2016 President Alan Willner received a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Columbia University (1988). Willner was a postdoctoral member of technical staff at AT&T Bell Labs and a member of technical staff at Bellcore. He joined the University of Southern California (USC) in 1992 and is currently the Steven & Kathryn Sample Chaired Professor of Engineering. Prof. Willner is a member of the Defense Sciences Research Council, and he has served on many scientific advisory boards for small companies and venture capital firms. Moreover, he was Founder and CTO of Phaethon Communications, a company acquired by Teraxion, that created the ClearSpectrum® dispersion compensator product line.
Willner has received various awards, including the Paul Forman Engineering Excellence Award and Robert Hopkins Leadership Award; IEEE Photonics Society Engineering Achievement Award, Distinguished Lecturer Award, and Distinguished Service Award; International Fellow of the U.K. Royal Academy of Engineering; Presidential Faculty Fellows Award from the White House; Packard Foundation Fellowship; Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship; Fulbright Foundation Senior Scholar Fellowship; SPIE President's Award; National Science Foundation National Young Investigator Award; USC Associates Award for University-Wide Creativity in Research (highest university research award); 2001 Eddy Paper Award from Pennwell Publications for the Best Contributed Technical Article (across all 30 magazines in Pennwell's Advanced Technology Division); Honorary Doctorate (Honoris Causa) from Yeshiva University; and Armstrong Foundation Memorial Award for the highest-ranked EE Masters student at Columbia University. He is a Fellow of the AAAS, IEEE, OSA and SPIE, and he was a Doctoral Fellow of the Semiconductor Research Corporation.
Willner has been an active OSA volunteer. He served on the Board of Directors (2002-2003), as well as being Co-chair of the Science & Engineering Council, Chair of the Photonics Division, and member of the Board of Editors, Publications Council, Public Policy Committee and Frederic Ives Medal Committee. He has been Chair of the IEEE TAB Ethics and Member Conduct Committee and has served as President, elected member of the Board of Governors, and Vice-President for Technical Affairs of the IEEE Photonics Society. His other activities include: Co-chair of the U.S. National Academies Committee on the Optics and Photonics Study (i.e., Harnessing Light II); General and Program Co-chair and Steering Chair of the Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics (CLEO); Program Co-chair of the OSA Annual Meeting and General/Program Co-chair of various Topical Meetings (e.g., Coherent Technologies, Optical Amplifiers, Slow Light, and SPPComm); General Chair of the IEEE Photonics Society Annual Meeting; Steering Committee and Technical Committee member of the Conference on Optical Fiber Communications; and member of U.S. Advisory Committee for the International Commission for Optics.
Willner has been Editor-in-Chief of OSA’s Optics Letters, IEEE/OSA Journal of Lightwave Technology and IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics; and Associate Editor of IEEE/OSA Journal of Optical Communications and Networking. He has over 1,000 publications, including one book, six edited books (including Optical Fiber Telecommunications V and VI), 24 U.S. patents, 20 keynotes/plenaries, 19 book chapters, and 200 invited papers/presentations. His research is in optical communications, optical signal processing, optical networks, and fiber optics.
He played an instrumental role in the Society's celebration of its 100th Anniversary in 2016. Willner currently is a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee.