The George H. Heilmeier Faculty Award for Excellence in Research

The George H. Heilmeier Faculty Award for Excellence in Research was established by Penn Engineering for the purpose of recognizing excellence in scholarly activities of the faculty. Named in honor of George H. Heilmeier, it recognizes his extraordinary research career, his leadership in technical innovation and public service, and his loyal and steadfast support of Penn Engineering.

2021-2022 Heilmeier Award and Lecture

Ritesh Agarwal

“Utilizing Quantum Geometry and Topology for Enabling Integrated Chiral Photonics”

Ritesh Agarwal

Professor, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Penn Engineering

Tuesday, October 4, 2022
3:30 – 4:30 p.m.

Wu and Chen Auditorium (Room 101)
Levine Hall

Reception to follow in the Levine Lobby

Note: This lecture will be presented in an in-person format only and a recording will be made available following the event.


Classical and quantum computing devices need to ferry vast amounts of data, and optical interconnects provide a promising approach allowing faster speeds and larger bandwidths. Critical interconnect components are light sources, waveguides and detectors. Currently, the information is encoded in intensity and frequency but other degrees of freedom (DOFs) such as photon spin and spatial orbital angular momentum modes (OAM) should be utilized to enhance the capacity of optical links. Therefore, new photonic materials and devices that can produce, transmit and detect light with complex polarization and spatial modes are needed. This is non-trivial as most materials are insensitive to chiral light. In this talk, Dr. Agarwal will discuss recent developments towards the development of on-chip lasers, waveguides and photodetectors that are sensitive to photon spin and OAM modes. By protecting or breaking certain symmetries and utilizing the quantum geometry of the engineered system, new devices will be discussed that can enable the development of integrated chiral photonic systems.


Ritesh Agarwal is a professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Pennsylvania. He obtained a B.S./M.S. from the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, an M.S. from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard. His research interests include investigating structural, optical and electronic properties of low-dimensional systems and the development of new probes to study complex phases of matter. Recently, his group has focused on studying the role of quantum geometry and topology in electronic and optical systems and to engineer light-matter interactions to fabricate on-chip chiral photonic devices. Dr. Agarwal is the recipient of the NSF CAREER, the NIH Director’s New Innovator and the SPIE Nanoengineering Pioneer Awards. He was elected a Fellow of the Optical Society of America in 2020.

View this event in the Penn Engineering Calendar.

Past Recipients

2020-21: not awarded due to the COVID-19 pandemic

2019-20: Dan Roth – For “pioneering work using natural language text to extract facts, narratives and translations” (a recording of this lecture can be viewed here).

2018-19:  Vivek B. Shenoy – For “pioneering multiscale models of nanomaterials and biological symptoms”

2017-18: Jason A. Burdick – For “pioneering developments in polymers for applications in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine.”

2016-17: Daniel Koditschek – For “pioneering contributions in robot motion planning and legged locomotion.”

2015-16: Shu Yang– For “pioneering the synthesis and fabrication of responsive nano- and micro-structured soft materials.”

2014-15: George Pappas– For “fundamental contributions to embedded, hybrid and networked control systems.”

2013-14: John M. Vohs – For “major impact in the fields of surface science and catalysis, especially the surface science of metal oxides.”

2012-13: Vijay Kumar – For “pioneering contributions to the science and technology of cooperative robotics.”

2011-12: Karen I. Winey – For “innovative methods in the fabrication and processing of polymer-based nanotube composites.”

2010-11: Christopher S. Chen – For “fundamental contributions in the study and design of cellular microenvironments.”

2009-10: Rajeev Alur – For “fundamental contributions in software verification for real-time systems.”

2008-09: Scott Diamond – For “discoveries and innovations in high throughput screening and micro-array technology.”

2007-08: Nader Engheta – For “research contributions on nano-optics and related metamaterials.”

2006-07: Pedro Ponte-Castañeda – For “homogenization theory for estimating effective mechanical behavior of nonlinear, heterogeneous materials.”

2005-06: Dawn A. Bonnell – For “significant contributions in Nanolithography and nanostructure assembly.”

2004-05: Michael Kearns – For “significant contributions in new algorithmic ideas in game theory and machine learning.”

2003-04:  Dennis E. Discher and Daniel A. Hammer – For “research contributions in the discovery and characterization of polymersomes.”

2002-03:  David E. Luzzi – For “research in carbon nanotubes and ‘peapods’.”

2001-02:  Raymond J. Gorte – For “research discoveries in solid oxide fuel cells.”

George H. Heilmeier (EE’58)

George HeilmeierDr. George H. Heilmeier was Chairman Emeritus of Telcordia Technologies, formerly Bellcore, a leading provider of communications software and professional services. Prior to his retirement in November 1997, he was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. He also served as Senior Vice President and Chief Technical Officer of Texas Instruments, Inc., Director of DARPA and Head of Solid State Device Research at RCA. Dr. Heilmeier received international recognition for his discovery of several new electro-optic effects in liquid crystals leading to the development of the first liquid crystal displays for watches, calculators, and instrumentation, and he held 15 patents.

Dr. Heilmeier received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 1958 and M.A., M.S.E., and Ph.D. degrees in solid-state electronics from Princeton University. He is known for his operational, technical and strategic leadership in transforming new technologies into market driven successes. Throughout his distinguished career, Dr. Heilmeier received numerous awards, including the Department of Defense Distinguished Civilian Service Medal, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Founders Medal, the National Academy of Engineering’s highest honor the Founders Award, the Japan Prize in Computers and Communications, the Industrial Research Institute Medal, and the National Medal of Science, among others. In 2002, he received the Pioneer of Stealth Award for “Visionary Leadership and Trailblazing Contributions of Enduring National Significance in the Development of Low Observable Aircraft.”

Dr. Heilmeier served as a White House Fellow, and was a Life Fellow of the IEEE and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was a member of the Defense Science Board, and the National Security Agency Advisory Board. He served on the Boards of Directors of TRW, the MITRE Corporation, INET Technologies Inc., Teletech Holdings, and Automatic Data Processing (ADP) Corporation. He was also a member of the National Academy of Engineering and Chairman of the General Motors Technology Advisory Board. Dr. Heilmeier’s leadership in telecommunications and technology management was also recognized through honorary doctorate degrees from Stevens Institute and the Israeli Institute of Technology (the Technion).

Dr. Heilmeier passed away on April 22, 2014.