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Working for Photonics

Photonics was not in view when I arrived in the Netherlands for the first time on January 13, 1965. The plan was to pursue medical study. Surgery was thought to be good idea, because I was quite good in handling small and precise tools. During the first days after arrival I stayed with my uncle, a surgeon who was repeatedly called out to the hospital at nights to handle urgent cases. Since a good night sleep was placed very high on my priority list, the original plan was abandoned and I decided to join the Eindhoven University of Technology.
     My final project at the university was about the propagation of a laser beam through the open air. At that time, several engineers were investigating the potential of using free propagating laser beams for communication. Turbulence is obviously one of the biggest problems. The project was fascinating because the calculations relating to turbulence is tough and I learned to appreciate mathematics and physics as essential tools for engineering. Although my results were good enough for a Letter in the Proceedings IEEE, I concluded that the idea had limited potential for application. After graduation, I searched for another challenging subject for research and found a position in the Dutch laboratory for plasma physics near Utrecht, where scientists were trying to generate energy using the plasma fusion approach. The optical diagnostic part includes the use of high power laser pulses focused into the plasma, a method to measure the temperature and density. The contrast between input pulse and reflected power was huge and measures to block false light were the main difficulty. During that period, I started to get a good sense of unwanted reflections and how to deal with them. But again, I concluded that the subject was too far away from application.
     In 1973, a research program on optical communication was being launched at Philips Research Laboratories in Eindhoven. In addition to participating in a new field, I had the opportunity to observe the benefits of multidisciplinary efforts. Researchers in the system area were working closely with experts in semiconductor physics and materials. It was really a special experience to be involved in discussions with colleagues who were addressing issues such as transmitters and receivers, semiconductor epitaxy, device processing, purification of glass, plasma chemical vapour deposition and fiber drawing. I enjoyed the work because I had no difficulties in handling small and precise tools and because of my experience with reflections. Apart from gaining experience in writing publications, I learned that patents were important and managed to have more than
40 US Patents granted during those years, most of them on connection and packaging techniques.
     A gratifying experience during my period at Philips was the participation in European projects. Those activities provided opportunities to collaborate closely with international partners. These partners, together with committee members from the European Conference on Optical Communications (ECOC), became a network of personal contacts that plays an important role in my work during the following years. As the field progressed, I also learned to appreciate collaboration with manufacturing groups and to understand that they have other priorities. The system manufacturers at Philips were not happy at all when the wavelength region moved from 850 nm to 1300 nm and subsequently to 1500 nm, because they obviously were eager to start business. Network operators seem to be conservative by definition, the Dutch PTT thought that optical fibers will be too difficult to handle, as they already had problems with thin copper wires. It is interesting to note that especially in Europe, each step forward was challenged by the traditional communication community, arguing that there is no need at all for higher bitrates.
     When I returned to the Eindhoven University of Technology in 1983 as Part Time Professor, I managed to mobilise 11 Professors to sign a letter to the Minister of Education with a proposal to formally recognize the university in Eindhoven as the national center for optoelectronics and optical communication. This was the start of a long and ultimately successful process. The next step at the university was the founding of the research institute COBRA. Today, COBRA is a leading institute for optical communication and photonics and the rapidly increasing number of publications by COBRA participants over the years is a clear indication of its success. I am particularly proud to conclude at this time that I consistently selected the most qualified persons to join the institute in Eindhoven. Harm Dorren, Martin Hill, Ton Koonen, Meint Smit, Huug de Waardt, Eduward Tangdiongga, and Jos van der Tol are currently successful participants at our Electrical Engineering Faculty. Photonics also prosper in the Faculty of Applied Physics, where a young group of researchers such as Andrea Fiore, Paul Koenraad and Richard Notzel demonstrated ongoing progress over the recent years.
     Visibility resulting from leading edge publications led to invitations to volunteer for journals. I served as Associate Editor for the Journal of Lightwave Technology and Journal of Quantum Electronics. Contributions to the Board of Governors of LEOS started as European Representative and subsequently as Vice President (VP) of a variety of fields. One of the most enjoyable positions was the VP of Membership. At that time, Europe was already playing a major role in the area of Photonics, and it was the right moment to encourage those contributors to start chapters. Phone calls to partners of European projects and committee members of ECOC initiated local activities all over Europe. I founded the LEOS Benelux Chapter, whose annual symposium has become a particularly important forum for our PhD students to present their early work to an international audience. The organization of the chapter is very smooth because we adopted the formula that the chairperson switches between Belgium and The Netherlands. This ensures that the Board is not occupied for decades by the same people. Another successful formula was to have students in the Board, which after a while resulted in the founding of a Benelux Student Chapter. Many PhD students working for COBRA have been recognized with LEOS awards.
     Working for LEOS was worth the efforts because I found myself among many other volunteers who were strongly motivated to work for the benefit of LEOS. My short periods of involvements with IEEE TAB and the IEEE Benelux Section was enough to conclude that those were not in themselves motivating environments. An important element within the Photonic Society that I appreciate is that most of the time, discussion is about the science and not on the side issues. The Nobel Prize granted to Charles Kao will undoubtly strengthen the profile and opportunities for this exiting area. For the future, my key message is to continue efforts to improve globalization of the membership. Upper limits should never be imposed in any way to members outside the US. Instead, those members should be granted encouragements as much as possible. Having said all that, I would thank the Society for recognizing me with the Distinguished Service Award and I see that as an encouragement for other members to volunteer for the Society.


Biography: Giok-Djan Khoe
Giok-Djan Khoe was born in Magelang, Indonesia, on July 22, 1946. He received the degree of Elektrotechnisch Ingenieur, cum laude, from the Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven, The Netherlands, in 1971.
     He started research at the Dutch Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM) Laboratory on Plasma Physics, Rijnhuizen. In 1973 he moved to the Philips Research Laboratories in Eindhoven to start pioneering work in the area of optical fiber communication systems and components. In 1983 he became part time professor at Eindhoven University of Technology. He became a full professor at the same University in 1994 and served as chairman of the Department of Telecommunication Technology and Electromagnetics (TTE) until 2008. He has 41 United States Patents and has authored and co-authored more than 350 papers, including 75 invited papers and chapters in 6 books. His professional activities include many conferences, where he has served in technical, management and advisory committees as a member or chairman. Recently, he was general co-chair of the ECOC in 2008. His journal activities include involvements as associate editor for the Journal of Lightwave Technologies and the Journal of Quantum Electronics and as a member of the advisory board or as reviewer of other journals. In Europe, he was closely involved in Research Programs of the European Community and in Dutch national research programs, as participant, evaluator, auditor and program committee member.
     He is one of the founders of the Dutch COBRA University Research Institute and one of the three recipients of the prestigious Top Research Institute Photonics grant that is awarded to COBRA in 1998 by the Netherlands Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. In 2001 he brought 4 groups together to start a new international alliance called the European Institute on Telecommunication Technologies (eiTT).
     He has served in The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Photonic Society organisation as President (2003), European Representative in the Board of Governors, VP Finance & Administration, Board of Governors Elected Member and Member of the Executive Committee of the IEEE Benelux Section. He was the founder of the IEEE Photonic Society Benelux Chapter. He has been an IEEE Fellow since 1991 and received the MOC/GRIN award in 1997. He is an invited member of the Netherlands Academy of Engineering and Innovation (AcTI-nl) since 1999 and became a Fellow of the Optical Society of America (OSA) in 2007.

 


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