Donald R. Scifres

Donald R. Scifres
Donald R. Scifres
Global business and technology visionary whose achievements in semiconductor laser research and commercialization revolutionized the optical communications and materials processing industry.

Universally known for his achievements in semiconductor laser research and development, Donald R. Scifres is a laser physics business and technology visionary, helping launch a revolution in the optical communications industry.

Scifres, who earned M.S. (1970) and Ph.D. (1972) degrees from Illinois, holds more than 140 patents and has published more than 300 articles and book contributions, including significant papers on molecular beam epitaxy and diode laser arrays. His founding contributions to distributed feedback lasers, high power diode arrays, and vertical cavity surface emitting lasers have consistently delivered sophisticated devices into the market.

Scifres began his career at Xerox Corporation in 1972, were he teamed with R.D. Burnham in establishing a new laboratory for the study of semiconductor lasers and light-emitting diodes and pioneering various forms of semiconductor lasers, notably distributed feedback lasers, laser arrays, phase-locked lasers and ultrahigh-power lasers. There, he held positions as Manager of Optoelectronics and as a Xerox Research Fellow.

In 1983, he co-founded Spectra Diode Laboratories, Inc. (SDL), one of the fastest growing companies in the fiber optics and optoelectronics industries in the United States and manufacturer of the world’s highest power semiconductor lasers. In 2001, Scifres oversaw the largest technology merger to that time, joining SDL—which had grown to $500 million in sales with eight locations and 2,000 employees worldwide—with JDS Uniphase Corporation, where he served as Co-Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer of until his retirement in 2003. He has since founded, and is the current Chairman of SDL Ventures, LLC and SDL Capital, LP investment companies in Los Altos, Calif.

Scifres is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the IEEE and Optical Society of America. He is a past president of the IEEE Lasers Electro-Optics Society (LEOS). He has been a director of the Optical Society of America (OSA) and present and director of the Lasers and Electro-Optics Manufacturers Association (LEOMA). He has been awarded the IEEE Jack Morton Medal, the IEEE Robert Noyce Medal, the IEEE Third Millennium Medal, the IEEE John Tyndal Award and the IEE LEOS Award for Engineering Excellence. He also received the Optical Society of America Edward H. Land Medal, the American Physical Society George E. Pake Prize, The Rank Prize from the Rank Foundation, and the Eminent Member Award from Eta Kappa Nu National Honor Society.

A native of Indiana with a BSEE degree from Purdue University, Scifres is an active investor in both public and private companies and serves on the board of directors of several non-public companies.


  • BS Purdue, 1968
  • MS Electrical Engineering, 1970
  • PhD Electrical Engineering, 1972