Chao ZuoNanjing Univ of Science and Technology, China
For pioneering contributions to computational phase imaging and metrology, particularly for noninterferometic quantitative phase imaging and high-speed 3D optical metrology.
People often say that hard work and unwavering dedication are the cornerstones of success, but Chao Zuo’s life is a testament to this wisdom.
Growing up in a family of engineers - his grandfather a mechanical engineer and both his parents chemical engineers - Chao naturally gravitated towards their interests, nurturing a strong desire to become a scientist himself. This early fascination was further stoked during his high school years when he found inspiration from several dedicated teachers who shared his zeal for science. He comments, “Remember that the most remarkable achievements often begin with audacious dreams.”
However, Chao’s path took an unexpected turn during the college entrance examination. Despite his ardent commitment to his studies, he didn’t quite ace the entrance exam, which led him to a second-choice university, a good one but not his dream school. Instead of accepting his fate, he rolled up his sleeves and embarked on a journey of self-improvement. Chao chose to live off-campus to maintain a laser-like focus on his studies, steering clear of the typical undergraduate distractions. Additionally, he sought professional certification training beyond the standard curriculum, showcasing his eagerness to expand his horizons.
The turning point arrived when he secured first place in the graduate school entrance exam, gaining admission to his dream university. This experience instilled in Chao the value of hard work and unwavering dedication to achieve one’s goals. Chao’s academic journey at NJUST was enriched by the guidance of his mentor, Professor Qian Chen. Professor Chen ignited Chao’s passion for optics and played a pivotal role in his academic development and continued success. Chao emphasizes the importance of finding the right mentor, advising students to be clear about their research interests, and building a network of mentors to gain diverse perspectives throughout their academic journey. He stresses that proactive nurturing of mentor-student relationships is key to success, much like any other relationship.
Today, Chao is the Principal Investigator of the Smart Computational Imaging Laboratory at Nanjing University of Science and Technology (NJUST), and the founder and director of the Smart Computational Imaging Research Institute there. He shares, “My group investigates how optical manipulation and signal processing can be incorporated into optical imaging systems to make the invisible visible and provide unprecedented perceptions that far exceed human ability.” Traditional optical imaging has its limitations, and his work in computational optical imaging is breaking new ground. As Chao explains, “It is an integral combination of optical modulation at the front end (physical domain) and information processing at the back end (digital domain), providing new ideas and opportunities to overcome the constraints of traditional optical imaging technology.” Chao is brimming with optimism about the future of his field and the exciting developments coming out of his and other labs.
For almost 14 years, Chao has been an enthusiastic and dedicated member of Optica. He joined the society during his PhD and believes it is one of the wisest decisions of his professional life. As a committee member, conference speaker, and active reviewer, he has served Optica and brought his expertise to many different areas of the society. He says, “Optica has provided me a nurturing home…as a Fellow member, I hope to bring my expertise in the field of computational optical imaging and sensing to bear in keeping Optica at the forefront of optics and devote my energy and enthusiasm to serving the society through more versatile roles.”
Photo Credit: Chao Zuo
Profile written by Samantha Hornback