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21 February 2024

Optica Awards Kenichi Iga the 2024 Frederic Ives Medal/Jarus W. Quinn Prize

Iga honored for visionary leadership in the VCSEL community

Caption: Kenichi Iga

WASHINGTON — Phones that recognize your face, the laser mouse, cancer-spotting microscopes, and high-speed digital communications—what do these technologies have in common? They rely on the light generated in a vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL). VCSELs changed semiconductor lasers from an expensive and challenging specialized device to a widely available and accessible tool manufactured in high volumes and used across an ever-increasing number of industries.

Optica, Advancing Optics and Photonics Worldwide, has named Kenichi Iga, Professor Emeritus and former President of Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan the 2024 Frederic Ives Medal/Jarus W. Quinn Prize recipient. Iga is recognized for pioneering contributions and visionary leadership in the field of semiconductor lasers and optoelectronics and a dedication to training and educating future generations.

"Kenichi Iga fundamentally changed the field with his revolutionary work on VCSELs,” said Gerd Leuchs, Optica's 2024 President. "It is an honor to celebrate his lasting contributions.”

First presented in 1929, the Frederic Ives Medal recognizes overall distinction in optics and is Optica’s highest award. The Quinn Prize was added in 1995 in honor of Optica’s first Executive Director, Jarus W. Quinn.

Iga received his D.Eng degree from Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech). He joined the Precision and Intelligence (P&I) Laboratory at Tokyo Tech in 1968, eventually becoming the Teiichi Yamazaki Chair Professor. He served as Director of Institute Library and Director of the P&I Microsystem Research Center, Executive Director of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and President of Tokyo Tech.

His work has significantly impacted high-speed communications. Since his first demonstration of a VCSEL in 1979 at Tokyo Tech, he has established the fundamental technical and theoretical bases for the lasers and inspired much research in the field. Today, approximately 75% of all telecommunications lasers sold are VCSELs. Iga is also a mentor, advisor and dedicate volunteer, working to strengthen the field through high quality training and international collaboration. 

He is the author of several books, including Fundamentals of Microoptics and Surface Emitting Lasers and VCSEL Industry, and more than 450 papers. He is a Fellow of Optica, IEEE, IEICE, JSAP, and Laser Society. He has received numerous awards, including the Sakurai Memorial Prize, the Ichimura Award, Asahi Prize, Fujiwara Award, C&C Prize, the IEE Premium Award, the John Tyndall Award, the IEEE Daniel E. Noble Award, the Rank Prize, 2013 Bower Award and Prize in Science from the Franklin Institute, and 2021 IEEE Edison Medal. In 2001, he received the Purple Ribbon Medal from the Japanese Emperor and 2022 Person of Cultural Merit from Japanese Government.

About Optica

Optica, Advancing Optics and Photonics Worldwide, is the society dedicated to promoting the generation, application, archiving and dissemination of knowledge in the field. Founded in 1916, it is the leading organization for scientists, engineers, business professionals, students and others interested in the science of light. Optica's renowned publications, meetings, online resources and in-person activities fuel discoveries, shape real-life applications and accelerate scientific, technical and educational achievement. Discover more at:

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