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Xin Chen

Corning Incorporated, USA
For significant contributions to single mode fibers with low polarization mode dispersion, multimode fibers for datacenters, and specialty fibers.
Xin Chen

Xin Chen is driven to do research that has real-world impact and reflects the current needs of society. His work at Corning Incorporated, USA, aims to unite the current business trends with cutting-edge technology. His unique position allows him to work closely with engineers and see his research adopted commercially in new products or new processes, sharing, “Our work can be put to real-world use within a few years.” In this way, Xin can stay at the forefront of the field and help drive technology and the market to shape the field.

Xin was introduced to science through hands-on projects at after-school programs. One inspiring project was assembling a radio in middle school. Later, he read biographies of influential physicists and was inspired by their work. He initially decided to pursue theoretical physics in college but soon realized that the track had a narrow path to success. Xin knew he could find greater fulfillment in his career if he moved out of the research lab and saw his work impact people more directly.  

In 1995, Xin decided to make a significant change academically: he moved to the United States to pursue a Ph.D degree in experimental optical physics at Pennsylvania State University. He shares, “this change happened after several incremental steps made during seven years of training in a different field in China.” It took perseverance and a lot of hard work, but Xin was able to transition from theoretical to experimental physics and now thrives at the intersection of these fields in his work today.

In the 22 years he has been at Corning, Xin has worked on many exciting projects in the field of optical communications. Xin’s work was primarily related to optical fiber. He started his career during the telecom boom in 2000 and worked on polarization mode dispersion for optical fiber, which was a very hot topic at that time. Many companies and researchers were focused on this problem and sought to develop a compensating device to mitigate the impairments to transmission. In Xin’s unique position working at a fiber manufacturer, he and his co-workers developed a novel fiber process and distributed measurement technique to solve the problem at its foundation by making fibers with low polarization mode dispersion in the first place. This resulted in a long-term, low-cost solution.

Another highlight of his career has been his contributions to novel measurement techniques, most recently a novel frequency domain measurement method for various types of fibers. His inspiration for this work is rooted in his research background, sharing, “Sometimes, we need to do a certain measurement, and we may not have the equipment to do it or the equipment is too expensive…this becomes an opportunity for a new invention.” While the company may not come out with a new fiber product every year, innovation can continue through these types of measurement and process innovations. He says, “You can have a better way to use existing fiber or transform the way you use it to meet new challenges.”

This is an exciting time for optics and photonics, as people come to rely more and more on the internet, social media, and other technologies that are supported by the field. Collaboration is needed to continue this expansion and innovation. Xin notes that “nobody alone can control or make the whole thing work…people need to work broadly together for the technology to advance further.”

Optica has been an influential organization in Xin’s career. He started attending conferences as a student and later served on conference technical program committees, i.e. Optical Fiber Communication Conference and as an associate editor for the Journal of Lightwave Technology. These experiences have helped shape his career over the years. He encourages people to get involved and to give back.  He shares, “That’s an opportunity for us to learn the newest developments in the field, interact with people, and make friends, broadening collaborations and making society better.”

Photo Credit: Xin Chen

Profile written by Samantha Hornback

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