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Retiring Faculty Reflect on Dartmouth and Future Plans

Jun 14, 2024   |   Dartmouth News

Along with the 2,000 or so students who received degrees at Commencement, nine tenured faculty members across Dartmouth are also entering a new chapter in their lives, including Professor of Engineering Ulf Österberg.

(Photo courtesy of Ulf Österberg)

Österberg was hired by Dartmouth and Thayer in 1989 to teach and do research in the field of electro-optics, aka photonics. His research was focused on nonlinear effects occurring in the glass used in optical telecommunications fibers. With the help of a National Science Foundation PYI award, the research changed into signal processing inside fibers—work that was done in close collaboration with the math department.

The same optical fibers were also used to support the research of the medical imaging group at Thayer.

"What all of the research had in common was the difficulty in sending electromagnetic waves through media that was both absorbing and scattering. This problem has been part of my research for most of my career," Österberg says.

After receiving tenure, Österberg was asked to take on more administrative duties, and in the late 1990s he was heavily involved with student life.

Throughout his academic career, Österberg put a lot of effort into teaching. When he left Dartmouth in 2009 to go to the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, he took that as an opportunity to learn more about teaching pedagogy.

When he returned to Dartmouth in 2018 he used this knowledge to try to improve the teaching of the mandatory systems classes that are part of the engineering core curriculum.

"If I were to give any advice to young faculty," he says, "it would be to put less material into their courses and focus more on a few basic facts."

At a recent retirement lunch for Österberg, Engineering Dean Alexis Abramson congratulated him on a "long, deeply impactful career."

"When he returned to Thayer in 2019, he quickly rediscovered his love of teaching and advising students at Dartmouth. And during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, he brought his patience and good nature to his classes on Zoom and shared many laughs with new colleagues," she said.

Österberg plans to spend most of his retirement getting back into playing classical guitar and working on a book project.

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