Alan E. Willner

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Steven and Kathryn Sample Chair in Engineering and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering


  • Doctoral Degree, Electrical Engineering, Columbia University
  • Master's Degree, Electrical Engineering, Columbia University
  • Bachelor's Degree, Physics, Yeshiva University


Alan Willner received the Ph.D. (1988) in Electrical Engineering from Columbia University, as well as a B.A. (1982) in Physics and an Honorary Degree (Honoris Causa, 2012) from Yeshiva University. Prof. Willner was a Postdoctoral Member of the Technical Staff at AT&T Bell Laboratories and a Member of Technical Staff at Bellcore (later Telcordia). He is currently the Steven and Kathryn Sample Chaired Professor in Engineering in the Ming Hsieh Dept. of Electrical Engineering of the Viterbi School of Engineering at the Univ. of Southern California. Prof. Willner has been a Visiting Professor at Columbia University, the Univ. College London, and the Weizmann Institute of Science. He was a Member of the Defense Sciences Research Council (a 16-member body that provided reports to the DARPA Director and Office Directors), has served on many scientific advisory boards for small companies, and has advised several venture capital firms. Additionally, Prof. Willner was Founder and CTO of Phaethon Communications, a company whose technology was acquired by Teraxion, that created the ClearSpectrum® dispersion compensator product line which is presently deployed in many commercial 40-Gbit/s systems worldwide.

Prof. Willner's professional activities have included: Co-Chair of the U.S. National Academies Committee on the Optics and Photonics Study, President of the Optical Society (OSA), President of the IEEE Photonics Society (formerly LEOS), Co-Chair of the Science & Engineering Council of the OSA, Vice-President for Technical Affairs of the IEEE Photonics Society, Photonics Division Chair of OSA, Chair of the IEEE TAB Ethics and Member Conduct Committee, General & Program Co-Chair of the Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics (CLEO), Program Co-Chair of the OSA Annual Meeting, General Chair of the IEEE LEOS Annual Meeting, Program Chair of Telecommunications Engineering at SPIE's Photonics West, Chair of the Unclassified Technical Program for IEEE MILCOM, Elected Member of the Board of Governors for the IEEE Photonics Society, General Co-Chair of the IEEE Photonics Society Topical Meeting on Broadband Networks, Steering Committee and Technical Committee Member of the Conference on Optical Fiber Communications (OFC), and Member of the US Advisory Committee for Int'l Commission for Optics (activity of the National Academies, IEEE, OSA and SPIE).

Prof. Willner's editorial positions have included: Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE/OSA Journal of Lightwave Technology (JLT), Editor-in-Chief of OSA Optics Letters, Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics, Associate Editor of the IEEE Journal of Selected Areas in Communications Series on Optical Networks (now IEEE/OSA JOCN), Guest Editor of JLT and JSAC for the Joint Special Issue on Multiple-Wavelength Technologies & Networks, and Guest Editor of IEEE J. of Quantum Electronics Focus Issue on High-Capacity Optical Transmission Systems.

Prof. Willner has >1100 publications, including one book, 6 edited books, 30 U.S. patents, 22 keynotes/plenaries, 20 book chapters, 350 refereed journal papers, and 220 invited papers/presentations. His research is in optical technologies, including: communications, signal processing, networks, and fiber optics.

Research Summary

• Optical Communication Systems
• Optical Signal Processing
• Optical Switching and Networking
• Optical Devices and Subsystems
• Optical Sensing


  • 2013 IEEE 2014 IEEE Eric E. Sumner Award
  • 2012 John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship
  • 2012 USC USC Associates Award, University-Wide Creativity in Research
  • 2012 Yeshiva University Honorary Doctorate
  • 2012 American Assoc. for the Adancement of Science Fellow
  • 2011 IEEE IEEE Photonics Society Engineering Achievement Award
  • 2010 Society for Photo-Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) Fellow
  • 2010 International Fellow of the U.K. Royal Academy of Engineering
  • 2009 Optical Society of America OSA Robert Hopkins Leadership Award
  • 2006 Fellow - Semiconductor Research Corporation Fellow of Professional Society
  • 2004 Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers (IEEE) Fellow of Professional Society
  • 2003 IEEE Photonics Society Distinguished Service Award Service Award
  • 2003 USC Associates Award, University-Wide Excellence in Teaching Teaching Award
  • 2001 Best Contributed Technical Article, Eddy Award, Pennwell Publications Best Paper
  • 2000 IEEE Photonics Society Distinguished Lecturer Award Teaching Award
  • 1999 TRW USC School of Engineering Best Teacher Award Teaching Award
  • 1998 Fulbright Foundation Senior Scholar Fellowship Award (\'98) Fellow of Professional Society
  • 1997 Outstanding Teaching Award, Elec. Eng. Dept., USC Eng. School Teaching Award
  • 1996 Fellow of Optical Society of America (OSA)
  • 1994 Northrop USC Outstanding Junior Eng. Faculty Research Award Research Award
  • 1994 Presidential Faculty Fellows Award from the White House Research Awards
  • 1993 David & Lucile Packard Foundation Fellowship in Science & Eng.
  • 1992 NSF NSF Young Investigator Award (formerly the Presidential YI Award)
  • 1985 Armstrong Foundation Memorial Prize
  • - U.S. National Academy of Engineering Member
  • - U.S. Defense Security Science and Engineering Fellowship
  • - National Academy of Inventors Fellow
  • - SPIE President's Award
  • - Institution of Engineering & Technology (IET) J.J. Thomson Medal
  • - IEEE Globecom Best Paper Award
  • Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering - Systems

  • EEB 538
  • Hughes Aircraft Electrical Engineering Center
  • 3740 McClintock Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90089
  • USC Mail Code: 2565

Contact Information
  • (213) 740-4664


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