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The University of Southampton

Southampton engineer wins national accolade

Published: 19 September 2023
Head and shoulders of man
Professor Graham Reed

An international pioneer in silicon photonics, from the University of Southampton, has been awarded a top medal from the Royal Society of Engineering.

Professor Graham Reed is this year’s recipient of the society’s Sir Frank Whittle Medal, named after the pioneer of the jet engine. This medal is awarded to a UK-based engineer who has made a profound impact on their engineering discipline.

Professor Reed’s expertise is in silicon photonics, which impacts every aspect of modern life, from communications to computing, healthcare to imaging, securing and environmental monitoring. Silicon photonics is a technology that uses silicon-based integrated circuits to generate, manipulate and transmit light signals for high-speed data communication and optical computing.

Since founding his groundbreaking Silicon Photonics Group in 1989, Professor Reed has been at the forefront of the field for more than 30 years. He initially proved that the basic technology was viable by demonstrating some of the first silicon modulators.

He is known for his work on silicon optical modulators, and the technology he developed is now industry standard. He is now working on future potential for the technology, such as miniature optical sensors for healthcare and environmental monitoring; silicon photonics for space and AI; and photonics for computing.

Professor Reed said: “I’m delighted and humbled to receive the Sir Frank Whittle Medal. This medal is recognition for a contribution to engineering over a sustained period, and I must say that this is only possible with an excellent team. Therefore, I must pay tribute to members of my Silicon Photonics Group past and present. I have been fortunate to be able to recruit excellent individuals over a period of more than 30 years, many of whom are now world leaders themselves.”

Supporting his nomination, Professor Sir David Payne, until recently the Director of the Optoelectronics Research Centre at the university of Southampton, said: “Graham is that rare combination of a top-class scientist and an inspiring and enthusiastic leader driving the world silicon photonics community, constantly striving for excellence in all his professional undertakings and to achieve impact via industrial take up of his developments.”

Receiving the Sir Frank Whittle Medal follows Professor Reed being awarded the SPIE Gold Medal, the highest honour from SPIE (the international society for optics and photonics), in January 2023.

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