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Peter Delfyett

Research scientist Peter J. Delfyett was born on March 8, 1959 in Queens, New York. He received his B.E. (E.E.) degree from the City College of New York in 1981 and his M.S. degree in electrical engineering from the University of Rochester in 1983. Delfyett then returned to the City University of New York and went on to graduate from there with his M. Phil. and Ph.D. degrees in 1987 and 1988, respectively.

In 1988, Delfyett joined Bell Communication Research (Bellcore) as a member of the technical staff where he focused on generating ultrafast high power optical pulses from semiconductor diode lasers. His research findings resulted in a number of important developments, including the world’s fastest, most powerful modelocked semiconductor laser diode, the demonstration of an optically distributed clocking network for high-speed, digital switches and supercomputer applications, and the first observation of the optical nonlinearity induced by the cooling of highly excited electron-hole pairs in semiconductor optical amplifiers. Delfyett has published over six-hundred articles in refereed journals and conference proceedings; been awarded thirty five United States Patents; and, is the sole proprietor of a license agreement which transferred modelocked semiconductor laser technology into a commercial product.

In 1993, Delfyett received a dual-appointment as a professor in the School College of Optics and Photonics and the Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers (CREOL) at the University of Central Florida. From 1995 to 2006, he served as the Associate Editor of IEEE Photonics Technology Letters; was Executive Editor of IEEE LEOS Newsletter; and, served as the Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics. In 2008, Delfyett was elected to serve two terms as president of the National Society of Black Physicists.

Delfyett has been awarded the National Science Foundation’s Presidential Faculty Fellow Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, which is awarded to the nation’s top twenty young scientists. U.S. Black Engineer and Information Technology magazine recognized him in 1993 as “Most Promising Engineer;” and, in 2000 with the “Outstanding Alumnus Achievement.” In 2010, he received the Edward Bouchet Award from the American Physical Society. Delfyett is an elected Fellow of the American Physical Society, the Optical Society of America, and the IEEE Photonics Society.

Peter J. Delfyett was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 4, 2013.

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City University of New York

University of Rochester

Martin Van Buren High School

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Christmas, Summer


New York

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As you are walking across the path of life, if you come to a bump, step up.

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Electrical engineer Peter Delfyett (1959 - ) University Trustee Chair Professor in the College of Optics and Photonics and the Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers at the University of Central Florida, is an elected Fellow of the American Physical Society, the Optical Society of America, and the IEEE Photonics Society.


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Telcordia Technologies

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Timing Pairs

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Peter Delfyett's interview</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Peter Delfyett lists his favorites</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Peter Delfyett describes his mother's family background pt. 1</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Peter Delfyett describes his father's family background pt. 2</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Peter Delfyett talks about his parents' relationship and separation</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Peter Delfyett describes his family's personalities and who he takes after</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Peter Delfyett talks about growing up in an extended family household</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Peter Delfyett talks about the Delfyetts</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Peter Delfyett describes his earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Peter Delfyett describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Peter Delfyett talks about attending church during his youth</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Peter Delfyett talks about his elementary school</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Peter Delfyett talks about his childhood interest in paleontology and his questions about religion</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Peter Delfyett describes why he chose to become an electrical engineer</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Peter Delfyett talks about fifth grade elementary school teacher</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Peter Delfyett talks about his mentors in elementary and middle school</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Peter Delfyett talks about his high school</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Peter Delfyett describes how he learned to play the drums</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Peter Delfyett describes his band in high school</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Peter Delfyett describes graduating from high school and choosing to attend the City College of New York</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Peter Delfyett describes his time as a student at the City College of New York</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Peter Delfyett describes when he chose to specialize in optics</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Peter Delfyett talks about his undergraduate optics class</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Peter Delfyett describes why he came back to the City University of New York for his Ph.D.</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Peter Delfyett describes photonics</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Peter Delfyett describes his doctoral dissertation</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Peter Delfyett describes being hired by Bell Communications Research</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Peter Delfyett describes his time at Bell Communications Research</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Peter Delfyett describes how he broke the world record for the shortest and brightest light pulse</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Peter Delfyett describes how he solved the clock distribution problem</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Peter Delfyett talks about how it can take decades for an invention to be implemented</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Peter Delfyett explains why he chose to become a professor at the University of Central Florida</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Peter Delfyett talks about his teaching and research at the University of Central Florida</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Peter Delfyett talks about research funding and mentoring students</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Peter Delfyett talks about the future of technology</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Peter Delfyett talks about the future of holographic technology</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Peter Delfyett talks about his latest patent</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Peter Delfyett talks about his accomplishments at the University of Central Florida</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Peter Delfyett talks about his involvement in professional organizations</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Peter Delfyett gives advice to African American students</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Peter Delfyett reflects on his legacy</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Peter Delfyett reflects on his life</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Peter Delfyett talks about his family</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Peter Delfyett describes his hobbies</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Peter Delfyett talks about how he would like to be remembered</a>







