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Professor Bill Colson

Biographical Sketch of Bill Colson, Distinguished Professor of Physics (Emeritus)

Bill began his professional career in 1966 at Bendix Research Laboratory in Michigan, working on the development of newly-invented technologies, including electron/photon detectors, and night vision goggles. In 1972, he was awarded the Bendix Corporation Graduate Fellowship to attend Stanford University, where in 1977 he received a PhD in Physics. After graduation, Bill held positions at the Center for Space Physics at Rice University, the Quantum Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Berkeley Research Associates. In 1989, Bill became Professor of Physics at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA, combining teaching and research while a thesis advisor to 86 Masters and 7 PhD Students.

Bill's research as a PhD student centered on the theory and simulation of the free-electron laser, just invented and being built for the first time. Prominent physicists doubted that a laser using only “free electrons” could work, since conventional lasers, developed a decade earlier, all used electrons bound in atoms. It did work, but how did it work? Theoretical concepts and simulation methods developed in Bill’s thesis answered these questions and were quickly adapted by national laboratories, universities, and industries around the world, leading to billion-dollar facilities and the world’s first x-ray laser, a quest of science for many decades.

Bill has been the principal investigator on more than 80 research contracts, published more than 160 research papers, holds 5 patents, and has given more than 100 invited lectures in the U.S., Asia, and Europe. He was a Guest Editor for IEEE Journal of Quantum Electronics and a Co-Editor of the "Free Electron Laser Handbook". He has been a visiting scientist at national laboratories and universities around the world and a member of review panels for the National Academy of Science, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, the Office of Naval Research, NASA, and the Department of Energy.

In 1989, Bill received the International Free-Electron Laser Prize from the IEEE Laser and Electro-Optic Society, and is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1999, Bill became Distinguished Physics Professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, and upon retirement in 2015, was awarded the U.S. Navy Superior Civilian Service Medal. Currently, activities have expanded, including hiking and drinking beer with poets.

My Speakers Sessions

Saturday, May 6

2:00pm EDT