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SPIE and University of Colorado herald new $2.5 M Chair in Optics and Photonics

24 Jun 2020

Baur-SPIE Endowed Chair at JILA is part of a $2.5 M education-funding initiative for photonics.

A student working with lasers in JILA's Nesbitt Lab.

A student working with lasers in JILA's Nesbitt Lab.

SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, has announced the establishment of the Baur-SPIE Endowed Chair in Optics and Photonics at JILA. JILA is a joint institute of the University of Colorado, Boulder (CU Boulder) and the US National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The $500,000 in funding from SPIE is being matched 3:1 by a gift of $1.5 million from benefactors Tom and Jeanne Baur. In addition, CU Boulder is providing a $500,000 contribution. The total $2.5 million fund will support the first endowed chair at JILA.

The Chair in Optics and Photonics will enable JILA to expand its research and education capacity in optical physics and photonics, providing comprehensive support for a faculty chair. Preference will be given to early-to-mid-career researchers affiliated with groups historically underrepresented at CU Boulder, as well as to academics who have an established interest in teaching and mentoring.

Tom Baur was a first-generation college student at the University of Michigan. He received an MS Degree in astro-geophysics in 1969 from CU Boulder and then worked for 13 years as an observational astronomer at the High Altitude Observatory, a division of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. He founded Meadowlark Optics, a technology company, now located in Frederick, Colorado, in a business park developed by Tom and Jeanne, a former research librarian.

The company has benefited from the proximity to and interaction with JILA and CU Boulder faculty and students: both educational institutions have been a significant source of employees for Meadowlark Optics, and the company has had successful joint research programs with CU Boulder and with NIST. In 2018, Tom received the SPIE G.G. Stokes Award for a lifetime of leadership in polarization optical components, and for revolutionizing the polarization field through commercialization of liquid crystal variable retarders.

Research community

Benefactors: Jeanne and Tom Baur say howdy!

Benefactors: Jeanne and Tom Baur say howdy!

”Jeanne and I have been life-long learners and much of that learning has been outside the classroom,” said Tom Baur. ”We have a strong respect for the hard work of the optical research community at JILA that we are supporting. We hope that our contribution will inspire others to contribute to the advancement of optical research at JILA and elsewhere.”

SPIE President John Greivenkamp commented, ”This generous gift from Tom and Jeanne will give JILA the opportunity to expand its optics and photonics focus by hiring from the best and the brightest of teaching researchers. The chair holder will be a critical supporter of current and future generations of optics and photonics scientists and engineers, and we are excited to be a part of this far-reaching effort.”

JILA Fellows Chair Andreas Becker added, ”JILA is grateful for this generous gift by Tom and Jeanne Baur, CU, and SPIE. This endowed chair position will make a difference in our abilities to attract the best educators and brightest scientists in this area now and in the future.”

The SPIE Endowment Matching Program, established in 2019, is a $2.5 million, five-year, educational-funding initiative designed to increase international capacity in the teaching and research of optics and photonics. SPIE supports optics and photonics education and the future of the industry by contributing up to $500,000 per award to college and university programs with optics and photonics degrees, or with other disciplines allied to the SPIE mission.

The initial SPIE contribution to the University of Arizona named a new endowed faculty chair, the SPIE Chair in Optical Sciences. Two more agreements announced earlier this year established the SPIE-Glebov Family Optics and Photonics Graduate Scholarship Fund and the Soileau Family-SPIE Optics and Photonics Undergraduate Scholarship Fund, both at the University of Central Florida's College of Optics and Photonics.

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