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Sterling J. Backus honored with SPIE Harold E. Edgerton Award

In a ceremony during the Lase Plenary Session at SPIE Photonics West, Dr. Sterling John Backus was awarded the SPIE 2018 Harold E. Edgerton Award

09 February 2018

Photo of Sterling J. Backus Receives SPIE Harold E. Edgerton Award

Dr. Sterling John Backus recieves the 2018 Harold E. Edgerton Award from SPIE President Maryellen Giger at Photonics West

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA and CARDIFF, UK –  Dr. Sterling John Backus, chief scientist at KMLabs, is the recipient of the 2018 Harold E. Edgerton Award from SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics. Dr. Backus received the award during the Lase Plenary Session at SPIE Photonics West on 31 January for his sustained, enabling contributions to the development of ultrafast lasers based on Ti:sapphire. He is recognized specifically for developing Ti:sapphire laser amplifiers that can attain pulse durations at the fundamental gain-bandwidth limits at unprecedented high-average power.

With his focus on pushing the boundaries of technical capability for ultrafast lasers, Dr. Backus has made several enabling contributions to ultrafast-laser technology that have been adopted worldwide. His work has pushed forward frontiers in ultrafast-laser technology in key enabling characteristics that are critical for a wide range of applications in science and technology.

SPIE member and 2014 Edgerton Award recipient Jeff Squier of the Colorado School of Mines notes that Dr. Backus' work immediately impacted academia in a multidimensional way by asking questions such as how short could pulse widths be pushed, and what type of average power could be achieved. "I distinctly remember the excitement created at conferences after Sterling's presentations that addressed these questions and pushed these boundaries," says Squier. "I have seen his work in labs everywhere I have traveled, as either a commercial product from KMLabs or as a reproduction from one of his groundbreaking publications. I cannot think of another researcher who has improved ultrafast optical technologies in so many directions."

"I am extremely humbled to be associated with all the past Edgerton award winners," says Dr. Backus. "I looked up to them when I was a starry-eyed graduate student - and still do - as epic optical scientists." 

The SPIE Harold E. Edgerton Award is presented annually for outstanding contributions to optical or photonic techniques in the application and understanding of high-speed physical phenomena.  

About SPIE SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, is an educational not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based science, engineering and technology. The Society serves nearly 264,000 constituents from approximately 166 countries, offering conferences and their published proceedings, continuing education, books, journals, and the SPIE Digital Library. In 2017, SPIE provided $4 million in support of education and outreach programs. www.spie.org  

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