Eustace Dereniak

  • BS Electrical Engineering 1963
  • BS Civil Engineering 1963

Eustace L. Dereniak BS Electrical and Computer Engineering 1963

For nearly five decades, Eustace L. Dereniak has explored the frontiers of optics and engineering to help create 21st century breakthroughs in medicine, military hardware, astronomy and many other fields.

Dereniak, a 1963 Electrical and Computer Engineering graduate of Michigan Tech, became president of SPIE, the world’s largest professional organization dedicated to optics and photonics, in January 2012. He has been a professor in the University of Arizona’s College of Optical Sciences since 1979, and is also a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering.

“The 21st century will be the Photon Century, just as the 20th century was the Century of the Electron,” Dereniak said. “The photon is three orders of magnitude faster than the electron, and by harnessing it we are working at the speed of light.”

In his labs at the UA, Dereniak’s team advances the techniques for capturing information at long distances to identify an object from the spectra of light on its surface. He also studies ways to use photonics to uncover information about objects using the polarity of photons on their surface.

Dereniak began his study of optics and engineering at the Michigan Technological University, and continued to his M.S. in electrical engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and his Ph.D. in optical sciences at the University of Arizona.

During the Cold War era, he worked at the Willow Run Laboratories of the Michigan Institute of Science and Technology on ways to use infrared technology to detect the electro-magnetic signatures of vehicles re-entering our atmosphere from space.

Dereniak worked at Rockwell International in Anaheim, California, on optical systems including cryogenically cooled space-borne telescopes from 1965 to 1972. He worked next at Ball Brothers Research Corporation, in Boulder, Colorado, helping build instruments for weather satellites, again using infrared systems in space.

As a professor at the University of Arizona, he developed infrared systems and detectors, and later studied geometrical optics and the silicon-based infrared detectors that play a key role in cryogenic (super-cooled) telescopes.

In the Star Wars era of the 1980s, Dereniak helped develop infrared systems to monitor weapons using spectrometry.

Dereniak has been author or coauthor of five books and nearly 100 articles in research journals on topics ranging from infrared detection to geometrical optics. He has supervised 28 doctoral students and 34 students at the master’s level.

In 2010, the Optical Society (OSA) gave him its Esther Hoffman Beller Medal for outstanding contributions to science and engineering education.  He recently received the U.S. Army Commander’s Award for outstanding contributions to the Department of Physics at West Point, and in 2006 received the College of Optical Science’s Award of Distinction for Undergraduate Teaching.


From a University of Arizona, University Communications news release December 13, 2011

Photo credit: © Margy Green  January 2012

From 2000 Induction to the Department of Electrical Engineering Academy