In Memoriam: Shun Lien Chuang, 1954-2014

March 26, 2014

Shun LieShun Lien Chuangn Chuang, an OSA Fellow Emeritus and Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois, Urbana, passed away 26 March 2014 after an extended battle with cancer.  He was 59. 

Chuang received a B.S. in electrical engineering from National Taiwan University in 1976, and M.S., E.E., and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1980, 1981, and 1983, respectively.  In 1983, he joined the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he remained until his retirement in 2012.  He was named Robert MacClinchie Distinguished Professor in 2007 and Professor Emeritus of ECE in 2012.  Following his retirement, he was a Visiting Professor at Stanford University.  During his career, Chuang was also a visitor at AT&T Bell Laboratories (1989), the SONY Research Center (1995), NTT Basic Research Laboratories (1997), NASA Ames Research (1999), Fujitsu Research Laboratories (2000), Cavendish Laboratory, the University of Cambridge (2002), and the Technical University of Berlin (2009).  He conducted research on nanolasers, plasmonics, strained quantum-well and quantum-dot semiconductor lasers, modulators, and type-II superlattice infrared photodetectors.

He was the author of a leading textbook on the physical theories for lasers and allied devices.  It was first published in 1995 as Physics of Optoelectronic Devices (Wiley) and was renamed for the second edition, published in 2009, as Physics of Photonic Devices (Wiley).  The work that underlies that textbook began as a course that Chuang first developed in 1984, his second year as an Illinois faculty member.  After 10 years of teaching the course, Integrated Optics and Optoelectronics, Chuang compiled the material into the first edition.  His research, like the textbook, was a combination of electromagnetics and optoelectronics.  With two collaborators, he developed a new type of optoelectrical device known as intraband cascade detector, which was patented in 2004. These are capable of detecting infrared radiation and have been incorporated into night-vision equipment.  The device is based on an alternating heterostructure known as a type-II superlattice.

Over the ensuing decade, Chuang continued to research detectors based on this structure.  At the time of his death, he was leading a multi-institutional team that focused on enhancing these devices.  He was also working on a project with researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, which aims to develop a small optical pulse radar by integrating different kinds of optoelectrical devices, including lasers, detectors, and modulators, onto a silicon substrate.

Chuang published more than 400 journal and conference papers and gave many invited talks at conferences and institutions.  He was a General Co-chair for the OSA Slow and Fast Light Meeting, July, 2008 and served on many OSA and IEEE Photonics Society technical program committees.  He served as Associate Editor of the IEEE Journal of Quantum Electronics (1997-2002) and IEEE Journal of Lightwave Technology (2007-2008) and as a Feature Editor for a special issue in JOSA B on Terahertz Generation, Physics and Applications in 1994.  He also edited a feature section on Mid-Infrared Quantum-Cascade Lasers in the June 2002 issue of the Journal of Quantum Electronics.

An OSA member since 1984, Chuang was named an OSA Fellow in 1997.  He was also a Fellow of the American Physical Society and IEEE.  His many awards and honors include the OSA Engineering Excellence Award (2004), the IEEE Lasers and Electro-Optical Society (LEOS) Distinguished Lecturer Award (2004-2006), the William Streifer Scientific Achievement Award from IEEE/LEOS (2007), the Humboldt Research Award for Senior U.S. Scientists (2008-2009), and the MicroOptics Conference (MOC) Award in 2011.  He served on the IEEE Photonics Society Board of Governors from 2009-2011.  He was also awarded a Fellowship from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science to visit the University of Tokyo in 1996.

Chuang was cited many times for Excellence in Teaching at the University of Illinois, where he was beloved by students and faculty alike.  He was known for his affable and generous personality, which endeared him to those he mentored and to the researchers with whom he collaborated.

A memorial service was held on 3 May 2014 at the University of Illinois.   In lieu of flowers, the family requested that donations be made to the Shun Lien Chuang Memorial Fund for Excellence in Graduate Education.  Checks should be made payable to the UI Foundation and can be sent to: Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering, 155 Everitt Laboratory, 1406 W. Green St., Urbana, IL 61801.  To make a memorial donation to an OSA Foundation fund or endowment in honor of Shun Lien Chuang, please visit