Jelena Vuckovic honored by the Institution of Engineering and Technology

An international engineering association has awarded Stanford electrical engineer and photonics researcher JELENA VUCKOVIC a $454,000 prize for her research into a new laser-on-a-chip that could revolutionize how focused beams of light are applied in applications such as fiber-optic communications, quantum computing and self-driving cars.

Jelena Vuckovic (Courtesy Jelena Vuckovic)

Vuckovic said the award, announced Monday, Dec. 9, by the London-based Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), would help support her lab’s continuing efforts to reduce the size and cost of titanium-sapphire lasers that emit bursts of red and near-infrared light.

Today, such lasers are bulky, expensive, table-top instruments, making them better suited for research than for everyday applications. Vuckovic and her team are working to shrink these lasers to roughly the size of a sugar cube to make them more practical for uses such as the LIDAR systems that help self-driving cars navigate through traffic by using ultrafast beams of light as a range-finding system, similar to how a radar locates objects by hitting them with sound.

The award, called the A. F. Harvey Prize, is named for Arthur Frank Harvey, who created a trust fund to support the work of international researchers active in several fields, including Vuckovic’s specialty—laser and optoelectronics.

“I am tremendously honored to be selected from among a short list of very distinguished scientists,” said Vuckovic, who will deliver a lecture on her research at an IET event in London in March.

Vuckovic is the Jensen Huang Professor in Global Leadership, professor of electrical engineering and, by courtesy, of applied physics at Stanford, where she leads the Nanoscale and Quantum Photonics Lab. She is also a director of Q-FARM, the Stanford-SLAC Quantum Science and Engineering Initiative.