Professor Robert L. Byer is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Applied Physics at Stanford University. He has conducted research and taught classes in lasers and nonlinear optics at Stanford University since 1969. He has made numerous contributions to laser science and technology. Current research interests include the development of advanced solid state laser sources for applications to gravitational wave detection and to laser particle acceleration. He received his BS degree in physics in 1964 from the University of California, Berkeley, and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in 1967 and 1969 in Applied Physics from Stanford University.
Byer has served as department chair of Applied Physics in 1980–83, and 1999–2002; Associate Dean of Humanities and Sciences from 1984-86, and Vice Provost and Dean of Research at Stanford University from 1987-1992. He has been director of the Hansen Experimental Physics Laboratory from 1997 – 2006, and the Edward L. Ginzton Laboratory from 2006 – 08.
He was elected President of the Laser and Electro-optics society of the IEEE in 1984 and of the Optical Society of America in 1994. He has served on the AIP Governing Board from 1993 – 2000 and was a founding member of the California Council on Science and Technology in 1989 and served as chair from 1994 – 1998.
Byer will receive the Frederic Ives Medal/Quinn Endowment from the Optical Society in 2009 and was awarded the IEEE Photonics Award in June, 2009. He has been the recipient of the IEEE Third Millennium Medal, the A. L. Schawlow Award, Laser Institute of America, the R. W. Wood prize of the OSA, the Quantum Electronics Award, Lasers and Electro-optics Society, and the Adolph Lomb Medal of the Optical Society of America. He is a fellow of the APS, AAAS, LEOS, LIA and OSA. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1987 and to the National Academy of Science in 2000.
He has served on the Editorial Boards of Optics Letters, Journal of Applied Physics and Applied Physics Letters, Review of Scientific Instruments and the Proceedings of the IEEE. He served on the NRC Committee on Optical Sciences and Engineering, and the NRC Committee on Inertial Confinement Fusion. He served as Vice Chair of the NIST NRC Advisory Board, Physics Panel. He completed a four year term on the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board in 2006. He is serving on the LLNL NIF and PS Directors Review Committee and on the SLAC Coherent Light Source Science Advisory Committee.
As a member of the Applied Physics Department I have witnessed first hand the value of defining physics in the broadest possible way. The exciting new areas of research are often found at the boundaries of subfields of physics such as particle and particle astrophysics, or at the intersection of different disciplines such as physics and biology. For future success at the boundaries, the nation must balance in investments health and medicine with investments the physical sciences and engineering.
The health of physics and technology depends critically upon a strong workforce. We have traditionally relied upon immigration to supplement our workforce in critical areas of science and the commercialization of technology. Today, from the students in the classroom to the leaders of technology companies, we observe the diversity of names and faces brought to us by immigration from all corners of the globe. It is essential that we work to modify our immigration policies to keep America attractive to highly skilled individuals with a passion for science and engineering.
Experience has shown that science thrives in the open environment of shared ideas and knowledge. At times, however, information and technology must be controlled for valid reasons of national security. Our classification system, with its well defined boundaries, has served our nation well. What has not worked well, and is in need of serious attention, is the current restrictions on export controls. The APS should work to achieve the recommendations of the NRC report Beyond Fortress America to assure that our nation engages fully in international collaborations in the science and technology arena.
Science and technology is an essential contributor to the modern global economy. The production and use of energy coupled with a respect for the environment is a key to the future of mature and developing economies. We have an opportunity to review and to rebalance sources of energy for the future. The expansion of solar and wind energy, supported by conservation, can assist with meeting peak demands for energy. However, the energy base is supplied by coal, oil and gas, and nuclear energy, each with impacts to the environment on a global scale. A “man to the moon”scale international research and development program that includes energy technologies from clean coal to fusion and fusion-fission hybrid energy is an essential investment in the future. We must learn to manage both the environmental impacts and to create a safe, non-threatening fuel cycle.
Physics not only gives us tools and knowledge to address important issues, but also ideas and understanding about nature and the universe. The public interest in physics and astronomy is widespread as illustrated by the tremendous success of the 100 hours of Astronomy web cast held in early April to celebrate 400 years of observing the sky with a telescope. The APS should continue to lead the way to engage the next generation in the intellectual excitement and benefits of a career in science.