Pioneer of the Year

John Bowers

Award Sponsor: Union Bank

Dr. Bowers received his master’s degree and doctorate in physics from Stanford University and worked for AT&T Bell Laboratories and Honeywell before joining the faculty at UC Santa Barbara in 1987. Since then, Dr. Bowers has become a world-leading researcher in the areas of silicon photonics, optoelectronics, energy efficiency, and the development of novel low-power optoelectronic devices. His research interests include silicon photonics and integrated circuits, fiber optic networks, thermoelectrics, high-efficiency solar cells, and optical switching. He holds the Fred Kavli Chair in Nanotechnology, is director of the Institute for Energy Efficiency, and is a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Dr. Bowers has had a hand in shaping our local technology landscape as well. He cofounded and served as chief technology officer of Goleta’s Calient Networks, specialists in photonic switching systems and software, and cofounded Aurrion, a local optoelectronics company that was bought by Juniper Networks. He is Chairman of the Board of PowWow Energy and was on the board of the Santa Barbara-based healthcare technology firm BioIQ. In the 1990s, he also co-founded Terabit Technology, since acquired by Ciena Corporation.

Dr. Bowers is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a fellow of the IEEE, OSA, and the American Physical Society, and is a recipient of the OSA Holonyak Prize, the IEEE LEOS William Streifer Award, and the South Coast Business and Technology Entrepreneur of the Year Award. He and coworkers received the ACE Award for Most Promising Technology for a hybrid silicon laser in 2007. He has received 56 patents and has published eight book chapters, 600 journal papers, and over 1000 conference papers.

In 2010, after a trip to Ghana, where he noticed that students were unprepared for education because of a lack of safe, affordable, and reliable lights, Dr. Bowers helped co-found the nonprofit organization Unite to Light. Its aim is to provide students in rural areas with the ability to spend more time studying and to replace the kerosene lamps and candles that cause financial and health issues. He still serves as Unite to Light’s Board Chair. The nonprofit organization is making an impact in over 70 countries and recently celebrated an important milestone: the distribution of its 100,000th solar light!