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SPIE and Vanderbilt announce $1 million optical engineering fellowship

23 Jun 2021

The funding will support faculty member Asst. Prof. Kenny Tao at Vanderbilt’s School of Engineering.

SPIE and Vanderbilt University, Tennessee, have announced the establishment of the SPIE Faculty Fellowship in Optics and Photonics. The $500,000 gift from the SPIE Endowment Matching Program will be matched 100% by Vanderbilt.

This is the eighth major SPIE gift to universities and institutes as part of the Society's ongoing program to support the expansion of optical engineering teaching and research.

The SPIE Faculty Fellowship will support a Vanderbilt University faculty member who is working in optics and photonics. Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering Yuankai “Kenny” Tao has been selected as the recipient of the first gift.

Tao received his bachelor's degrees in electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering, as well as a master's degree and a PhD in biomedical engineering, from Duke University. Prior to joining the faculty at Vanderbilt, Tao was an assistant professor in the Department of Ophthalmic Research at Cleveland Clinic and director of the Diagnostic Imaging & Biophotonics Laboratory at Cole Eye Institute.

Vanderbilt's biophotonics hub

Tao commented, “My graduate and postdoctoral training in optics were the most formative experiences of my life, and SPIE conferences and publications have always been, and continue to be, the way in which I interact with the broader optics and photonics community.

“I'm very lucky to have a tremendous amount of support and mentorship at Vanderbilt. We have one of the few biophotonics centers in the country, and a critical mass of faculty spanning imaging, sensing, laser-tissue interactions, materials, and nanophotonics.”

Philippe Fauchet, the Bruce and Bridgitt Evans Dean of Engineering at Vanderbilt, said, “These investments provide critical support to our most promising young faculty to continue to develop their research programs and increase the school's competitive advantage to recruit the best graduate students.”

SPIE President David Andrews added, “The SPIE Faculty Fellowship will be instrumental in expanding opportunities for Vanderbilt University faculty working in optics and photonics. This partnership between SPIE and Vanderbilt will have a long-standing effect on generations of optics teachers, researchers, and students to come.”

The SPIE Endowment Matching Program was established in 2019 to increase international capacity in the teaching and research of optics and photonics. With this latest endowment, the program crosses the $3 million threshold for funds provided.

The SPIE Endowment Matching Program supports optics and photonics education and the future of the industry by contributing a match of 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.

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