Thirty Years in the Idea Factory

Alice White, Professor, College of Engineering, Boston University

Friday, November 7, 2014, 3:30pm

Spanos Auditorium

This seminar is part of the Jones Seminars on Science, Technology, and Society series.

“The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation,” Jon Gertner’s wonderful history of the first ~60 years of Bell Labs, celebrates a number of the unique aspects of the Bell Labs culture that made working there such a memorable experience. I arrived in 1982, just before the consent decree broke AT&T apart, and, over the next 30 years, was witness to the changes that led people to declare, somewhat prematurely, that “Bell Labs is dead.” Drawing examples from my own experience, I’ll describe some of the values that formed the essence of Bell Labs and, hopefully, spark a discussion about the gap left by the decline of the large corporate research labs.

About the Speaker

Alice White recently joined the College of Engineering of Boston University from Bell Labs, where she had been Chief Scientist. In that role, she was responsible for the long-term research strategy, university partnerships, and the Bell Labs Technical Journal, as well as maintaining technical excellence through technology- and science-recognition programs. She has a Ph.D. in physics from Harvard University and a broad technical background in experimental solid-state physics and fabrication of optical components. Since 1989, she has held various leadership positions at Bell Labs including Director of Materials Physics Research, Director of Integrated Photonics Research, VP of the Physical Technologies Research Center, and location leader for Bell Labs North America. In 1991, she received the Maria Goeppert-Mayer Award of the American Physical Society for her work on compound formation using ion implantation. She was named a Bell Labs Fellow in 2001 for her work in “developing and applying novel integrated photonic device technologies in advanced optical networks.” With over 125 publications and 5 patents, she is a fellow of the American Physical Society, the IEEE Photonics Society, and the Optical Society of America.

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