University of Rochester

Optics Professor Named to New Chair; $2 Million Gift Honors Professor, Spotlights Optics

October 19, 2001

Robert W. Boyd, professor of optics at the University of Rochester, has been named the M. Parker Givens Professor of Optics for his work with light that has included confirming a century-old atomic prediction, creation of new materials, and understanding quantum noise. The announcement came at reception for friends and alumni of the institute at the Optical Society of America's annual meeting on Oct. 16, in Long Beach Calif. Boyd is the first person appointed to the new chair that honors University of Rochester professor emeritus of optics, M. Parker Givens.

"We are very happy to have the opportunity to honor both Bob Boyd and Parker Givens with this appointment," says Wayne Knox, director of the Institute of Optics. "It is a recognition of the towering achievements of both men in the field of optics."

A native of Buffalo, Boyd joined the University in 1977 after receiving his bachelor's from MIT and a doctorate in physics from the University of California at Berkeley where his research centered on special optical techniques in infrared astronomy. He became a professor in 1987 while studying the optical interactions in atomic vapors, the optical properties of materials, and the development of new laser systems. Boyd has written two books, published more than 160 research papers, and has been awarded four patents. He is a fellow of the Optical Society of America and is the past chair of the Laser Science Division of the American Physical Society.

Givens, a former professor of optics at the University of Rochester, has been honored by one of his former students with a $2 million endowment to establish a chair in his name. The student, James Wyant, now director of Arizona's Optical Science Center, is funding the chair to recognize the important influence his former professor had on his career.

"Professor Givens had a large influence on my life, both from a technical education viewpoint and as a role model for commitment to students," says Wyant. "He was always willing to spend time with me and explain the most complicated matters in the simplest terms. He taught me that if you really understand something, you can explain it in simple terms. I will forever be indebted for all he did for me. I hope that this gift will encourage others to give back to their universities and honor those people who have shaped their careers."

Givens joined the Institute of Optics at the University in 1947, five years after earning a doctorate from Cornell University where his fields of interest were the optical properties of metals and vacuum ultraviolet spectroscopy. He served as acting director from 1975 to 1977 and he is now professor emeritus. His current interests lie in holography and optical data processing-fields in which he has made great strides, such as developing simple synthetic holograms and studying the effects of photographic emulsion on the reconstruction image. But despite his successes in research, Givens says that "the main object of my career has been helping people to learn. When I started out, I knew that upper-level education was at the top of my list. It makes me feel good seeing my students succeed."

After earning his doctorate in optics from the University in 1969, Wyant worked at Arizona's Optical Science Center as professor of optical sciences and electrical and computer engineering. In 1982, while still teaching at the center, he co-founded Wyko Corp. to design, manufacture, sell and service optical instruments for precision surface measurement. A year later, he temporarily returned to the University as a visiting professor in the Institute of Optics. Wyant has received five U.S. patents and has published more than 130 papers on optics. He has won numerous awards, including SPIE Technology Achievement Award, the Photonics Circle of Excellence Award, and the University of Rochester College of Engineering Distinguished Alumnus Award.