First-Hand:IEEE Award Recipient Series:James G. Fujimoto


Full name

James G. Fujimoto

Birth date


What Award did you receive from IEEE?


Place of Birth

Chicago, IL

Where did you grow up

Chicago, IL

Family Background: Parents and their education level & Siblings and their education/profession

Parents were children on immigrants, had high school education, but could not go to college. Father was electrical contractor and mother was office worker in a publishing company.

What did you want to do when you grew up?


What was your upbringing like? Did you have a large family?

I did not have brothers or sisters.

Did you have any hobbies (eg. Some people talk about learning trade skills from a family member.)

Studied classical organ. Photography.

Did you partake in after school activities? Did you play sports?

I did not play sports.

Did you have a part-time job (after school, summer)? What was your most surprising job assignment?

Worked in fathers electrical contracting small business.

Did you take vacations and/or go on day trips? Favorite holiday/family gathering?

We rarely took vacations.

EDUCATION: Favorite subject in school (K-12, university). Why?

Mathematics and physics.

Why did you select the university (universities) you attended? What was your major and why did you select it?

MIT was recommended by a friend of the family. This person was one of the few people that had a university education.

Employment and career: First job - Current position - Favorite job

Post-doc, Professor at MIT

Has IEEE played a role in your career? How? What does IEEE mean to you?

IEEE has played a major role representing and educating electrical engineers.

You have been awarded one of IEEE's highest-level awards. What does this award mean to you?

I am sincerely grateful. In the field of healthcare, I believe the most important accomplishment is contributing to advances in patient care.

What other associations have helped you in your career?

My specialty is optics and photonics. The Optical Society of America (Optica) and the International Society of Optics and Photonics (SPIE) have also played an important role in my career and in the field of biomedical optics.

Career Advice: What advice would you give to young professionals entering your field today?

People often emphasize novelty and revolutionary advances. However, your ultimate accomplishment is also governed by the multiple decisions you make every day with scientific method, strategy, disciplined thought …. Ultimately, multiple incremental and evolutionary advances can become revolutionary

… Provided they are chosen carefully and executed fast enough.

What career achievement are you most proud of?

Training doctoral students and postdoctoral associates who have become leaders in academics and industry.

Personal Life: What do you do for fun? Hobbies?

Classical organ. Travel.

Do you have a favorite genre of music? or a favorite song? Or do you play an instrument?

Classical organ, Bach and Widor.

Who was your mentor? (eg. family member or professor)

Erich Ippen, Professor at MIT