Elsa garmire

Elsa Garmire

Sydney E. Junkins 1887 Professor of Engineering, Emerita

Research Interests

Non-linear optics; integrated optics and semiconductor photonic devices; lasers; electro-optics; fiber optics


  • AB, Physics, Harvard University 1961
  • PhD, Physics, MIT 1965


  • National Academy of Inventors® (NAI) Charter Fellow (2014)
  • National Associate of the National Academies (2004)
  • Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1996)
  • Fellow, American Physical Society (1994)
  • Life Member, National Academy of Engineering (1989)
  • Fellow and Life Member, Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers (1980)
  • Fellow. Optical Society of America (1981)
  • Achievement Award and Fellow, Society of Women Engineers (1994)

Professional Activities

  • President, Optical Society of America 1995
  • Presidential Medal of Science Selection Committee 1996-1998
  • Councillor, National Academy of Engineering 2002-2008
  • Chair, National Academy Committee to Assess Technological Literacy 2002-2006
  • Councilor at Large, American Physical Society 1995-1997
  • Councillor, IEEE Lasers and Electro-optics Society 1984-1987
  • Director-at-Large, Optical Society of America 1983-1986
  • Distinguished Visiting Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, U. C. Berkeley 1999-2000
  • Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, 1985-1989
  • Harvard University Division of Engineering and Applied Physics Visiting Committee 1989-1995


  • Thayer School faculty since 1995
  • Dean, Thayer School of Engineering 1995-1997
  • William Hogue Professor of Electrical Engineering; Professor of Physics; and Director, Center for Laser Studies: University of Southern California 1975-1995
  • Consultant, The Aerospace Corporation 1975-1992
  • Visiting Scientist, Thomson CSF, France 1974
  • Visiting Scientist, ITT Standard Telecom Labs 1973-1974
  • Senior Research Fellow, Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics, California Institute of Technology 1966-1973

Research Projects

  • Femtosecond pulses

    Femtosecond pulses

    Femtosecond pulses being transmitted through water has recently shown that these pulses sustain much less loss than longer pulses, particularly at long distances. Femtosecond pulses are used to create terahertz radiation, whose transmission through a variety of media is being investigated.

  • Electronic instrumentation

    Electronic instrumentation

    Electronic instrumentation research includes development of a new type of non-contact optical sensor of vibration and other motion. New designs for free space optical communications are under study, both for transmission through the atmosphere and through water. Active and passive waveguides are needed for optical signal processing, telecommunications, optical data storage, and other applications. Fiber optics devices such as tunable filters and fiber lasers are being designed and built.

  • Nonlinear optical studies

    Nonlinear optical studies

    Nonlinear optical studies investigate second- and third-order nonlinear effects in optical glass fibers, thin films, and semiconductor structures. A novel project is ultrafast pulse shaping of wavelets for high bandwidth fiber-optic free-space systems. Nonlinear devices are being investigated for high-speed image processing and for time-to-wavelength conversion for communication systems.

  • Semiconductor devices and opto-electronics

    Semiconductor devices and opto-electronics

    Semiconductor devices and opto-electronics research has several components. Studies of carrier transport through quantum wells, using picosecond optical pulses, demonstrate the importance of hole motion. Improved materials for trapping photo-induced carriers are being explored, and improved non-linear optical semiconductor devices are being designed and tested.

Selected Publications

  • "Optical vibration detection with a photoconductance monitoring array," (P. Heinz and E. Garmire) Applied Physics Letters 84 (16): 3196-3198 APR 19 2004
  • "Speed enhancement in a photorefractive multiple quantum well modulator by pulsed illumination," (A. K. Abeeluck, P. Heinz and E. Garmire) Appl. Phys. Lett. 79, (3), pp. 311-313 (2001).
  • "Resonant optical nonlinearities in semiconductors," (E. Garmire) IEEE J. Sel. Top. Quantum Electron 6 (#6), pp. 1094-1110 (2000). INVITED REVIEW PAPER, in the "Millennium Issue"
  • "Wavelength dependence of combined local and carrier transport optical nonlinearities in a hetero n-i-p-i structure" (A. R. Kost, M. H. Jupina, T. C. Hasenberg and E. M. Garmire) J. of Appl. Phys. 99 (2): Art. No. 023501 Jan. 15, 2006
  • "Design and measurement of a multiple quantum well nipi wavguide modulator for optoelectronic integrated circuits" S.D. Koehler, E.M. Garmire, A.R. Kost, D. Yap, E.P. Docter, T.C. Hasenberg, IEEE J. Quantum Electron 32, 1029-1038 (1996).