News & Events

New Director assumes role at University's Institute of Optics

January 2, 2012

Internationally Acclaimed Scientist Arrives to Lead Nation's First Optics Education Program

Xi-Cheng Zhang arrived in Rochester on a very cold January 2, 2012 excited to start in his new role as director of the University of Rochester's Institute of Optics. Zhang succeeds Wayne Knox, who stepped down after 10 years to become associate dean of education and new initiatives at the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Zhang was director of the Center for Terahertz Research at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he also served as acting head of the Department of Physics, Applied Physics and Astronomy. Researchers at the center work in the terahertz (Thz) portion of the electromagnetic spectrum to create new imaging and sensing technologies that are used in such areas as biomedical imaging and microelectronics. "The director's position provides me the platform to work together with the best team to make a global impact in optics and photonics," said Zhang. "It's my vision that Rochester's Institute of Optics will continue to excel in research and education in a challenging climate." "Xi-Cheng Zhang is an internationally recognized scientist in the field of optics who appreciates the great tradition of our institute, and we very much look forward to the scientific and administrative leadership that he will bring to the institute," said Rob Clark, dean of the Hajim School. "He will undoubtedly build upon the great work of Wayne Knox, who has been instrumental in numerous initiatives, such as establishing the Hopkins Center, the new undergraduate program in optical engineering, and efforts to advance the newly constructed Goergen Hall for Biomedical Engineering and Optics." Zhang has received some 30 honors and awards during his career, most recently the William Streifer Scientific Achievement Award from the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Photonics Society in recognition of his innovative work in the field of lasers and electro-optics. Zhang has been awarded 26 U.S. patents. He has authored or co-authored 19 books, and has written more than 350 scientific papers. Zhang earned both his Ph.D. and master's degrees in physics at Brown University. His undergraduate degree, also in physics, came from Peking University in Beijing, China. With a frequency of more than a trillion cycles per second, THz signals occupy an extremely large portion of the electromagnetic spectrum between the infrared and microwave bands. Zhang's contribution to the development of terahertz time-domain spectroscopy has recently altered this scientifically and technologically important, but historically inaccessible, spectroscopic region. Zhang believes that fundamental research on THz waves will have an impact in many scientific areas, beyond its historical uses in the astronomy and the laser fusion communities; and the technology it develops will be applied in advanced photonic laboratories around the world. It has the potential to trigger advances, including nondestructive testing, homeland security, and biomedical applications. Before joining Rensselaer in 1991, Zhang was a guest scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a research physicist at the Amoco Research Center's Physical Technology Division, and a research scientist at Columbia University. He has also held professorships at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology, and eight different universities and institutes in China.