Two New Endowed Chairs Awarded at the Wyant College of Optical Sciences

May 9, 2024
Hong Hua Ron Liang Awarded Endowed Chairs

It is with great pleasure that the Wyant College of Optical Sciences announces that two Endowed Chairs in Optical Sciences have been awarded. The establishment of these endowed chairs has been made possible through the generous donations made by Optica and the Thomas R. Brown Family Foundation, and the $20+ million matching pledge made by the late founding dean of the college, Emeritus Professor James C. Wyant, and his family. 

Dr. Hong Hua, professor, Wyant College of Optical Sciences, is awarded the Jean M. Bennett Optica Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences, inspired jointly by Optica and James C. Wyant. Named in honor of Dr. Jean M. Bennett, the chair recognizes Dr. Bennett’s pioneering impact as the first woman elected President of the Society and her legacy as an educator and scientist. This is the College’s first endowed chair named in honor of a woman and the first to be awarded to a woman faculty member. As Dr. Hong Hua is a similarly like-minded and driven woman of innovation and education, she naturally steps into the endowed chair’s role as an inspirational woman in science.

Dr. Rongguang Liang, professor, Wyant College of Optical Sciences, is awarded the Thomas R. Brown Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences, enabled by the Thomas R. Brown Family Foundation. Dr. Brown was an innovator and an active civic leader in southern Arizona. In 2000 Texas Instruments purchased Burr-Brown, the company he founded with his friend, Page Burr; in the largest corporate sale in Arizona history. Burr-Brown had grown to become a global leader in top-quality, high-precision electronics, fulfilling the Burr-Brown corporate mission “To provide something of value to mankind.” As the chair is awarded to Dr. Liang, Dr. Brown’s mission continues to be pursued—to build future opportunity, productivity and innovation in Arizona and around the world.

“We’re all thrilled to see two additional Endowed Chairs awarded at the college, who embody the college’s pursuit of education and innovative research,” said Thomas L. Koch, dean and professor, Wyant College of Optical Sciences. “Additionally, we’re excited to celebrate the college’s first woman named to an Endowed Chair, namely the Jean M. Bennett Optica Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences.”

Jean M. Bennett Optica Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences

Hong Hua Headshot

Dr. Hong Hua, Jean M. Bennett Optica Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences

Dr. Hong Hua first joined the Wyant College of Optical Sciences in 2004 as an Assistant Professor and later earned tenure as a professor at the college in 2015. She received her PhD in Optical Engineering from the Beijing Institute of Technology in 1999 and was a Beckman Research Fellow at the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign between 2000 and 2022 after being a post-doctoral scholar at the University of Central Florida in 1999.  Before coming to UArizona she was an Assistant Professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She has extensive experience in professional societies—having served on boards, as conference chairs, and as guest editors for Optica, SPIE and IEEE. Hua was also named a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), Optica and SPIE, and a member of the IEEE VGTC VR Academy. Hua was named in the Inaugural class of UArizona Women of Impact in 2022 and for three years in a row was a finalist for the Innovator of the Year in the Governor’s Celebration of Innovation.

Hua leads the 3-D Visualization and Imaging Systems laboratory specializing in optical technologies for advanced 3D displays, immersive virtual environments, and novel imaging systems for various applications. Her current research focuses on a wide range of optical technologies enabling advanced 3D displays, especially head-worn display technologies for virtual and augmented reality applications, human visual perception, and microscopic and endoscopic imaging systems for medicine. 


Jean M. Bennett

One of her many exciting projects includes creating Augmented Reality (AR) technology that can assist the visually impaired using special glasses Hua holds the patents for and developed with the company eSight. She holds over 50 US and foreign patents and has published over 250 technical papers and presentations, including more than 100 peer-reviewed journal publications, one book, and others. While at UArizona, Hua has overseen the successful graduation of over 30 graduate students and postdoctoral candidates. She is also a regular guest speaker and panelist for the college’s Women in Optics (WiO) student organization and is an avid advocate for women in science.

“Being stellar scholars, dedicated educators, and professional society leaders, both Drs. Jim Wyant and Jean M. Bennett made profound impacts to the optics field and are giant figures I admire and respect deeply. I could not be happier and more grateful to bear the honor of the Jean M. Bennett Optica Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences, which was created by Optica and the University of Arizona Wyant College of Optical Sciences to memorialize Dr. Bennett for her remarkable scientific contributions and as a forerunner for women throughout the optics field. In this distinguished honor, I am committed to excel in research innovation, foster academic excellence, advocate diversity, equity and inclusivity, and serve the optics community.” ~ Dr. Hong Hua, Jean M. Bennett Optica Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences

Thomas R. Brown Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences

Ron Liang

Dr. Rongguang Liang, Thomas R. Brown Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences

Dr. Rongguang Liang is currently a professor at the Wyant College of Optical Sciences and an alumnus of the college, having earned his PhD in 2001 under the guidance of Prof. Masud Mansuripur. Prior to his academic role, Liang held positions in industry as a principal research scientist for Carestream Health, Inc. and Eastman Kodak Co., Research & Development Laboratories, specializing in the development of optical consumer and medical devices.

Continuing to push the boundaries of knowledge, Liang leads cutting-edge research in optical engineering, advanced manufacturing, biomedical imaging, and the applications of artificial intelligence in optical sciences. His research, supported by prestigious organizations including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Arizona Biomedical Research Centre (ABRC), and the Flinn Foundation, has far-reaching implications across multiple domains. 

TRB Lab Photo-crop-web

Thomas R. Brown

Notably, his contributions include designing three cameras crucial to UA's landmark space mission, OSIRIS-Rex. His research in biomedical imaging spans from high-precision cancer imaging techniques to cost-effective optical devices for cancer screening in underserved areas. His team's mobile oral cancer imaging technology has successfully screened over 8,000 individuals in underserved areas. More recently, his group has pioneered innovative efforts in developing new materials and processes for 3D printing glass optics.

Liang's engagement within professional societies such as SPIE and Optica has been significant, earning him recognition as a Fellow by both. He has made substantial editorial contributions to various journals, notably Optica, and has launched several conferences for both SPIE and Optica.

Throughout his career, Liang's steadfast commitment to advancing optical technologies and nurturing emerging talent has remained unwavering.

“Being appointed as the Thomas R. Brown Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences is truly an honor. The mission of the Thomas R. Brown Foundations—to provide something of value to mankind—resonates deeply with my personal and professional aspirations. My efforts are focused on developing transformative optical technologies for consumers, industry, and the medical field, with a particular emphasis on the underserved population, as well as on mentoring the next generation of scientists and engineers to foster an environment of engagement and innovation. As I step into this distinguished role, I am also committed to embodying Professor Wyant's vision by pushing the boundaries of optical sciences and fostering academic excellence.” ~ Dr. Rongguang Liang, Thomas R. Brown Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences