The founding director of UCF CREOL Townes Laser Institute, Martin Richardson, Ph.D, was recently named a fellow in the National Academy of Inventors in recognition of his innovative work in the field of optics.
An expert in lasers and their accompanying applications, Richardson has patented over 31 inventions in his time as a physicist.
“There were a set of patents that my colleagues and I had filed in the 90s focusing on special light sources created by lasers,” said Richardson. “This happened to be UCF’s hundredth published patent. Now this number exceeds well over a thousand. It is wonderful to see how the institution has grown and continues to do so.”
Richardson’s fascination with lasers traces back to his time as an undergraduate at the Imperial College of London in 1964. His passion for the science behind high-powered laser light beams is what inspired him to pursue a Ph.D. in its applications after graduating with a degree in physics.
“My Ph.D advisor, who spent his summers as a visiting professor at MIT with the inventor of the laser principle, 1964 Nobel Laureate Charles Townes, had arranged for me to be a part of a small research team located at a government laboratory focusing on the development of nuclear fusion,” said Richardson. “I was looking at how lasers could be applied in these developments. It was the beginning of my research endeavors.”
Richardson spent part of his early career working for the Canadian government: the time in his life in which he developed his first patent. “My colleagues and I had written a set of patents about a new type of gas laser. The government licensed the patent to a small, growing Canadian company, then called Lumonics, that is now one of the most well-known laser companies . It was incredible to have my first patents become a profitable entity because it’s not too often that that happens. Maybe two or three in every 100 patents will become of use,” said Richardson.
Since joining UCF in the 1990s and founding the Townes Laser Institute, Richardson has become a Pegasus Professor and University Trustee Chair. He continues to innovate his field with colleagues and students at the UCF CREOL Laser Plasma Laboratory. He recently helped form the new Center for Directed Energy Systems, Science & Technology at UCF, which is devoted to the development of laser-based directed energy applications in manufacturing, communications, defense and security and space.
“This school is a place where if you bring ideas and a plan to developing them, you are recognized and heard. This environment encourages folks, like myself, to patent new ideas in the name of science and the university, while giving us the drive to continue coming up with more ideas. UCF is a university where innovation is in its DNA,” said Richardson.