Vincent W. S. Chan

IEEE Edison Medal

Sponsored by Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.

For pioneering technical contributions and leadership in the fields of space and terrestrial optical communications and networks

Vincent Chan has made seminal contributions to space-based and terrestrial fiber-optic Communications and networks. He is a leading pioneer in the development of laser communication systems in space and the integration of satellites and high-speed optics into the backbone of the internet. Starting from scratch in 1980, Chan created and led what was, and remains, the world’s foremost R&D Lasercom group. He made numerous pioneering advances to Lasercom over several decades and was the key figure in transforming space Lasercom from an idea to a reality. Lasercom systems now play a critical role within the U.S. Department of Defense and intelligence agencies, and they are increasingly used in commercial satellite systems and deep space communication. By the 1980s, the US government had spent over a billion dollars in repeated attempts to prove the viability of Lasercom, but all those efforts failed. Chan identified the crucial attributes essential for a space laser communication system, attributes that had largely eluded previous efforts. Today, Lasercom is being rapidly deployed, with high-profile examples including SpaceX’s Starlink, AWS’s Kuiper, NASA’s Psyche mission, and the European Space Agency’s Space Data Highway. Chan also made sustained and pioneering contributions to the field of fiber optical communication and optical networking. Some of his most notable contributions in this area included advances in coherent transmission transceivers for fiber optical networks. The coherent transceivers that were developed by Chan offered fast and agile wavelength tuning, better spectral efficiency, high sensitivity, and more. These coherent receivers are used around the world in all high speed fiber optical links and nearly every text message, email, telephone call, video conference, and file transfer that traverses any distance goes over this technology. 
An IEEE Life Fellow, Chan is the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Media Coverage