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Fujimoto receives the OSA Frederic Ives Medal

MIT professor honored for pioneering the field of optical coherence tomography and leading medical and commercial applications.
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James G. Fujimoto, the Elihu Thomson Professor of Electrical Engineering
James G. Fujimoto, the Elihu Thomson Professor of Electrical Engineering
Photo: Research Laboratory of Electronics

The Optical Society (OSA) announced on March 1 the selection of Professor James G. Fujimoto as the recipient of the Frederic Ives Medal / Quinn Prize. He is recognized for pioneering the field of optical coherence tomography (OCT) and for his research group’s and collaborator’s contributions leading to its widespread medical application and major commercial impact.

The Frederic Ives Medal is the highest award of the OSA and recognizes overall distinction in optics. It is awarded at the plenary of the OSA's annual meeting. Other MIT faculty who have received the Ives Medal include Professor Erich P. Ippen, for laying the foundations of ultrafast science, and the late Professor Hermann A. Haus, for fundamental and seminal contributions to the understanding of quantum noise in optical systems.

Fujimoto SB ’79, SM ’81, PhD ’84 completed his doctoral research at MIT under the supervision of Ippen in ultrafast optics. Now the Elihu Thomson Professor of Electrical Engineering, Fujimoto joined the faculty in the MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in 1985. As a principal investigator in the Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE), Fujimoto’s group and clinical collaborators are credited with the invention and development of OCT. Their landmark publication in Science in 1991 has remained one of the most-cited papers in biomedical optics and ushered in a new era in clinical biomedical optical imaging.

Working with Eric Swanson at MIT, Fujimoto co-founded a startup company that was acquired by Carl Zeiss and lead to the development of OCT in ophthalmology. OCT is now a standard imaging modality in ophthalmology for the detection and treatment monitoring of macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma. An estimated 20-30 million ophthalmic imaging procedures are performed worldwide each year. Swanson and Fujimoto also co-founded a second MIT startup that developed OCT for intravascular imaging, where it is an emerging technology for assessing atherosclerotic plaque and percutaneous therapy such as stenting. Hundreds of researchers worldwide work on OCT in diverse fields such as cardiology, endoscopy, and cancer surgery. Last year the global sales of OCT systems, produced by more than 36 OCT systems companies, exceeded $400 million.

Fujimoto has also been influential as an educator, training numerous researchers who have become leaders in the fields of photonics and biomedicine. He has served as co-chair of international meetings such as the Conference on Lasers and Electro Optics, the European Conferences on Biomedical Optics, and Ultrafast Phenomena. Since 2003, he has served as co-chair of the SPIE Biomedical Optics symposium, the largest international meeting on biophotonics. From 2000 to 2003 Fujimoto served as director of the Optical Society of America and is currently a director of the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE). This year, Fujimoto was also awarded an honorary doctorate from the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, Poland.  

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