2016 SPIE Educator Award

CC Lee receives SPIE Educator Award for 2016.

01 July 2016

SPIE Fellow Cheng-Chung (CC) Lee, honorary chair of optics and photonics and director of the Thin Film Technology Center at National Central University (NCU) in Taiwan, has been selected as recipient of the 2016 SPIE Educator Award.

Lee is being honored for outstanding contributions to the growth of the optics industry, particularly in Taiwan, and for advancing the science and engineering of optical thin films and coatings through mentoring students and industry personnel.

The annual SPIE award for outstanding contributions to optics education also recognizes Lee for inspiring high school students to study optics and photonics.

When Lee gained his PhD in optical sciences from the University of Arizona (UA) in 1983, optics students from Taiwan tended to remain in the United States after graduation, since little optics technology existed in Taiwan and opportunities were few. Lee was determined to help change the situation in his native country, so he returned to Taiwan and joined the new Institute of Optics (IOS) at NCU, becoming its director in 1993.

In 2006, Lee extended the curriculum at IOS to include interdisciplinary undergraduate programs and the institute became the Department of Optics and Photonics (DOP), which he later chaired.

Lee has also established student exchange programs with several institutions, including the College of Optical Sciences at UA, and serves as advisor to the SPIE Student Chapter at NCU.

The DOP currently has more than 30 faculty members, approximately 300 graduate students, and about 180 undergraduates. The department moved to a new building at NCU in 2010, and Lee was prominent in securing funding for the project with help from the Taiwan optics industry.

“Lee has been described by the Taiwanese press as the ‘grandfather’ of optical coatings,” said SPIE Fellow Angus Macleod, president of Thin Film Center (USA).

Also noting Lee’s contributions to optical coatings, SPIE Fellow TC Poon of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (USA) points out that “optical coatings are the hidden servants of optics.” While they are vital for the functioning of virtually all optical components, they tend to be seen as a part of the component rather than the product of a specialized and advanced coating industry.

“Without the advanced coating industry in Taiwan, all the other considerable advances made there in optics in the last decades would have been essentially impossible,” Poon said.


For nearly six decades, SPIE has presented annual awards to recognize significant achievements and contributions in advancing the science of light.

Look for other stories about award recipients for 2016 in this issue and the October edition of SPIE Professional.

Nominations for the 2017 SPIE awards were due 1 June and will be announced in January 2017 or earlier.

More information: spie.org/awards.

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