A UCF vice president who developed a leading research institute and shaped the intellectual infrastructure needed to attract top faculty, students and industry to the region will be honored next month by the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission.
MJ Soileau, who was the first director of the now internationally recognized Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers (CREOL), now serves as vice president for UCF’s Office of Research & Commercialization. He will receive the Chairman’s Award at the EDC’s Annual Awards Dinner on Thursday, April 3.
The Chairman’s Award, first presented in 2007, recognizes a long-term contributor to the work of the Orlando EDC.
Soileau is laser-focused on what he considers to be fundamental missions of a research university, serving as a hub for intellectual pursuit and coupling research expertise to the economic needs of the region.
Under Soileau’s leadership, research funding earned by UCF faculty members has increased to more than $100 million annually for each of the past nine years. UCF also has been recognized for ranking among the world’s top universities for patents earned by faculty members.
Soileau also has helped to guide UCF’s Business Incubation Program since its founding in 1999. The program was recognized in 2013 as the National Incubator Network of the Year by the National Business Incubation Association.
“MJ’s intelligence, tenacity and passion have helped our university grow into one of the nation’s major metropolitan research universities and, more important, have helped UCF make major contributions to the economic growth and diversity of the Central Florida region,” said President John C. Hitt.
Soileau arrived at UCF in 1987 and has served as a vice president since 1999. He received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering/Quantum Electronics from the University of Southern California and also holds an M.S. in Physics and Optics from the University of Utah and a B.S. in Astronomy and Physics from Louisiana State University. He has received multiple awards and recognitions including the Gold Medal of the SPIE, the International Society for Optical Engineering; the Esther Beller Award by the Optical Society of America, and in 2011 was named the first recipient of the Distinguished Service Appreciation Medal by the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Barcelona, Spain.
Soileau will be recognized along with Meg G. Crofton, president of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations, United States and France, who will receive the James B. Greene Award, the highest honor bestowed by the EDC.
More information on the event, which will be held 6 to 9 p.m. at the Amway Center, 400 W. Church St., in downtown Orlando, is available on the EDC’s website (