Photodigm Donates $250k to SMU Launching an Advanced Photonics PhD Fellowship And Selects Weida Zhang as the Inaugural Recipient

Oct. 5, 2022

The new Photodigm Photonics PhD Fellowship supplies a quarter of a million dollars over five years to promising young academics and grants them full access to Photodigm’s photonics lab in Richardson, TX.

OCTOBER 5, 2022 (DALLAS, TX) –– Photodigm pledges a $250,000 gift to SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering for PhD students pursuing an advanced degree in photonics or semiconductor devices. Generously giving to further photonics education and growing our local workforce isn’t new to Photodigm, who in their first 15 years of business provided a combined $1.5M to SMU, University of Texas at Arlington, and University of Texas at Dallas for research programs and related support.

This fellowship expands the decades-long partnership between the privately held semiconductor laser diode manufacturing company and the prestigious university, who have collaborated since 2000 when Dr. Gary Evans was a Professor in SMU’s Electrical Engineering Department and co-founded Photodigm.

"We see ourselves as an extension of SMU especially considering Gary's foundational contributions here at Photodigm in our early years," said Bill Stuart, CEO of Photodigm. “This fellowship is designed to provide financial assistance to SMU’s best and brightest minds in addition to real-life application of what they’re learning in the classroom. It aligns our lab with their program, so they can continue their research and make discoveries of their own.”

The first recipient of this grant is Weida Zhang who is pursuing his PhD in Electrical Engineering at SMU with a student visa. A steering committee is also formed to provide mentorship and guidance led by his advisor, Dr. Jerome Butler who specializes in photonics and semiconductor devices as a Distinguished Professor at the Lyle School of Engineering, Dr. Gary Evans, and Photodigm’s Director of Engineering, Dr. Preston Young.

“We are very excited about the PhD fellowship provided by Photodigm and congratulate Weida as the inaugural fellowship recipient,” said Dean ad interim of Lyle School of Engineering, Paul Krueger. “Photodigm has been a strong and consistent supporter of the SMU Lyle School of Engineering and we thank them for their support. This is an excellent example of a corporate and university partnership to address a critical need in a key technology area.”

The field of photonics provides critical technology for defense, sensing, and biomedical applications and "Photodigm’s generous Photonics Scholarship accelerates the development of photonics devices and software tools at SMU and contributes to the supply of needed skilled personnel in the photonics community," said Dr. Gary Evans. Working in collaboration with SMU’s Office of Research and Graduate Studies, Photodigm will select future doctoral students pursuing an advanced degree in photonics or quantum computing.


For over 20 years Photodigm, Inc. has been the only 100% US-based semiconductor manufacturer of single spatial and longitudinal mode DBR (Distributed Bragg Reflector) laser diodes. DBR lasers are essential to quantum sensing and atomic clock manufacturers, optical metrology and sensing, and laser spectroscopy. Headquartered in Richardson, Texas, they design and produce fixed wavelength diode lasers best known for their accuracy and reliability. Learn more at


SMU is the nationally ranked global research university in the dynamic city of Dallas. SMU’s alumni, faculty and nearly 12,000 students in eight degree-granting schools demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit as they lead change in their professions, community and the world.


SMU’s Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering, founded in 1925, is one of the oldest engineering schools in the Southwest. The school offers eight undergraduate and 29 graduate programs, including master’s and doctoral degrees. The SMU Lyle School of Engineering is committed to developing the new American engineer, one prepared to excel and lead in creating new economic opportunities while meeting the most difficult challenges facing society.

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