Peter Delfyett describes when he chose to specialize in optics
Peter Delfyett talks about his teaching and research at the University of Central Florida
You said when you were a sophomore, that's when you decided to get into the field of lasers.$$That's right.$$And what was it, again, that got you involved?$$And so the thing, you know, the thing which happened was--you know, you're going along. You're taking your classes, your physics, your calculus, your differential equations. And then you start taking your engineering core--circuit theory, digital systems control, communications, whatever it is. But then they allow you to take some, some elective classes, you know, within the discipline. And so, there are so many electives. How do you choose? And then my thinking is I want to sort of choose an elective where I'm going to have, like, a focus. I want to choose all of my electives in a certain area, so I can get a real strong expertise. So, I'm just sort of looking through the course catalog. It's like looking at the menu, and just kind of reading what the different courses are about. Some are about computer architecture. Some are about, you know, circuit systems and digital systems. But then I saw this one course about "Introduction to Lasers." And then you kind of read the description, and everything is fine. And you read the last line and it says, you know, "The fundamentals and introduction to fiber optic communications will be covered in this course." And you know, what occurred to me, is that there are sort of other areas within electrical engineering that are--at that time were not growing. And one in particular might be sort of power systems. How do you deliver power? Con Ed [Con Edison], and this and that, and the other thing. Not super high-tech, not saying it can't be. But then I'm thinking, you know, "Gee, if an area in engineering is so mature, you know, there's not a lot of area for growth and expansion." And so I'm thinking, "If I want to get an expertise in something, I want to pick an area which is very, very new and futuristic, so there's going to be a lot of chance for growth and expansion." Because as that field grows and expands, I can basically evolve within that, and manage to make my way through an entire career. That was my philosophy. Because if the field is too narrow and not growing--if things get tight and there's nowhere to grow--you know, where do you go? It's not clear. And it wasn't clear to me at that time. And so, that's how I started. And so, the other thing which really got me going, I took a look at the elective classes. It said electromagnetic theory. So I said, well, I'm already taking that. But another class was, you know, 'Introduction to Optics,' you know, physical optics. So I said, that was a prerequisite, not necessarily--excuse me--it wasn't a requirement, but it was sort of nice if you had taken it. So, the next semester I went and I took the optics class. And the guy who was teaching that is a famous laser physicist, who literally--you know, after having the class with him--that was it, I'm going to school to get a Ph.D. There was no turning back at that point. They had me hook, line and sinker.$$Okay.$How was your, I guess, your time split here [University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida], in terms of research and teaching responsibilities?$$Sure. And so, every faculty--we teach graduate courses. Or at least when I first came to CREOL [Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers], it was primarily an academic institution and research institution that focused on graduate training and education. So, all faculty teach graduate level courses in the area of optics, and we're all expected to do research. We're expected to go out and hustle for contracts and grants, of which from that money we then pay the graduate students' salaries, their tuition. We use the money to buy the equipment to allow us to do the job. So we're like standard faculty in most other departments. We have to teach, we have to do research, and we have service. Your service duties are either related to the department and/or college, and your professional service as a scientist with professional societies, etc. So, we're like just like normal faculty--teaching, research and service.$$Okay, okay. So, what have been some of your research projects here at [University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida]--?$$So here, what I've done is I've tried to build a research group with a vision that if we want to make an impact on areas of application-- that what I wanted my philosophy to be is not what I'll call, device push-- like "Oh, here's a device, I think you need to use it." Well, like I'm pushing it on you. I prefer to have the application pull philosophy, meaning that let's take a look at what applications are out there that need some kind of advance. And then see if our research can play a role and allow our research to be pulled in that direction, so that if we're successful in our research, we can make some headway in that application. And so with that in mind, I've tried to divide my research area up into three groups--what I'll call sort of the fundamental physics--where we like to use, you know, short pulses of light and see how they interact with matter. That's the fundamental physics. We do that in semiconductors. And what we try and look for are new physics, so we can perhaps see new effects. So, we can then use that knowledge and then go into the clean room and make devices which can exploit these interesting effects, so these devices will have new functions. So, I study physics based upon the new things that we learn. We go up step up into the clean room. We fabricate new devices which are going to exploit those physics. So, these new devices will exhibit new functionalities. And with these new functions, I then take these devices that can show you functions, and I apply it in systems. And the systems are related to its communication and signal processing, making the internet go faster, etc. And when I see these new systems work faster, I say, "Great, we're successful." We patent along the way, we write papers, we give talks. And then once we do that, we say, "Okay, great, we solved that problem. What's the next problem?" And then we go back down and study new physics, to make more devices to make better impacts. So, instead of this thing being vertically integrated, I like to sort of say we're cyclically integrated between fundamental physics, devices and systems. And at each level there needs to be good communication back and forth between the fundamental physics and the systems area, between the systems and device area, and between the physics and device area. So, everybody knows what they're doing, and talking to each other so we can all learn from each other and push the overall vision of photonics forward. That's sort of my philosophy. That's how I do it. And again, we've made impacts in the area related towards secure communications, compact laser systems that are useful for material processing or drilling holes in walls, making lasers operate with more precision in atomic clocks, etc.