Julie Bentley: Outstanding by any definition

In 2008, Thomas Brown, professor and current director of The Institute of Optics, was commissioned to define an ABET accredited undergraduate optical engineering curriculum.

Fortunately, Brown had a highly talented colleague to help him do it.

Julie Bentley portraitJulie Bentley ’90 ‘92MS ’96 PhD, an alumna and instructional track professor at The Institute, “became the anchor for that curriculum,” Brown says. “She taught the very first version of our senior design course. When her lens design course became too large for both graduates and undergraduates, she trained instructors to launch an undergraduate version.”

This is one of many contributions that led to Bentley’s selection as the 2022 Edmund A. Hajim Outstanding Faculty Award recipient. She has excelled in all three areas of research, teaching and service that measure faculty achievement.

For example, Bentley, an internationally recognized expert in designing lenses and optical systems, is also perhaps the best lens design instructor at the Institute since the legendary Rudolf Kingslake. Her course evaluations consistently rate 4.98 on a scale of 5.

Bentley, who is also a successful private consultant, has supervised two PhD theses and 26 master’s theses. Twenty-four of her students have won awards at optical design competitions. Bentley has also supervised optical design projects involving more than 400 students on topics ranging from "Printing butterfly wings with photolithography,” to “Somewhere over the rainbow: design of a microspectrophotometry objective” and  “Ultimate intestine cancer destroyer (capsule endoscope).”

SPIE, the international society of optics and photonics, cited Bentley’s “new courses in lens design with real-world student projects from the undergraduate through the graduate level” when it named her a Fellow in 2012. 

She also received the University’s Goergen Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award in 2014, the RRPC Education Award in 2019 (for being instrumental in teaching and helping young optics entrepreneurs develop their first designs and launch their optics businesses), and Optica’s Esther Hoffman Beller Medal for Education Excellence in 2022 (for her central role in shaping the optics education of countless undergraduate and graduate students.)

Bentley holds four patents and is author or co-author of 75 papers and presentations.

Her record of service to SPIE includes membership on numerous committees and its board of directors. She also co-chaired Optifab, North America’s largest optical manufacturing conference and exhibition (co-organized by SPIE), from 2012-2017.

She is also co-author of "Field Guide to Lens Design” and “Designing Optics Using Code V” in the growing list of best-sellers in the SPIE field guide series. This year she received the Director’s Award, one of the highest honors bestowed by SPIE.

Bentley also teaches short courses at The Institute’s annual summer school for grad students and working professionals, and co-chairs the optics undergraduate committee. She is a past president of the Rochester Optical Society of America.

This year the Institute’s optical engineering program passed its latest ABET accreditation with “flying colors,” prompting Brown to note: “We would not have the engineering program we do without Julie’s contributions.”

Read more here about how Bentley, the valedictorian of her high school class in New York’s rural Southern Tier, was not deterred when she was advised not to go into engineering because she was a girl.