Coleman recognized for service and achievement

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By Laurel Bollinger, ECE Illinois
February 11, 2009

  • Professor Jim Coleman received the He recently received the Distinguished Service Award from the Lasers and Electro-Optics Society (LEOS) and the IEEE David Sarnoff Award.
  • Coleman worked for LEOS for several years and has been named president-elect.
  • Coleman believes in giving back to the community and volunteering.

James J. Coleman
James J. Coleman

ECE Professor James J. Coleman has always been very involved in his professional community and is now being both awarded and promoted for his achievements and his many years of service in the photonics community. He recently received the Distinguished Service Award from the Lasers and Electro-Optics Society (LEOS) and the IEEE David Sarnoff Award. In addition, he has been named president-elect for LEOS.

Coleman has spent many years working for LEOS, which will soon be renamed the IEEE Photonics Society. He spent three years as vice president for publications and another nine as an associate editor for one of their journals. This year he will begin his role as president-elect, which is the start of a five year commitment. Coleman said that it means more traveling and meetings, but it also provides him the opportunity to do what he can for the Photonics Society.

“It is an honor to be asked to be the president of your professional society, but it’s not the kind of honor where you go up and you get a plaque and you get to leave. It’s an honor where you get to do more work for your society,” said Coleman.

He said that the IEEE Photonics Society has come into a time where the areas of nano and biophotonics are growing and changing significantly. Coleman sees many possibilities and a bright future for the society, and ultimately he would like the group to be more recognizable on an international scale. He said the best tools they have to accomplishing that is current students.

“We are an international society, and one thing I would like to do is involve people from outside North America, which I think is a really easy thing to do,” Coleman said. “It just requires that you go looking for young people that have the good citizen gene defect and want to be volunteers and get them involved.”

Coleman believes he received the Distinguished Service Award and position of president-elect because of his belief in giving back to your community. “There’s some part of your profession that is providing you with a career and your salary,” said Coleman. “And I see an obligation to pay that society back with a little bit of your time and a little bit of your money, because if nobody volunteers, then the whole thing collapses.”

Besides his honors from and contributions to the IEEE Photonic Society, he has also been recognized with the IEEE David Sarnoff award for his work in the field of strained layer lasers. He and several colleagues and grad students were responsible for testing the possibility of moving away from lattice-matched layers in lasers. Strained lasers have since become routinely used in the semiconductor industry to induce interesting physics that would not happen if people still used lattice-matched layers.

“Research was done earlier which said that strained layers wouldn’t work, and we found that they could and that there was actually a killer application that came along with them,” said Coleman. “Strained lasers allow us to take light in an optical fiber telecommunications system and optically amplify it without having used any electronics to do it.”

Coleman said that this new application, which can be used for cell phones and the Internet, is now an important part of the telecommunications industry. The research performed by Coleman and his colleagues showed that the strained lasers could last for thousands of hours and still work at a high level, creating the basis of new technology.

Coleman is proud but says that it is organizational skills and all the brilliant people he’s worked with that has helped him to get to where he is today.

“It isn’t really that hard to volunteer. It just means you pay attention and you stay organized,” said Coleman. “It doesn’t mean I’m particularly gifted, but it means that I did what needed to be done and that’s what I’ll be doing.”

Editor's note: media inquiries should be directed to Brad Petersen, Director of Communications, at bradp@illinois.edu or (217) 244-6376.

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