Dr. James Coleman
Electrical engineering department head
Erik Jonsson Distinguished Chair and Chair in Electrical Engineering
Dr. James Coleman earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He spent several years working for Bell Laboratories and Rockwell International before returning to the University of Illinois as a professor.
Coleman was among the first to demonstrate the effectiveness of the process known as metalorganic chemical vapor deposition to make lasers, solar cells and photodetectors with better performance characteristics. This method is widely used in photonics technologies, which combine the physics of light with electricity. The technology helps transmit the information that is communicated through cellphones, desktop Internet connections and medical equipment.
His work has led to wider application and manufacture of semiconductor lasers. His research has refined not only semiconductor devices, but also the materials used to make them.
In 2012, Coleman was elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). Coleman holds 10 U.S. patents and has authored more than 425 papers. He is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Optical Society of America (OSA), the American Physical Society, SPIE and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Other accolades include receiving the Distinguished Lecturer Award and William Streifer Scientific Achievement Award given by the IEEE Photonics Society; the David Sarnoff Award given by IEEE; the Nick Holonyak Jr. Award given by the OSA; and the John Tyndall Award given jointly by the IEEE Photonics Society and OSA.
He joined UT Dallas in 2013 to lead the Department of Electrical Engineering, a cornerstone in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science.
“UT Dallas and the Jonsson School are growing and vibrant,” he said. “You can feel the strong sense of energy and enthusiasm here.”
In the early 1990s, Coleman’s group challenged the traditional paradigm about the practicalities of using layers of materials of different physical sizes, known as strained layers, in semiconductor devices. Instead of failing, devices built with these layers lasted longer. This finding opened a new class of structures that makes better and different lasers that were not previously practical. Strained layers are used in everyday electronic devices such as CD and DVD players.
“I spend a lot of time telling students that there is a world of difference between interesting and useful. You can be interested in something, but you have to ultimately be concerned about what is useful.”