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Hugo Thienpont wins prestigious SPIE Gold Medal


B-PHOT Brussels Photonics research director Hugo Thienpont has been awarded the 2021 SPIE Gold Medal by the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE). The award is a recognition of his pioneering vision for photonics and the profound and durable impact on society.

Each year, SPIE presents awards to outstanding scientists in optics and photonics, including Nobel laureates, whose research in light and lighting technology has improved society in a sustainable way. Since 1977, SPIE Awards Program has honoured the best in optics and photonics for their significant achievements and contributions in advancing the science of light. The Gold Medal Award is considered one of the highest honours in the field of photonics and optical engineering. The medal and the including $10,000 cash award will be presented to Thienpont during the SPIE Optics & Photonics 2021, in the United States this summer.

"Being recognized with the Gold Medal of SPIE is an immense honour”, professor Thienpont responds. “The great news came as a complete surprise to me. I particularly value this amazing award because it is first and foremost a spontaneous and genuine appreciation from my international colleagues from all over the world."

Durable impact

"The different disruptive instruments Thienpont developed and implemented during the past decades have generated a tangible impact on education, research, innovation and societal well-being in Flanders, Europe, and beyond”, SPIE states on their website. "Thienpont was one of the first researchers in Europe to recognize the potential impact of the science and technology of light. As such, he was one of the first to actively promote photonics as both a new research and engineering discipline and a key enabling technology.”

“Many of his scientific results are utilized across industry via medical endoscopes, augmented and virtual-reality goggles, head-up displays, microscopy, space telescopes, and micro-satellites. Thienponts accomplishments include the creation of the VUB Brussels Photonics research team B-PHOT; pioneering and implementing a photonics-engineering curriculum in Europe; creating Photonics4Life, and the pan-European research-and-innovation-focused Network of Excellence on Micro-Optics (NEMO); founding the SPIE Photonics Europe; co-creating and developing Photonics21 and PhotonHub Europe; and co-founding UNESCO's International Year of Light (IYL) and International Day of Light (IDL)."

Since 1994, Thienpont has been a member of multiple committees at SPIE, and he had an active hand in creating the earliest iterations of SPIE Photonics Europe. An SPIE Fellow Member since 2006, he was the recipient of 2005 SPIE President's Award and serves as an advisor to the SPIE Student Chapter at VUB.

All-encompassing commitment

"By any measure, Professor Thienpont is one of the world's most distinguished scientists", says John Dudley, professor of physics at the Université Bourgogne-Franche Comté who worked with Thienpont on the UNESCO IYL and IDL programs. "For more than three decades he has been one of the international leaders in his field. He has developed and pioneered world-leading infrastructures and collaborative initiatives; he has supported the creation of new companies and start-ups; and he has worked in science communication and outreach from grassroots to policy. His all-encompassing commitment has generated a coordinated photonics community within Europe, while his own research has always placed the needs of society at its heart, attested to by the very structure of his research institute at VUB and its links to local and regional societal needs."

Source: spie.org

Prof Hugo Thienpont B PHOT Saskia Vanderstichele