provides the opportunity for an early career professional to pursue a compelling and innovative project that has the potential to make a meaningful and positive impact on the science and applications of ultrafast lasers.

The goal is to support individuals in the area of ultrafast photonics for the purpose of providing dynamic and rigorous research with a state-of-the-art approach to solving difficult, real-world problems. Recipients will be granted total research freedom with consideration being given to the following:

  1. Work focused on advancing basic research, or
  2. Efforts focused on transitioning an idea into a commercial innovation

The prize is expected to help the recipient in their pursuit of the most compelling and interesting research issues in ultrafast optics. The Bernard J. Couillaud Prize is a personal prize and is not renewable.

Application Information

How to Apply

Applications will be available at

Important Dates

Opens: 15 January 2022
Closes 28 February 2022

Applicant Requirements
  • Must be an early career professional (1-5 years post highest degree) pursuing a compelling project that has a meaningful global impact
  • Work in the field of ultrafast photonics
  • Demonstrate the unique nature and global reach of the project.

Program requirements recognize and exclude career breaks from career timelines (e.g., eldercare; maternity or paternity leave). 

Application Requirements
  • CV/resume
  • A statement describing why you think you would benefit from receiving this prize
  • Current research description with a focus on how your work will have a global impact
  • Example of published work
  • Two references

2021 Selection Committee

  • Marco Arrigoni, Coherent
  • Philip Bucksbaum, Stanford University
  • Thomas Elsaesser, Max-Born-Institut für Nichtlineare Optik
  • Allister Ferguson, University of Strathclyde
  • Jiang Shibin, AdValue Photonics
  • Bo Li, Cornell University 

2021 Recipient

Bowen Li
University of Colorado, Boulder and Poseidon Photonics

Bowen Li is a postdoctoral researcher in the University of Colorado, Boulder and the CTO and co-founder of Poseidon Photonics. He is the author of more than 30 journals and conference papers. His research passion is frequency comb technology and its application in communication, sensing and imaging.

His winning research is on the bidirectional all-normal-dispersion (BANDi) fiber laser. This technology is a next-generation dual-comb laser source that generates two frequency combs from a single laser cavity. Featuring unprecedented pulse energy, inherent mutual coherence, and high system compactness, it provides a promising solution for practical dual-comb metrology devices that benefit various applications such as molecular spectroscopy, biochemical imaging and precise laser ranging.

"I love working with ultrafast lasers, and I’m honored to receive this prize and continue to explore research in the next generation of dual-comb laser technology."

Past Recipients

  • Bo Li, Cornell Univeristy, USA (2020)
  • David Carlson, NIST, USA (2019)


The prize is endowed by:

About the Endowment

The prize honors the extraordinary contributions of Bernard J. Couillaud, former President and CEO of Coherent and later Chairman of the Board of Directors. A native of France, Couillaud earned his Ph.D. in Laser Physics in 1978 at the University of Bordeaux and later became a full-time professor there. During his time at Bordeaux, he formed a colorful and storied partnership with colleague André Ducasse that pioneered continuous wave and pulsed dye lasers. Finding his way to California, he completed a three-year visiting fellowship at Stanford University that yielded, in collaboration with T.W. Hansch, the Hansch-Couillaud technique of laser frequency stabilization.

Joining Coherent in 1983, he was instrumental in the development of numerous Dye, DPSS and Ti:S lasers in his roles as Director of Engineering, Business Unit Manager, and Vice President of the Laser Group. Along the arc of this extraordinary academic and industrial career, he authored 65 publications and received numerous patents. He became President and CEO of Coherent in 1996 and served in that capacity until 2002. Dr. Couillaud then became Chairman of the Board of Directors until his retirement in 2007. He gave more than a lifetime’s worth of dedication and achievements to physics, lasers and photonics. He remains an inspiration to everyone who called him friend, colleague, boss or mentor.