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I envision a future where international
cooperation leads to revolutionary
breakthroughs in technology and
medicine. Since we are a research
university, our leadership can only
be maintained by a top research
portfolio, quality faculty, and cutting-
to team up with other schools to pool knowledge and ideas
and attract large-size funding to take on group projects. The
growth potential becomes a true advantage for all of us and
for the U.S. as a whole.
This same competition is occurring internationally and at a
growing rate. There are excellent optics programs in Europe,
and optics and photonics programs in China are definitely
MC: What new initiatives you would like to undertake?
XCZ: It is crucial to create large-size research centers in the
current environment. Our Institute has historically established
some large research centers, such as the Center for Electronic
Imaging Science, the Center for Optics Manufacturing, and
Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI)
grants. Even the Laboratory for Laser Energetics has roots
in optics and mechanical engineering. Today, we have The
Hopkins Center, which focuses on undergraduate education;
the NSF Center for Freeform Optics; the Center for Vision
Science; and the Center for Quantum Information (jointly
with Physics). We are also working to create new centers in
optical engineering and optical science.
I foresee advancement in a variety of areas: quantum optics,
biophotonics, and optical manufacturing. My experience in
building the Terahertz Center at RPI gives me great optimism
for the goals we are working towards at Rochester.
MC: The Institute for Manufacturing Innovation just
announced by DOD will no doubt be beneficial to the
Institute of Optics in these areas. Any specific goals you
want to take on during your tenure as director of the
XCZ: I would like to have more endowed professorships to
honor and recognize contributions of our current faculty, to
recruit star professors, and to get research funding. In addi-
tion to the professorships, I would like to create more graduate
scholarships. Our goal is to have 10 to 15 endowed graduate
scholarships in three years. We have five now. We also want
to have more Masters students in the coming years. We have
just signed agreements with several international universities
to grant double MS degrees (degrees from both universities).
On the educational side, we plan to develop 12–16 textbooks to cover both optical physics and optical engineering.
We will record our unique and best lectures into textbooks for
the general optics and photonics community.
We are externally focused, too. We will increase our
Industrial Associates (IA) members and strengthen our
Industrial Associates Program, which was established by
Professor Brian Thompson in 1974. We will enhance communication with industrial companies to continue to provide
the workforce they need. We will continue to play key roles
in the National Photonics Initiative, the National Technology
Roadmap for Photonics, etc.
MC: What are the significant trends you see in technolo-
gy and the position of optics and engineering in society?
What of competition/collaboration between countries?
XCZ: Mega research and education programs increasingly at-
tract major funding. Larger, major activities need critical mass.
Collaboration between universities and countries is increasing.
Social and professional media brings the circle ever closer. I
envision a future where international cooperation leads to revo-
lutionary breakthroughs in technology and medical areas. Our
Institute hosts many international researchers, and our faculty
also uses academic leaves to spend quality research time with
colleagues in foreign countries. I personally visited and inter-
acted with major photonics and optics organizations domesti-
cally and in more than 20 countries and have served as advisor
and reviewer for numerous research and educational programs.
To bring together the very best academic leaders in optics, we
organized the first Optical Leadership Summit during FiO/LS:
2012 in Rochester. There, current and former deans and directors of the Colleges and Institute agreed on a goal to strengthen
collaboration and cooperation between major optics programs
and extend the summit worldwide. Maintaining these connections will provide important insight, links, and opportunities to understand the overall academic challenges and define
promising technologies. I envision a future where this kind
of international cooperation leads to revolutionary breakthroughs in technology and educational areas.
MC: Advice for students in learning, career, life?
XCZ: I encourage students to set “blue sky” goals. Be ambitious; set your sights higher than you first think you may
achieve. If you don’t try, you definitely will not reach the
goal, but if you give your best effort, you will make progress and you may surprise yourself with what you really can
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