From the Director

Tuan Vo-DinhWelcome to Duke University's Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics. The Institute is an interdisciplinary research and education effort focused on photonics: the science of light-matter interactions. Through this effort, Duke is establishing itself as a national “center of gravity” for photonics research. We're tapping into the breadth of faculty expertise and facilities of the Pratt School of Engineering, as well as Duke's Trinity College of Arts and Sciences and Medical School.

Photonics has been at the heart of the information technology revolution, and it can have similar impact in many critical areas such as medicine at the point-of-care, molecular manufacturing, national defense, and global health. Optical technology will lead to tools that can provide real time, non-invasive diagnostics. This could change the course of medicine in diagnosing early stages of disease because no tissue has to be removed and the diagnosis is made instantly.

I strongly believe in science and technology for a purpose. The most exciting times of my career have been when I was working in interdisciplinary groups where the breakthroughs achieved by these research teams extended beyond the realm of traditional individual disciplines, and that is why this position at Duke appealed to me.

Duke offers a tremendous platform of expertise to develop next-generation photonics technologies at the nexus of the nano-bio-info-opto convergence that could trigger the next technology revolution.

As Director, I plan to build on the Fitzpatrick Institute's established strengths of its faculty in biophotonics, nano/microsystems, optical materials and quantum information technology and continue to further extend research programs to new areas such as nanophotonics. One of the Institute goals is to emphasize translational research activities that put technology into the service of society.

I envision a range of integrated, rugged, low cost, miniaturized tools to meet the needs of healthcare providers working in the field under adverse environmental conditions. Such technology could include optical nanosensors capable of detecting molecular changes at the cellular level; optical biochip technology to make routine lab tests portable and cost effective; or quantum optics to make personalized medical information transmission safe and secure.

I invite you to join in the exciting work happening at the Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics.


Tuan Vo-Dinh, Director
R. Eugene and Susie E. Goodson Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Professor of Chemistry


Our Vision:

We are witnessing a very exciting period in the history of science because there is an epochal convergence of many revolutions of the 20th century, such as the quantum revolution, the technology revolution and the genomics revolution. Photonics has played a critical role by contributing key revolutionary and disruptive technologies.

Light influences our lives today in new ways that we could never have imagined just a decade ago. As we move into a new decade, light will play an even more significant role, triggering a revolution in global photonic communications, creating nanoscale biosensors to unveil the inner world of the human cell, developing cost-effective medical cures for global health, inventing new energy sources, and galvanizing human exploration at the frontiers of the universe.

Photonics is a critical enabling technology at the heart of this scientific convergence that will define research progress in the 21st century. This is an exciting time for scientists and engineers, whose efforts are critically needed to address the challenges of our time. With the increasing awareness of our planet’s limited resources, we are now entering a paradigm shift from a ‘development-driven’ society to a ‘sustainability-driven’ society. Scientists and engineers will have many opportunities to use their expertise in photonics, apply their innovativeness, and devote their energies to address these global challenges and contribute to a sustainable future.

We are confident that the highly interdisciplinary nature of the FIP faculty’s resources and expertise prepares us for the challenges of the next decade. We have entered a phase where the knowledge of individual elements is no longer sufficient but should be combined and integrated in order to attain knowledge at the next level, i.e., the multi-scale systems level where the information on organization, activity and function requires a much higher level of complexity and sophistication. This transition from a knowledge base of individual elements to a systems level is one of the major paradigm shifts of the 21st century, which can be achieved only by integrating multiple disciplines and domains of knowledge. In a broader context, education and research in the next decade will evolve into a framework to fit the new reality of our world, i.e., a world that will be faced with cross disciplinary, systems level, and global challenges.

We need to educate the next generation of innovators and leaders not only to solve scientific and technical problems but also to understand societal connections between various human activities, create bridges between elements spanning multiple disciplines, and ultimately build a better world.

Reaching beyond our current leadership in biophotonics, photonic materials and quantum optics, the FIP is pursuing new opportunities to focus the unique depth and breadth of its faculty’s expertise and resources on critical areas of national and global importance such as energy and sustainability. As we aim to achieve international leadership through research, education and technology transfer, we will focus on developing translational research and integrated education aimed at service to a global society.

With this vision of hope I invite you to visit our website at to learn more about our faculty, research programs, and activities.