Robert R. Alfano

Professor of Science & Engineering

Robert R. Alfano, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Science and Engineering at City College and Graduate School, City University of New York, is a pioneer in the application of light and photonics technology to the study of ultrafast laser spectroscopy and biomedical systems. He is also a leading inventor of novel light sources.

His achievements include the discovery of the ultrafast supercontinuum light source (white-light continuum), first time-resolved measurement of optical phonon lifetime in a calcite crystal, invention of tetravalent chromium-based tunable solid-state lasers, and development of optical biomedical imaging and spectroscopic diagnostic techniques. Alfano's innovative application of fluorescence, excitation, and Raman spectroscopic techniques for distinguishing between normal and cancerous tissues and between benign and normal tumors opened up the field of optical biopsy. His seminal contributions in fundamentals of light propagation in turbid media led to the development of different gating techniques for sorting out image bearing photons for direct imaging of structures within biological tissues.

Alfano has published over 600 articles in refereed journals and holds 84 patents. He began his professional career as a research physicist at GTE Research Labs in Bayside, N.Y. in 1964. He joined City College of New York in 1972 as an associate professor, and continued to work for GTE as a visiting scientist until 1974. That same year, Alfano was named director of the university's Picosecond Laser and Spectroscopy Lab, and four years later, CUNY named him a full professor of physics. In 1983, he was promoted to Herbert Kayser Professor of Electrical Engineering, a position he held until 1987, when he was named a distinguished professor.

Alfano has served as director of the Institute for Ultrafast Spectroscopy and Lasers since 1982 and director of the New York State Center for Advanced Technology in Ultrafast Photonics since 1993.

Four organizations have named Alfano a Fellow: IEEE, the Optical Society of America, the American Physical Society, and the A.P. Sloan Foundation. Other recognitions include the Coherent Lifetime Achievement Award in Biophotonics, the Leonardo DaVinci Award, the Outstanding Italian-American Award for Science, and the Research Corporation Award. Just this year he also won the The Optical Society of America's Charles Hard Townes Award.