University of Rochester

$2 Million Gift Establishes Center for Optical Design & Engineering

October 23, 2007

Center Named for Former Director of The Institute of Optics, Robert E. Hopkins

The University of Rochester's Institute of Optics today announces the creation of the Robert E. Hopkins Center for Optical Design & Engineering.

The new center, made possible by a $2 million gift from former Corning Tropel Corporation CEO, John H. Bruning, celebrates the achievements of Professor Emeritus Robert E. Hopkins, director of the Institute from 1954 to 1965, and widely revered as the "father of optical engineering."

"We are proud to kick off this new center, which will set the standard for optical engineering in the 21st century, says Wayne Knox, director of the Institute. "It's a fitting way to honor Bob Hopkins, one of the icons of optical engineering. And many thanks to John Bruning for making it possible."

The Center for Optical Design & Engineering (CODE) will enable the leading optical engineering program in the world and will attract the very best optical engineering experts to Rochester to teach and conduct cutting-edge research, according to Knox. Bruning's gift will help to fund this new faculty as well as outfit the center with state-of-the-art optical fabrication equipment. All of this will directly feed the center's educational commitment by offering students a hands-on experience as they pursue their bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in optical engineering.

"We envision that CODE will be the training ground for the leaders in optical engineering for the 21st century," says Kevin Parker, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. "Here we will combine the best faculty, the best research, and the best facilities and equipment in optical engineering that will attract aspiring leaders from around the world."

The new Robert B. Goergen Hall for Biomedical Engineering and Optics will house the new center. Its space within Goergen Hall is designed to encourage collaboration among the faculty, the student base, and the expected increased number of graduate students. Perhaps most importantly, according to Knox, Goergen Hall also contains a laboratory suite reserved specifically for the optical design, fabrication, and metrology needs of the center.

"It is a great pleasure to be able to facilitate further growth at the Institute of Optics with this wonderful new center and I am particularly pleased to have the opportunity to honor Bob Hopkins in doing so," says Bruning. "Bob contributed enormously to the world of optics as a scientist, an engineer, an entrepreneur, and leader. It is my sincere pleasure that this center will carry his name and legacy."

Hopkins stands as one of The Institute of Optics' most significant figures—an innovator in the field of lens and optical system design, and a teacher and mentor for hundreds of students. In the early 1950s, Hopkins was among the first to exploit the computer as a tool for handling problems in lens and optical-system design, and among the first to recognize the important role the laser would play in the future of subjects like solid state physics and quantum physics. In 1953, he co-founded Tropel Inc, dedicated to manufacturing precision optical systems and instruments for industry.

Hopkins graduated from M.I.T. in 1937, and received both his master's and doctoral degrees from the Institute of Optics in 1939 and 1945 respectively. He is renowned for his work in lens design, image quality, and geometrical optics in general. His appreciation for research and teaching led him to expand the Institute's roles in those areas during his tenure as director.

Bruning received a bachelor's degree from Penn State University and a master's and doctorate from the University of Illinois, all in electrical engineering. Upon graduation, Bruning began his career at Bell Laboratories as a member of the technical staff in the optical group. Soon thereafter, he began cultivating relationships with Hopkins, Tropel and the Institute of Optics. His early work centered on the development of high accuracy interferometry for testing precision optical surfaces and lenses. Later work culminated with the invention of excimer laser lithography, which is still used today to manufacture microchips.

In 1984, Bruning left Bell Labs to become vice president and general manager of GCA Tropel, the same company founded by Hopkins 30 years earlier. In 1994, Bruning led a management buyout of Tropel, and in 2001, Tropel was acquired by Corning Inc. He is now an executive scientist with Corning focusing on technology and strategy. Bruning is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of IEEE, OSA and SPIE.