M.J. Soileau, UCF’s vice president for research and commercialization, recently earned the first Distinguished Service Appreciation Medal from the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Barcelona, Spain, for his role in establishing and supporting the organization, one of the world’s foremost independent optical science research centers.

Soileau served as the first director of UCF’s Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers (CREOL) before being named a UCF vice president in 1998.

Lluis Torner, director of the institute, credited Soileau with supplying the necessary direction to establish a center capable of conducting cutting-edge research in optics and photonics at the highest international level. Torner said the center benefited from Soileau’s experience, specifically relating to technology transfer.

The center, which opened in 2002, gives scientists and industries around the world an opportunity to work together on research projects ranging from telecommunications and information technologies to biotechnology, sensing, quantum information, industrial photonics, nanophotonics and biophotonics.

The institute hosts six European Research Council awardees and an active Corporate Liaison Program inspired by CREOL’s Industrial Affiliates Program. ICFO has become a European center of reference for researchers and industries, and a national flagship.

Soileau has achieved similar benchmarks at UCF, which has been ranked in the top 10 nationwide for the strength of its patents four times in the past four years. In 2010, UCF celebrated a decade of research under Soileau’s tenure, which has resulted in a cumulative $1.05 billion in research funding for the university.