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Erich Ippen receives 2001-02 Killian Faculty Award


Erich P. Ippen, the Elihu Thomson Professor of Electrical Engineering and Professor of Physics, has been awarded the James R. Killian Jr. Faculty Achievement Award for 2001-02.

"This is a wonderful and stunning honor. As an undergraduate, I knew Jim Killian and I have known many recipients of this award. I am truly overwhelmed by this honor and thank you all very much," said Professor Ippen, who is affiliated with the Research Laboratory for Electronics. Sylvia T. Ceyer, professor of chemistry and chair of the Killian selection committee, made the announcement at the May 16 faculty meeting.

"The breadth and impact of Erich Ippen's contribution is truly extraordinary. With a continuous stream of pioneering contributions, Professor Ippen is to this day the world leader in the field of femtosecond optics. His techniques are employed in countless physics, chemistry and biology laboratories. A holder of seven patents, Erich Ippen is also an outstanding lecturer, a superb mentor of graduate students, and a source of kindness, generosity and optimism to his colleagues," said Professor Ceyer.

Established in 1971 as a tribute to MIT's 10th president and former chair of the MIT Corporation, the James R. Killian Award recognizes extraordinary professional accomplishment by full-time members of the MIT faculty. The winner delivers a lecture in the spring term.

Reading from the Killian award citation, Professor Ceyer said, "Professor Ippen established the field of femtosecond optics with Dr. Charles Shank, now at UC Berkeley, while both were working at Bell Laboratories.

"They pioneered the generation of ultrafast laser pulses and their use in ultrafast spectroscopy. Since this initial technological breakthrough of the production of subpicosecond optical pulses, Professor Ippen and his MIT research group have pushed the pulses to be of sufficiently short duration to capture the motion of particles in the atomic and subatomic regime.

"Many of the phenomena discovered by Professor Ippen constitute the fundamental bases of today's technologies. His pioneering success in mode-locking a semiconductor laser is of particular importance to optical communications and to making ultrafast techniques universally accessible to the scientific community," she said.

Professor Ippen received the SB from MIT in 1962 and the SM and PhD in electrical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley in 1965 and 1968, respectively. He was a member of the technical staff at Bell Laboratories from 1968-80, when he joined the MIT faculty.

Professor Ippen is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has received numerous awards and honors, including the Arthur Schawlow Prize from the American Physical Society, the Quantum Electronics Award from the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers, the Harold E. Edgerton Award from the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers and the R.W. Wood Prize from the Optical Society of America.

Professor Ippen and his family have been devoted members of the MIT community, Professor Ceyer noted later. His father, the late Arthur T. Ippen, was a distinguished member of the faculty and responsible for the establishment of the Ralph M. Parsons Laboratory. Professor Ippen's wife served as chairperson of the MIT Women's League from 1994-96.

The members of the 2001-02 Killian Award Selection Committee were Professors Julian Beinart, Nazli Choucri, Hermann A. Haus, Richard M. Locke and Ceyer.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 23, 2001.

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