Institute of Optics Researchers Recognized as OSA Fellows

November 15, 2019

A photo collage of Bentley, Hunter, and Visser.
From left to right: Julie Bentley, Jennifer Hunter, Taco Visser.

Two faculty members and a visiting professor at the University of Rochester’s Institute of Optics have been named fellows of the Optical Society (OSA), the world’s leading organization devoted to optics and photonics.

Julie Bentley ’90, ’95 (PhD), associate professor of optics, is being recognized for “outstanding international leadership in optical design shown through international conference organization, innovative optical design methods, and an unparalleled level of excellence in teaching and mentoring.”

Jennifer Hunter, assistant professor of ophthalmology, biomedical engineering, optics, and the Center for Visual Science is being recognized for “the development of ophthalmic imaging systems that provide unprecedented insight into the function and structure of the retina.”

And Taco Visser, a professor of theoretical physics at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and visiting professor of optics and physics at Rochester, is being recognized for “foundational contributions to optics in the field of plasmonics and coherence.”

OSA fellows are chosen based on distinguished contributions to education, research, engineering, business, and society. The number of fellows is limited by the society’s bylaws to no more than 10 percent of the total OSA membership; the number elected each year is limited to approximately 0.5 percent of the current membership total.

Bentley, Hunter, and Visser join 14 other current Rochester faculty members and scientists who have been elected OSA fellows since 2001.

Bentley has been a leader in the optical design community for the past two decades. The former senior engineer at Tropel (now part of Corning) has taken a leadership role in organizing and participating in OSA and other international conferences. She is “sought after all over the world as a speaker, as an instructor, and as a consultant in some of the most sophisticated and challenging problems in optical design,” says Thomas Brown, a professor of optics and colleague at The Institute.

After joining the faculty in 1998, Bentley became the primary instructor in optical design and her classes are among the most sought-after at The Institute. She is a recipient of the University’s Goergen Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. She recently co-authored Designing Optics Using CODE V.

Hunter, who is also affiliated with the University’s Flaum Eye Institute, studies the optics of the eye, the development of non-invasive fluorescence imaging techniques to study retinal function in healthy and diseased eyes, and the mechanisms of light-induced retinal damage.

“She has pioneered applications of adaptive optics to image through the varied and complicated structure of human and primate eyes,” says Scott Carney, director of The Institute of Optics. “Her sustained and growing contributions to ophthalmology and the optics of the eye place her in the top echelon of researchers in the field.” She has 39 peer-reviewed journal articles and was awarded the Research to Prevent Blindness Ernest & Elizabeth Althouse Special Scholar Award in 2017.

Visser is best known for his groundbreaking work in surface plasmon polaritons—electromagnetic waves that travel along a surface and can be used to channel light efficiently into nanometer-scale volumes. They show great promise for applications in sensing and switching. “The body of (Visser’s) work is beautiful and important because it demonstrated for the first time both theoretically and experimentally the surprising role of plasmons in optical transmission and the modification of coherence,” Carney says. Visser has also made important contributions in singular optics.

Visser previously served as the topical editor at the Journal of the Optical Society of America and is currently the editor for the book series Progress in Optics.