Meet Dr. Heejoo Choi: The Innovator behind the 2022 Kevin P. Thompson Optical Design Award

Optical Solutions Editorial Team

Feb 07, 2023 / 2 min read

The Kevin P. Thompson Optical Design Innovator Award recognizes significant contributions to lens design, optical engineering, or metrology by an individual. The award was established in 2017 in memory of Kevin P. Thompson, who was known for leading breakthroughs in the understanding of the aberration fields of a new class of truly nonsymmetric optical systems using freeform optical surfaces. It is endowed by several supporters including Jannick Rolland and Synopsys.

We had the opportunity to interview Dr. Choi and learn about how he got interested in optics.  He is currently an assistant research professor at the James C. Wyant College of Optical Science, University of Arizona and an Optical Scientist at the Large Binocular Telescope.

Dr. Heejoo Choi performing a live demo

Q. How did you get interested in optics and what are you currently involved in?

A. When I was an undergraduate student, I visited the nonlinear optics lab. They showed me the visible wavelength conversion using a 1064 nm Nd:YAG laser. I believed that the laser color is determined by laser gain material, and it was mind-blowing to me that the nonlinear phenomena could generate a continued color variation laser. So, I started my optics path in the photonics field. After I received my Ph.D., I decided to go into the challenging, new field of optical engineering. I started my optical engineering career at Wyant College of Optical Science at the University of Arizona. Currently, I’m involved in various astronomical and industrial projects for optical systems and metrology system design.

Q. What does receiving this award mean to you?

A. As I said above, I have a relatively shorter career than others. I have always doubted if I’m doing well. There are already many solutions, especially in optical engineering, and my suggestions may not be the best in the sense of general optical engineering. The award actually calms these worries about my career and encourages me to do my best as I have been doing.

Q. What do you hope to do in the future?

A. I’m interested in raising the next generation. It could be teaching or outreach to encourage students to consider optics as their future. Through the teaching opportunities at the university, I’d like to help a student in an optics career that could contribute to the scientific community. Also, meeting and teaching students who could be smarter than me would be mutually beneficial.

Dr. Heejoo Choi, 2022 Kevin P. Thompson Optical Design Innovator Award Recipient

The Thompson Innovator Award was presented to Dr. Choi at the 2022 Frontiers in Optics in October 2022

Q. What other hobbies or fun activities do you like to do in your spare time?

A. I love camping with my family. In Arizona, the mountains are such a beautiful place for camping. We used to visit some mountain camping sites and love spending time on the summit during summer. The best part of camping is “reading books” without disrupting cellphones or email.


We celebrate Dr. Choi’s accomplishments and would like to thank him for the interview. Synopsys Optical Solutions wish him the best in his future endeavors.

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