UArizona Wyant College of Optical Sciences Announces Two Newly Established Endowed Chairs in Optical Sciences

Feb. 5, 2020















The Jack Lee Jewell Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences and The Nasser Peyghambarian Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences create new endowed faculty positions at the College

Feb 5, 2020 – Two accomplished scientists in field of Optics and Photonics have established endowed chairs in their names at The University of Arizona James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences.

Announced last night at a reception for the College’s alumni and corporate partners in San Francisco, dean Thomas L. Koch said the two generous $500,000 donations received from both Dr. Jack L. Jewell and Dr. Nasser Peyghambarian have enabled the creation of two new faculty positions at the college.

Each of the Jewell and Peyghambarian endowed chair gifts has immediately established a $2 million endowed chair, benefitting from an offer made by Dr. James C. Wyant who gifted $20 million in November 2018 to establish new positions as endowed chairs at the College. Wyant offered to transfer $1.5 million from his gift fund into a separate endowment in optical sciences when a donor (or a donor group) offers $500,000 to create a named endowed faculty chair.

“These endowed chairs, carrying the names of two renowned leaders in our field, will enhance our ability to recruit faculty members who will make transformational discoveries, ignite new fields, and teach our students to lead,” said Koch. “Our faculty, through their research and discovery, are the engine that drives innovation. Investing in our faculty, just as Jack and Nasser have done, will continue to provide rich, lasting dividends—to our students, to the university, and to society.”  

Other recently established endowed chairs at the Wyant College of Optical Sciences include the Harrison H. and Catherine C. Barrett Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences for Cancer Imaging; the JW and HM Goodman Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences; the Robert Shannon Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences; the SPIE Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences and the John P. Schaefer Endowed Chair in optical Sciences.

Jack Lee Jewell 

In 1977, Jack L. Jewell came to the University of Arizona to study optical sciences. He worked with professor Hyatt Gibbs from 1980 to 1984 exploring nonlinear optical resonators that could function as logic gates for all-optical computing. Jewell earned both master’s and doctoral degrees in this pursuit, demonstrating nonlinear gating by creating new high-Q resonators containing semiconductor multiple-quantum-wells grown by molecular beam epitaxy.

After graduation, Jewell worked at Bell Laboratories for seven years. In a collaboration with Bellcore, he extended his prior work using similar structures to create the world’s first practical vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers, which we now call VCSELs.  As the smallest lasers ever made, as small as 1.5 micron in diameter, Jewell’s team demonstrated over 1 million VCSELs on their prototype chip of approximately 6mm by 8mm.

In 1991, Jewell left Bell Labs to co-found Photonics Research Inc., the first company committed to commercializing VCSELs. In 1995, he founded Picolight Inc. Though small, both companies were leaders in VCSEL innovation and standards development. Over the course of his remarkable career, he has amassed 74 patents and over 150 publications. In addition to promotion to Distinguished Member of Technical Staff at Bell Labs, Jewell received the Distinguished Inventor Award in 1991, was an IEEE LEOS Distinguished Lecturer, was awarded the Best Technical Advance in Optical Communications in 2001, and received the Aron Kressel Award from IEEE Photonics Society in 2009.

Thanks in large part to Jewell’s work, VCSELs have become a multibillion-dollar industry. Since gigabit ethernet was standardized in 1998, for example, VCSELs have played a key role in short-distance optical interconnects. VCSELs are also critical components of the laser mouse and handheld atomic clocks, and VCSEL arrays for structured light are used for 3D sensing, such as iPhone’s facial recognition.

Since 2008, Jewell has been an independent consultant, continuing his contributions in the field while pursuing his interests in photography, extreme sports like 100-mile mountain footraces, and supporting NASA on occultation expeditions.

In addition to his endowed chair donation, Jewell made an initial gift to Wyant College of Optical Sciences in 2007 to kick off the Roland V. Shack Graduate Student Scholarship in Optical Sciences. The scholarship endowment has since received multiple donations from others who admired Dr. Shack. In 2017, Jack established the Jack Jewell Extreme Optics Graduate Student Research Award by making a $100,000 gift for the endowment.

Nasser Peyghambarian

Nasser Peyghambarian grew up in Iran where his interest in optics and lasers was ignited by experiments on holography working with American teachers as a member of the Iran-American Society.  He moved to the U.S. at the age of 22 where he earned his PhD at Indiana University studying the Bose-Einstein condensation of biexcitons in semiconductors.

Peyghambarian then joined the University of Arizona in 1982 as a post-doc working with Hyatt Gibbs, and soon became member of the faculty, today being full Professor of both Optical Sciences and Materials Science and Engineering. In addition to serving as Chair of Photonics and Lasers for the Wyant College of Optical Sciences, Peyghambarian is also Director of the NSF Engineering Research Center for Integrated Access Networks, known as CIAN. In 39 years at the University of Arizona, he successfully directed the activities of 61 students receiving their PhD degrees and 56 students receiving their MS degrees within Peyghambarian’s program. He also supervised 85 postdoctoral researchers and research scientists for his highly successful multidisciplinary, multi-university research programs.  The outside university collaborators included Columbia, Cornell, UCSD, Georgia Tech, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Caltech, MIT, Stanford, Norfolk State University, and Tuskegee University as partners in those programs, in addition to many national laboratory, defense, and corporate collaborations.

Since the 1990s, Peyghambarian’s research has spawned innovations in the areas of 3-D display, vision optics, Augmented Reality glasses, laser technology, nanoscale materials and devices, solar energy, and optical communications and the internet.  He has authored more than 600 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals, authored or co-authored 28 books and book chapters, and is the inventor on 40 patents.  Peyghambarian’s work has had high impact and citations, with an h-index of 74 on the Web of Science.

As a mentor and teacher, his students and postdocs have been employed as professors in universities in US, China, Germany, Korea, Canada, Italy, and are in in leading positions around the world in industry, and government labs.

Peyghambarian is a Fellow of SPIE, OSA, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Physical Society. In 2016, he was elected as a Fellow for the National Academy of Inventors, a prestigious honor recognizing him for his spirit of innovation and the societal impact of his career.

Peyghambarian has also enjoyed success as an entrepreneur, founding NP Photonics Inc., TIPD LLC, and iCrx, Inc. developing products resulting from his research in the areas of lasers, optical fiber devices, optoelectronic devices, AR glasses, devices for ophthalmology applications, subsystems, and systems for government and industry.  Most recently, Peyghambarian has also co-founded EARDG Photonics, Inc., introducing a new type of holographic display technology that can be incorporated into eyeglasses for augmented reality.

“These endowed chairs create an environment to attract both the world’s best and brightest faculty as well as top-flight students,” said Koch. “The endowments provide a critical competitive edge to attract emerging leaders in the field to the College while also representing a significant growth in the size and scope our program.  We could not be more thrilled with the support we are receiving to pursue our mission!”

About the University of Arizona James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences: 

The University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences, founded as the Optical Sciences Center, has been shaping the future since 1964 by offering high-quality instruction, cutting-edge research and a solid commitment to the development of the optics industry. OSC remains dedicated to providing the state of Arizona and the nation with an internationally pre-eminent program in all aspects of the study of light. For more information, please visit or call 520-621-6997.


Kaye Rowan, Senior Director of Development
University of Arizona Wyant College of Optical Sciences