Alan Willner, electrical engineering professor and the Steven & Kathryn Sample Chair in Engineering is the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship for 2012-2013.
Guggenheim Fellowships, considered prestigious “midcareer” awards, are granted to those who have an outstanding record of demonstrating an exceptional capacity for productive and creative scholarship. After a rigorous selection process aided by former Guggenheim Fellows, about two hundred Fellowships are awarded each year. The purpose of the Fellowship is to provide unrestricted funding to allow Fellows the resources so that they can work with as much creative freedom as possible.
Numerous fields, across the natural sciences, social sciences and possibly even the humanities and the arts, have been radically transformed by the access and ability to use large amounts of data. At some point in the near future the amount of accessible data will overwhelm our ability to make effective use of it. The Guggenheim Fellowship will support Willner’s proposed research “in using high-speed optics to assist electronics and potentially make the problem significantly more manageable.”
Willner is one of the world’s leading innovators in optics and photonics. His work has advanced engineering solutions to some of the most challenging problems in optical communications. Willner’s research has had a significant impact in the development of the high-speed optical networks which have been adopted by top telecommunications companies. These networks are used daily by people across the globe and over the last decade have altered the pace of communication and business. Aside from his technical accomplishments, Willner is a devoted mentor to students and particularly active in his service to the optics and photonics communities.
The Guggenheim Fellowship program was established in 1925 by a former U.S. Senator and his wife to honor the elder of their two sons who died at age seventeen. From the outset, the Foundation sought to “add to the educational, literary, artistic and scientific power of this country, and also to provide for the cause of better international understanding.”