Robert Alfano Wins the 2019 SPIE Gold Medal

The award recognizes the application and understanding of high-speed physical phenomena, including the development of new technologies as well as new applications of existing technologies

15 August 2019

 Robert Alfano wins SPIE Gold Medal
Robert Alfano (right) receiving his award from SPIE President-Elect John Greivenkamp.

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA and CARDIFF, UK - Yesterday evening, at the Awards Banquet at SPIE Optics + Photonics in San Diego, SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, honored Robert Alfano with its Gold Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the Society. Since 1977, it has been awarded in recognition of outstanding engineering or scientific accomplishments in optics, photonics, electro-optics, or imaging technologies or applications. Recipients have made an exceptional contribution to the advancement of relevant technology.

SPIE Member Robert Alfano, professor of science and engineering at The City College of New York, was recognized for his outstanding seminal achievements and contributions to advancement of knowledge on fundamental properties of materials and their interaction with light in areas of biology, condensed matter, semiconductors, tunable lasers, and biomedical optics.

"Alfano is, and has long been, one of the most widely respected and influential figures in laser physics," said SPIE Vice President David Andrews, professor of physics at University of East Anglia.

Among his most notable achievements, Alfano discovered and subsequently developed supercontinuum light produced with an ultrashort pulsed laser. Alfano also contributed to the burgeoning field of biophotonics in the 1980s and 1990s, work that resulted in development of techniques for optical biopsy. His work on time-gated diffusive light propagation in tissue during the same time period also helped develop the fields of near-infrared spectroscopy and imaging in random media.

"The impact of these advances is clear to see," says Andrew Forbes, professor of physics at University of the Witwatersand, Johannesburg. "There are entire conferences dedicated to these themes."

More recently, Alfano has applied his efforts to the study of structured light, where he has also made seminal contributions, including the theoretical construction of a new Poincaré sphere for the total angular momentum of light. According to Forbes, "It is no small feat to reinvent a concept so ubiquitous in optics."

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