UCF has once again been named one of the world’s top 25 universities for optics, recognizing CREOL, the College of Optics and Photonics, for excellence in research, international collaboration, and contributions to scientific literature.
In U.S. News & World Report rankings released this week, UCF’s optics program ranks No. 24 among worldwide universities — positioning UCF among the top 9% of the 278 programs identified globally. The ranking places the program No. 9 among universities in the United States and No. 4 among U.S. public universities. Other notable U.S. universities in the top 25 include Caltech, Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Columbia and MIT.
Earlier this year, U.S. News & World Report ranked UCF No. 12 in the atomic/molecular/optical (AMO) physics category for graduate programs. The ranking recognizes the high quality of collaborative education and research conducted between UCF’s Department of Physics and CREOL.
“These rankings are a testament to the hard work and brilliance of our faculty, students, and researchers,” says CREOL Dean David Hagan. “CREOL is leading the way in optics and photonics education and research, addressing global problems and making a direct, positive impact on many industries, including communications, defense, energy, and medicine.”
UCF’s optics and photonics program was established in 1987 as the Center for Research in Electro-Optics and Lasers. In 2004, the program was designated a college — the first of its kind in the United States. CREOL’s recognition among the top 25 optics institutions globally less than two decades from becoming a college is a testament to the ability of its cutting-edge research, high-quality curriculum and innovative faculty to fuel the ideas needed to positively influence the world.
Today, UCF students can earn a Bachelor of Science degree in photonic science and engineering through a joint program between CREOL and the College of Engineering and Computer Science. This is the only ABET-accredited bachelor’s degree of its kind in Florida and one of only six offered in the United States.
A Master of Science in optics and photonics is offered through CREOL and can be completed online. CREOL’s optics and photonics doctorate program provides the highest-quality education in optical science and engineering, allowing students to conduct scholarly, fundamental, and applied research.
To be considered for the 2022-23 U.S. News and World Report global ranking, an institution had to publish a minimum of 200 papers from 2016 to 2020. Ten criteria were used to determine the final ranking, including international collaboration, conferences, and several factors related to the number and quality of publications and citations.
Forty-four percent of CREOL faculty were recognized by the journal PLOS Biology as being among the world’s top scholars and in the top 2% of global optics experts, demonstrating a significant impact to the field. One of CREOL’s internationally recognized researchers is UCF Pegasus Professor and Trustee Chair Peter Delfyett. He has contributed to the optics and photonics industry for over 30 years and was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering in 2021 — making him UCF’s first sitting faculty member* to be selected for the prestigious honor for work conducted at the university.
Recent innovations produced through CREOL’s research, often in collaboration with other colleges at UCF, that address global problems include a real-time blood monitor that can save doctor’s critical time during surgeries and a material that allows faster photonic computers to use less energy and could one day lead to quantum computing.
UCF students and alumni have also received major international recognition. CREOL alumnus Jason Eichenholz ’95MS ’98PhD co-founded Luminar, a tech company at the forefront of developing self-driving vehicles that has partnered with Volvo, Nissan and Toyota. In 2020, Luminar announced it would go public with a multi-billion-dollar deal and the tech company made Fortune’s Impact 20 list.
Photonic science and engineering student Isabella Pardo, who researches spacecraft fueling to improve management and efficiency, was selected to the inaugural class of 20 Optica Women Scholars across the world. Doctorate student Matthew Cooper won the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE) D.J. Lovell Scholarship — their largest and most prestigious scholarship. Michael McMahon ’22, a CREOL alumnus and current master’s student, completed a competitive X-Force Fellowship, which provides students opportunities to work on mission-focused projects with the military that solve real-world national security issues.
CREOL has strong ties to industry giants, which gives faculty and students the ability to apply research and theoretical models to real-world technologies. Earlier this year, ficonTEC, a global leader in photonics manufacturing, launched an academic-industrial alliance with the university. This includes the creation of a lab in CREOL that serves as a research and development manufacturing facility and is open to UCF students, faculty, and local industry partners. And ficonTEC has joined Plasmonics Inc. and Olkin Optics LLC in UCF’s photonics incubator.
“CREOL has a proud history of being a leader in optics and photonics education, innovation and research,” says Hagan. “Light is the gateway to 21st-century technological advances and CREOL holds the key to unlocking the future.”
Optics and photonics is the science and application of light including, but not limited to, lasers and laser technology, infrared physics and technology, microwave technology, quantum optics, light wave technology, fiber optics, opto-electronics, photometry, and luminescence. According to the National Academy of Sciences, the global value of light-enabled products and services is estimated to be between $7 trillion and $10 trillion annually, representing approximately 11% of the world’s economy.
*UCF has a total of eight current faculty who are members of the National Academy of Engineering; seven received the honor before coming to UCF; Delfyett is the only sitting UCF faculty to date to receive the honor.