Renowned engineer joins U.Va. faculty
|Joe C. Campbell
By Fariss Samarrai
Joe C. Campbell, a renowned innovator in electrical engineering and nanotechnology and widely credited for having developed the modern-day detectors of laser light used in fiber optics systems in telephone and other telecommunication systems, has been appointed the Lucien Carr III Professor of Engineering and Applied Science.
Campbell will join the faculty of the Charles L. Brown Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in January 2006, bringing with him a $3 million laboratory and six or seven graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. Campbell now serves as the Cockrell Family Regents Chairman in Engineering and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin.
As part of a U.Va. Board of Visitors’ initiative, the University is in the process of hiring leading researchers and their teams to enhance the University’s overall excellence in certain areas of science and engineering. Campbell — who in 2002 was named to the National Academy of Engineering, the highest honor in the engineering professions — is the first of 10 national academies-level researchers to be hired by the University during the next five years, as part of this
“I’ve long known that U.Va. is a special place and a first-rate university,” Campbell said. “What particularly impressed me is the University’s vision for the future in research, the leadership at the University and the real initiatives to move up in the rankings. I want to be a part of that.”
“The hiring of Joe Campbell is the first step in a strategy to transform scientific research here and to position the University of Virginia as a pre-eminent research institution in science and engineering,” said U.Va. President John T. Casteen III. “While the groundwork for moving these initiatives forward began several years ago, we still have … hard work ahead to get to where we want to be.”
The Board of Visitors has committed $126 million to enhance scientific research at the University. The plan also includes a $60 million commitment for recruiting faculty, funding salaries and building new research space.
Campbell was hired after a lengthy search process in which U.Va. faculty members and experts at other universities identified 150 prominent people in select fields of science and engineering. After extensive research, a search committee narrowed the list to 30, matching potential candidates to areas where the University has the greatest needs and where the researcher would be most effective. Finally the list was narrowed to 10 investigators, based on how they potentially could best serve the University’s research goals, and for their possible interest in coming to the University.
The search was led by Ariel Gomez, vice president for research and graduate studies, who personally called each of the leading nominees, explained the University’s goals and encouraged the person to consider coming to the University. As the list was narrowed, Gomez met some of the candidates at their home institutions and invited them to visit U.Va.
“We actively and aggressively recruited Joe Campbell and put together an infrastructure package that was very appealing to him,” Gomez said. “We will do the same in coming months and years as we seek out nine other highly prominent researchers. We are determined to provide the resources and infrastructure to help these highly successful individuals to become even more successful.”
In addition to other support, U.Va. is providing a $2.5 million renovation to a “clean room,” where Campbell and his team will conduct research.
Gomez added that he and other senior administrators are seeking researchers who “have the capacity to transform reality — to vastly improve the quality of life at all levels of society with their inventions and discoveries.”
“We believe that hiring outstanding senior faculty members serves as a catalyst for recruiting and retaining outstanding younger faculty members and graduate students,” said Vice President and Provost Gene D. Block. “We are building a great community of faculty at all levels in key scientific areas, and Joe Campbell is the first high-profile investigator hired under our new initiative.”
Campbell is recognized for his contributions to the development of high-speed, low-noise avalanche photodiodes, which are semiconductor photodetectors that absorb laser light pulses and convert the optical information into electrical signals. The avalanche photodiodes are used in fiber-optic long-distance communications where information is transmitted for long distances as pulses of light. At the end of the transmission, the light must be changed back into electrical information. Campbell’s device is able to do this at high speed with little distortion of information.
Campbell’s other current research projects include developing new night-vision technology, and developing a tiny biological sensor that will monitor the presence of substances such as anthrax. In addition, he is actively involved in a fiber-optics project that will increase a computer’s ability to transmit data four times faster than current technology.
Campbell received his B.S. in physics from UT-Austin in 1969, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in 1971 and 1973.
From 1974 to 1976 he worked for Texas Instruments on integrated optics. In 1976 he joined AT&T Bell Laboratories in Holmdel, N.J., where he worked on a variety of opto-electronic devices, including semiconductor lasers, optical modulators, wave-guide switches, photonic integrated circuits and photo detectors with emphasis on high-speed avalanche photodiodes for high-bit-rate light-wave systems. He joined UT-Austin in January 1989.
Campbell has co-authored six book chapters, more than 300 journal publications and 200 conference presentations. He is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (and an IEEE Millennium Medal winner), the Optical Society of America and the American Physical Society.
“The ability to hire a faculty member of Joe Campbell’s caliber will make a major difference in our programs and in the reputation of the School of Engineering and Applied Science,” said James H. Aylor, interim dean of that school. “This sort of a hire allows us to make a quantum leap in stature and opens the doors for collaborations and research that we could not otherwise hope to do.”
Lloyd Harriott, chairman of the Charles L. Brown Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, said, “I am very excited about the opportunities for enhanced research and teaching that having Dr. Campbell on our faculty presents. He will add significantly to our research portfolio in the semi-conductor devise area and will work collaboratively with other faculty in the nanotechnology field.”