Steve Forrest was awarded a B.A. in physics in 1972 from the University of California, Berkeley, and M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in physics in 1974 and 1979, respectively, from the University of Michigan. While a graduate student at Michigan, he was awarded the Horace Rackham Fellowship and the Knoller Scholarship for Physics and Chemistry.
After graduating from UC-Berkeley, Steve spent one year working as a semiconductor process engineer at Sierra Electronics in Menlo Park, California, a company operated at the time by Philco-Ford. He then entered the graduate program at Michigan. After completing his doctorate in 1979, he joined the technical staff of AT&T Bell laboratories, where he remained until 1985. Within two years of joining the laboratory, he was promoted to a supervisory level - a rare event at Bell Labs. He first worked on the characterization and design of long-wavelength p-i-n and avalanche photodiodes for optical communications. After being promoted to supervisor of the Integrated and Optoelectronics Device and Circuits Group at the laboratory, Steve worked on next-generation integrated components for long wavelength transmission systems and did fundamental research on novel organic-inorganic interfaces. He eventually became a national leader in the area of organic electronic and photonic devices.
In 1985 Steve joined the electrical engineering and materials science departments at the University of Southern California (USC). During this period, he worked on optoelectronic integrated circuits and continued to develop his work on organic semiconductors. In particular he developed very-high bandwidth integrated arrays of photo-receivers using indium-phosphide – and gallium-arsenide-based devices, and worked on novel avalanche photodiodes and waveguide-coupled photodetectors. Steve’s work on self-powered optoelectronic circuits and smart pixels represented highly original and revolutionary developments in integrated optoelectronics. At USC he also served as the director of the National Center for Integrated Photonics Technology, a Defense Advance Research Projects Agency-sponsored consortium of universities engaged in research on photonics and optoelectronics.
In 1992, Steve moved to Princeton as the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Electrical Engineering and the director of Princeton’s Center for Photonics and Optoelectronic Materials (POEM). He served as the director of POEM from 1992 to 1997, and oversaw its growth into a prominent University center for optical and optical device research. From 1997 to 2001 he served as chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering, and during this period led the department through a major strategic planning initiative.
At Princeton, Steve focused his research on fundamental issues surrounding photonic materials, devices, and systems in two general topic areas: group III-V semiconductor optoelectronic devices. In addition, he was engaged in projects that integrate the advantageous properties of both of these materials systems. This included devices based on conventional semiconductors, including photonic integrated circuits and photonic crystals as well as photovoltaic cells, lasers, organic light emitters and transistors, and new methods for growth and processing of organic thin films.
One of Steve’s most recent research efforts was in the development of more efficient means for room lighting. Room lighting currently consumes approximately 20 percent of the total energy used. Organic, light-emitting devices (OLEDs) developed in his laboratory may eventually provide a high efficiency, solid-state means of lighting at very low cost. The key to his approach is the use of electrophosphorescence as a means for converting 100 percent of the electrical energy into optical energy in OLEDs used in displays and lighting. Steve has also worked with his Optoelectronic Components and Materials (OCM) Group at Princeton on organic photovoltaic cells, developing new materials systems and device architectures that achieved record high efficiencies in this new thin-film energy-conversion technology.
Steve is the recipient of numerous research awards. He is a fellow of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the Optical Society of America, and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He was awarded the IEEE/LEOS Distinguished Lecturer Award in 1996-97, and in 1998 was a co-recipient of the IPO National Distinguished Inventor Award and the Thomas Alva Edison Award for innovations in organic light-emitting diodes. He was awarded the MRS Medal for his work on organic thin-film materials and devices, and the IEEE/LEOS William Streiffer Scientific Achievement Award for advances in photodetectors now widely used in all long-haul optical communication systems and imagers. He recently received the 2006 Jan Rajchman Award from the Society for Information Display for advances in high-efficiency organic displays based on electrophosphorescence.
In 2006, Steve resigned from Princeton to join the University of Michigan as vice president of research and the William Gould Dow Collegiate Professor in Electrical Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, and Physics.