OSA | Living History

Rod C. Alferness

2008 OSA President Rod C. Alferness has been the Dean and Richard A. Auhll Professor, College of Engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara, USA, since 2011.  Prior to that, he was the Chief Scientist at Bell Labs, responsible for strategic directions, technical excellence, and global partnerships - including universities.

Alferness joined Bell Laboratories in 1976 after receiving a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Michigan where his thesis research, supervised by Emmett Leith, concerned optical propagation in volume holograms. He pioneered the development of electro-optic devices and circuits for light-wave transmission and switching systems.

His early research at Bell Labs included the demonstration of novel waveguide electro-optic devices and circuits - including switch/modulators, polarization controllers, tunable filters - and their applications in high capacity lightwave transmission and switching systems. This research led to the early development of titanium diffused lithium niobate waveguide modulators that are now deployed as the high-speed signal-encoding engine in fiber optic transmission systems around the world. 

Alferness has also made contributions in photonic integrated circuits in InP, including widely tunable lasers, as well as in photonic switching systems and reconfigurable WDM (wavelength-division-multiplexed) optical networks.  In the mid-1990s, he co-founded the DARPA-funded MONET project which demonstrated the feasibility of wavelength routed optical networks that are now being implemented for both backbone and metro networks.

An active member of the fiberoptics community, Alferness has served in leadership roles in several societies.  He was IEEE LEOS president and general co-chair of OFC’94 and served on the OSA Board of Directors. He served as Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE and OSA-sponsored Journal of Lightwave Technology and has served as associate editor for Optics Letters and for Photonic Technology Letters and on the European Conference on Optical Communication (ECOC) Executive Management Committee.  

Alferness is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of OSA and IEEE LEOS.  Alferness has received OSA’s Robert E. Hopkins Leadership Award and the IEEE Photonics Award. In 2018, Alferness was awarded OSA's Frederic Ives Medal/Jarus W. Quinn Prize "for basic contributions and leadership in the development of integrated optics, high-speed optical modulation and switching, and configurable WDM networks that have provided significant economic and societal impact.’’


2013 Interview with Rod Alferness

11 December 2018

2013 Oral History Interview with 2008 OSA President Rod Alferness conducted by Adrian Kinnane

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2013 Interview with Rod Alferness

2013 Interview with Rod Alferness

11 December 2018

2013 Oral History Interview with 2008 OSA Presi...

Document Created: 12 Jun 2013
Last Updated: 2 Jul 2019