Optical Sciences Center

The College of Optical Sciences, founded as the University of Arizona Optical Sciences Center, has been shaping the future since 1964 by offering highest-quality graduate and undergraduate education, cutting-edge research programs and a solid commitment to the economic development of the optics industry.

The history of OSC is a reflection of our commitment to generate and disseminate the knowledge that is critical to future developments in nearly every field of science and technology.

The concept for the Optical Sciences Center originated in early 1960s when very few people were being educated in optics, and the shortage of trained optical scientists was judged to be a national crisis. In response to this great need, the Air Force Institute of Technology, together with the Needs in Optics Committee of the Optical Society of America and Aden Meinel, director of Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona, drafted a proposal to set up an optical sciences center. In 1964, with financial support from the University of Arizona Foundation and a promise of research contracts from the U.S. Air Force, Aden Meinel, now director of the new center, rented temporary quarters on the University of Arizona campus, brought faculty members on board and opened the doors to OSC’s first students — including its first graduate, James Mayo, M.S. 1968, who was kind enough to share his story.

Since then, OSC has grown and evolved in response to changing national needs and now includes a world-class faculty, an international student body, an undergraduate optical sciences and engineering degree program and distance learning classes that provide graduate certificates and master's degrees. In response to strong industrial demand, the academic program has expanded to include more than 100 graduate and undergraduate level courses. Our graduates are in great demand and are employed by national and international governments, by businesses and by universities.

Along with its teaching programs, research programs at the College of Optical Sciences have evolved and expanded to include a number of partnerships in which our faculty members work closely with scientists in government and industry. Through joint faculty appointments and joint research projects, OSC also engages in cooperative research with several departments on the University of Arizona campus. Laboratory facilities have expanded also to meet the need for research and development in new and exciting areas. We boast numerous laboratories dedicated to teaching at both the graduate and undergraduate levels and continually upgrade these laboratories with state-of-the-art equipment.

Why "OSC"?

OSC Rainbow Diamond LogoFrom 1964 to 2005, "OSC" stood for the "Optical Sciences Center," a one-of-a-kind institution where graduate students and faculty did world-changing research on the properties and applications of light.

When the center became the college, it retained its trademark abbreviation and distinctive rainbow diamond logo to honor the decades of hard work and dedication that built its current, stellar reputation.

Optics in Arizona

Arizona's optics industry has grown along with the college. Today, optics firms in Tucson design, develop and manufacture products ranging from automobile headlights to X-ray machines to high-speed Internet connections. The industry's growth is phenomenal.

The driving force behind this growth is the research capabilities, education programs and inspired leadership at the College of Optical Sciences. The knowledge gained in OSC classrooms and laboratories is constantly being brought to the commercial marketplace to solve major challenges in aerospace, manufacturing, instrumentation, medicine and the physical sciences. At the OSC, "light" study does hard work.

For more information about Tucson's history in the optical sciences, please read this report prepared for the Arizona Department of Commerce (PDF).