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April 15, 2008


NEW YORK, April 15, 2008 – Dr. Robert R. Alfano, Distinguished Professor of Science and Engineering at the City College of New York and Director of the Institute for Ultrafast Spectroscopy and Lasers, has been named the 2008 recipient of The Optical Society of America’s (OSA) Charles Hard Townes Award.  The award will be presented at OSA’s Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics, May 4-9 in San Jose, Calif.

Professor Alfano was honored for his discovery of and work on the supercontinuum, an ultrafast white light source produced by passing ultrafast laser pulses through matter.  Its discovery has lead toa vast number of applications and recently played a key role in two Nobel Prize-winning experiments, one in chemistry and one in physics.

The Townes Award, established in 1980, is given in recognition of outstanding experimental or theoretical work, discovery or invention in the field of quantum electronics. The award is named after Charles Hard Townes, 1964 Nobel Prize winner in Physics, whose pioneering contributions to masers and lasers led to the development of the field of quantum electronics.

Professor Alfano is among the pioneers in developing ultrafast laser spectroscopic techniques and applications of these techniques to study dynamical processes in physical, chemical and biological systems.  His myriad research interests encompass:

  • The study of ultrafast dynamics in matter;
  • Development of novel light sources, the supercontinuum, and Cr4+ and Cr3+ tunable solid-state lasers in Forsterite, CUNYITE and emerald;
  • Investigation of nonlinear optical processes;
  • Application of optical spectroscopic techniques for medical diagnosis;
  • Study of photon migration in turbid media;
  • Development of optical imaging techniques for biomedical imaging;
  • Laser tissue welding, and
  • Optical communications.

In addition to discovery of the ultrafast supercontinuum light source, his achievements include the first time-resolved measurement of optical phonon lifetime in calcite crystal, invention of tetravalent chromium-based tunable solid-state lasers, and development of optical biomedical imaging (optical mammography) and spectroscopic diagnostic (optical biopsy) techniques for cancer detection.

Professor Alfano has been a member of CCNY’s Physics Department since 1972.  He was appointed Distinguished Professor of Science and Engineering in 1987.  Prior to joining City College, Dr. Alfano was a Research Physicist at General Telephone Research Laboratories, from 1964 to 1972. He has published more than 700 papers and holds 102 patents. He is a fellow of the OSA, the American Physical Society, and IEEE, and was an Alfred P. Sloan fellow. In addition, he has mentored 50 Ph.D. students.

About The City College of New York

For more than 160 years, The City College of New York has provided low-cost, high-quality education for New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines.  Over 14,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; The School of Architecture, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture (SAUDLA); The School of Education; The Grove School of Engineering, and The Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education.  For additional information, visit www.ccny.cuny.edu.