Published: March 1, 2023 By

Scott Diddams

Scott Diddams

Professor Scott Diddams has been selected for the 2023 C.E.K. Mees Medal from Optica (formerly OSA) for his pioneering innovations leading to the wide-ranging application of optical frequency combs to ultrafast lasers, optical clocks, spectroscopy, microwave synthesis, and astronomy. 

The medal was established in memory of C.E.K. Mees, who contributed preeminently to the development of scientific photography. The Mees family endowed the medal to recognize achievements that exemplify the thought that "optics transcends all boundaries." It has been presented annually since 1962 by Optica – the society dedicated to promoting the generation, application, archiving and dissemination of knowledge in the field. 

The award is one of several given by Optica – the world’s largest professional society focused on optical sciences with about 22,000 members. Previous Mees award recipients include Nobel Prize winners and many other leaders in the field.

“I am honored to receive this award and I am very appreciative of the many students and colleagues who I have worked with over the years,” Diddams said. “The award is equally a recognition of their contributions to this field of research. When we built the first frequency comb at JILA in 1999, we had no idea of the breadth of applications it would enable and the many different fields it could impact. It continues to be exciting to see the new discoveries and innovations.”

Diddams holds the Robert H. Davis Endowed Chair at CU Boulder where he is a professor of electrical, computer and energy engineering as well as physics. He received his PhD from the University of New Mexico in 1996 and did postdoctoral work at JILA, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the CU Boulder before becoming a research physicist, group leader, and fellow at NIST. In 2022 he transitioned to his present position where he also assumed the role of faculty director of the Quantum Engineering Initiative in the College of Engineering and Applied Science. 

As a postdoc Diddams built the first optical frequency combs in the lab of Nobel laureate John Hall and throughout his career has pioneered the use of these powerful tools for optical clocks, tests of fundamental physics, novel spectroscopy, and astronomy. His research has been documented in more than 750 peer-reviewed publications, conference papers, and invited talks. His other awards include the Distinguished Presidential Rank Award, the Department of Commerce Gold and Silver Medals for "revolutionizing the way frequency is measured,” as well as the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering (PECASE), the IEEE Photonics Society Laser Instrumentation Award, and the IEEE Rabi award. He is a Fellow of Optica and the American Physical Society, and a Senior Member of IEEE.