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Lasers and Fiber Optics


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(l-r) Dr. Henry Yaffe and Prof. Israel Bar-Joseph in the late 1980s. Laser lab

Dr. Henry Yaffe remembers his years at the Weizmann Institute as a series of firsts: “I bought my first new car, married my first wife, bought my first house and my first child was born,” he says. “The wife and child are still with me.” Yaffe, who conducted research the guidance of under Profs. Asher Friesem and Yehiam Prior, also built the first picosecond laser at the Institute.

Before coming to the Institute, Yaffe had been working at Bell Labs in New Jersey. In those days, he says, there was a regular exchange of people and ideas between Bell Labs and the Weizmann Institute, and after a few years, he was persuaded to come to the Institute. He arrived in 1984, first earning an M.Sc. in Friesem’s lab. Then, after working in Institute labs for a year while Prior was on sabbatical, Yaffe began carrying out his Ph.D. research on non-linear optics under the two professors jointly.

“My lab was in the basement of the physics building,” he recalls. “Periodically, the lawn sprinkler system would flood the lab through a ventilation shaft. Each time, we had to carry out expensive repairs.” Happier memories include co-founding the Institute’s first Ultimate Frisbee team (a tradition that continues today) and his wedding to Amit at Weizmann House on the Institute campus in 1987.

Yaffe’s family back home got in on the act as well: His mother and father, Linda and Seymour, set up a chapter of the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science in their hometown, Baltimore, and raised funds for research. “I was probably the only student whose mother paid for his lab equipment,” he quips.

After completing his Ph.D., Yaffe returned to Bell Labs to conduct postdoctoral research and then went to work for CIENA, a telecommunications start-up. In 1999, he left to found his own company, Yafo Networks, which manufactured high-end telecommunications equipment for fiber-optic networks. However, the telecommunications bubble that many companies had been riding burst, and Yafo Networks went down with it. In 2003, Yaffe purchased some of the technology and started another company, called New Ridge Technologies. The devices he now designs and manufactures are used to test and verify the performance of fiber-optic equipment before it is deployed in the network.

“I went from running a large company to a relatively small one,” says Yaffe, “but the Weizmann connection remains. Two years ago I hired a Weizmann grad – Yaniv Barad, a former student of Prof. Yaron Silberberg.”

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