John M. and Sophie Zavada Memorial Scholarship in Optical Sciences

John and Sophie Zavada were married at the beginning of the Great Depression and raised a family during the difficult times of World War II. 

John was a design engineer based in New York City and worked in many countries around the world. In addition to caring for their two children, Sophie joined him for extended visits to Spain and Brazil. Together John and Sophie fostered in their children a deep appreciation for learning, education, and leadership. 

This scholarship was established by their son, John M. Zavada Jr., who received a Ph.D. from New York University and whose long career has centered on optical semiconductor materials and photonic devices. He founded this award in his parents’ memory to encourage graduate students to overcome personal hardships and to pursue advances in optical sciences.



The John M. and Sophie Zavada Memorial Scholarship is open to first-year graduate students in optical sciences. In addition to academic excellence, applicants should demonstrate commitment to scholarship, involvement in extracurricular activities in science and technology or community interests.


Dr. John M. Zavada Jr. is currently a research professor at NYU Polytechnic. His personal research has been on the optical properties of semiconductors and novel devices based on rare earth materials. He has authored more than 160 refereed publications and over 60 conference and seminar presentations.

In August 2010 he accepted a four-year appointment from the National Science Foundation in Washington D.C. as a program director in the Electrical, Communications and Cyber Systems Division of its Engineering Directorate. Throughout this period, he collaborated with research groups across the U.S.A.

Dr. Zavada received a B.A. degree form Catholic University and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees, all in physics, from New York University. Previously, he has held academic appointments at North Carolina State University, Drexel University, and the Imperial College of Science and Technology in London. He is a Fellow of both the Optical Society of America and the SPIE, and is a recipient of the Army’s Meritorious Civilian Service Award.



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