Jack Lee Jewell Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences

Jewell Endowed Chair

Jack Jewell, PhD, has held a life-long passion for science, including his early commitment at age 18 joining a group of astronomers to record an occultation of Venus near Mexico City, and then traveling to Nova Scotia to witness a solar eclipse.

A few years later, in 1977, Jack arrived 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. Jack earned both masters and doctoral degrees in this pursuit, demonstrating optical switching by creating new high-Q resonators containing semiconductor multiple- quantum-wells grown by molecular beam epitaxy.

After graduation, Jack worked at Bell Laboratories for seven years where he extended his prior work using similar structures to create the world’s first practical semiconductor VCSELs. He led a Bell Labs / Bellcore collaboration (including Axel Scherer, Sam McCall, Yong Hee Lee and James Harbison) that in 1989 demonstrated over 1 million VCSELs as small as 1.5 micron in diameter on a prototype semiconductor chip. These first all-semiconductor VCSELs introduced other design features that are still used in all commercial VCSELs today. This demonstration marked a turning point in the development of the surface-emitting laser, and many important innovations were soon being reported from all over the world.

In 1991, he left Bell Labs to co-found Photonics Research Inc., the first company committed to commercializing VCSELs. In 1995, Jack also founded Picolight Inc. Over the course of his career, he has amassed 78 patents and over 150 publications. In addition to promotion to Distinguished Member of Technical Staff at Bell Labs, Jack received the Distinguished Inventor Award in 1991, was an IEEE LEOS Distinguished Lecturer, was awarded the Best Technical Advance in Optical Communications in 2001, received the Aron Kressel Award from IEEE Photonics Society in 2009, and was the 2021 recipient of the prestigious IEEE Photonics Award.

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

Jack has also been a profound supporter of students and faculty at Wyant College of Optical Sciences. In 2007, he made a foundational gift to the Roland V. Shack Graduate Student Scholarship in Optical Sciences. In 2017, he established the Jack Jewell Extreme Optics Graduate Student Research Award for a PhD student whose work best illustrates a passion for exceeding perceived “limitations” of optical technology in any subfield. And in 2019, he founded the Jack Lee Jewell Endowed Chair to support faculty as they advance the optics technologies with their research.