Since the first demonstration of practical LEDs and semiconductor lasers, the advancement of photonics has been paced by advancements in materials technologies. The early demonstration of ultrathin layers and heterojunctions between materials enabled unexpected new physics, device design ideas and performance improvements that have allowed photonic device technologies to advance dramatically. This, in turn, has made major impacts on many areas of our daily life. Solid state lighting, optical communications and interconnection, industrial laser processing, man-machine interfaces, laser printing, and point of sale equipment are all enabled by the availability of efficient, low cost lasers and light sources that employ so called “quantum well” active regions. These complex structures are manufactured economically through the use of a process invented by H. M. Manasevit in 1967 and advanced over the years by many workers including the author and his colleagues and his students at USC.
In this talk, I will describe my journey from the southside of Chicago through university and industrial research labs to USC. I will highlight research activities in which I have been involved that have contributed to the advancements highlighted above and how the unique environment at USC has facilitated these efforts.