Etendue: John Zavada

    Date Posted: 
    Thursday, September 3, 2015

    Welcome to Etendue, featuring interesting and accomplished individuals known for their leadership and contributions both with their careers and the College of Optical Sciences, in their own words. (For a similar view on the college’s best and brightest – our students – please check out Another Wavelength among our Students in the Spotlight.)

    This week, we hear from John Zavada.

     The throughput of a life in optics" banner

    Where are you from?

    I was born and grew up in Passaic, New Jersey. I graduated from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., with a B.A. in physics. Afterwards I went to graduate school at New York University, at the Greenwich Village campus, and received a Ph.D., also in physics.

    John Zavada in a tan suit standing in front of a flowery shrub on a sunny dayWho or what influenced your interest in optics?

    In college I took a course in optics that was taught by Jaurus Quinn, who later became executive director of the Optical Society of America. During my first job after graduate school, I was working on the optical properties of rough surfaces. Gradually, I focused more and more on optics and photonics.

    Describe your career.

    I have worked in both government and academic institutions both in research labs and in program management. My research has centered on photonic devices and optical properties of materials. My last position was as program director at the National Science Foundation in charge of emerging research projects in optoelectronics science and technologies. I have organized many technical meetings dealing with photonic devices and novel materials that have led to new optoelectronics devices. I have served on various government committees to promote innovative scientific research programs in government and university labs.

    Describe your current job.

    While I’m now retired, I try to remain active in technical conferences and programs.

    A view of the skyline outside John Zavada's windowShare your single best OSC experience.

    In my government career, I have had many enjoyable contacts with OSC, particularly in connection with the Center for Integrated Access Networks Engineering Research Center.

    Why is staying involved with OSC important to you? How are you involved?

    Last year I helped sponsor the John M. and Sophie Zavada Memorial Scholarship as a way of encouraging the next generation of researchers in optical sciences.

    Name one neat fact about you.

    I have had two assignments with the Army’s European research offfice in London and have been a visiting scholar at the Imperial College of Science and Technology.


    Photos from top: Zavada in front of the NSF building in Arlington, Virginia; the summer view from his apartment.


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