By Naznin Akter
Akihiko Kasukawa, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow, Furukawa Electric Co., Ltd.
What Is Your Current Profession?
I am a Senior Fellow at Furukawa Electric Co., Ltd. I am involved in photonics-related fields for both R&D and business based on my long-period experience in semiconductor laser development at Furukawa. For R&D activity, I explore new R&D topics utilizing photonics, such as industrial, medical, sensor, and telecom applications. Furukawa Electric Co.,
Ltd. was founded in 1884 as a copper mining company and has contributed to society for more than 130 years. We have lots of technologies for metals and polymers. The photonics product line at Furukawa, known as the “Fitel” Brand, is a relatively new business at about 30 years old. I work to form a fusion of photonics together with metal and polymer technologies established at Furukawa. The fiber laser, for example, is one of the products of technology fusion (metal processing and high-power photonics). I am very excited to discuss R&D and business with young engineers. Promoting activities within the photonics community is also an essential part of my profession. I served as a President of IEICE (Institution of Electronics, Information and Communication Engineers) Electronics Society during 2018–2019, served as a General Co-Chair for OECC2016 (OptoElectronics Communication Conference), will serve for ISLC2021 as a TPC Chair (https://www.islc2021.org/home), and served as Councillor of Tsurugi Photonics Foundation.
What Role Does Your BOG Position Play for the IEEE Photonics Society? What Challenge Do You Face in Your Role?
Member development is an important job for me. I think university students and young engineers play a significant role in the future of the IEEE Photonics Society. Therefore, in my position, I plan to increase the chance of participation and engagement of university students and young engineers, resulting in increased IEEE members for the next generation in the field. I know about the “IEEE Member Benefits Bulletin,” and I understand it is good. However, I believe talking in person can help understand the “real intentions.” For example, I would like to invite some students and young engineers to ask how they feel about the conferences and IEEE Member Benefits and their expectations. I think we can learn a lot from “Voices of Customers (VOC)” to improve the quality of the membership benefits of the Society. New findings and encounters present a considerable opportunity for candidates to join the Society, and we unconsciously enjoyed these opportunities in the conventional conference so far. The challenges are how we can get VOC and provide these opportunities in the current situation.
What Do You Want to Accomplish as a Board Member This Year/Next Year?
I want to continue my statement above. I think that we have a concern that the number of members is decreasing which is also true for similar Japanese organizations like IEICE and JSAP (similar to OSA). I know membership development activities are happening continuously. However, I think we have room to improve these activities. I want to talk to students and young engineers (both members and non-members) directly to know about their thoughts and expectations to enhance the Photonics Society member’s benefits.
Why Photonics? What Was Your “Photonics Moment” or Personal Journey Story?
When I was studying laboratory-based optical fiber communication with Profs. Y. Suematsu and K. Furuya in 1980 at Tokyo Institute of Technology, I barely knew what it was about. Nevertheless, I realized that communication would play an essential role in modern society, and optical fiber communication would be one of the candidates with great potential. When I joined the Suematsu-Furuya Labs as a Bachelor’s student, I was fortunate to spend my time with many talented students.They inspired me a lot. I was thrilled to fabricate semiconductor lasers by myself, including the design, fabrication, and evaluation of lasers under the outstanding seniors’ guidance. After my graduation, I realized that I would like to continue working on photonics R&D. And considering this moment as a starting point of my journey to photonics, I joined Furukawa Electric Co., Ltd.
What About Our Society’s Mission and Work Really Motivates You?
I joined IEEE LEOS (now known as the IEEE Photonics Society, IPS) the world’s largest optoelectronics professional community as a member in 1994 and was very excited about it. After joining IEEE LEOS, I was qualified to become a professional engineer in this technical field. I think that becoming a member has many benefits that our Society can provide. A member can receive and share information within the community and have lots of friends with diverse backgrounds and experience. The Photonics Society can help students and young engineers/professionals to grow in the same manner that I experienced when I was young.
What Specific Assets Do You Bring to the Table as a Board Member?
I have networks in academia and industry from my active involvement in the Asia Pacific Lim region, which might be useful for membership development in the near future.
Can You Name a Person Who Has Had a Tremendous Impact on You as a Leader? Maybe Someone Who Has Been a Mentor to You? Why and How Did This Person Impact Your Life?
Two people, Profs. Y. Suematsu and K. Iga of Tokyo Tech, have influenced my career. They are visionary people, and I respect them as not only researchers but also excellent human beings. Before entering the company, Prof. Suematsu advised me to design my career step-by-step. He (at 88 years old) is still enthusiastic about educating students and is now writing a book on semiconductor lasers (Dynamic Single-Mode Lasers for Optical Fiber Communication). K. Iga taught me lots of things when I completed my doctoral dissertation under his guidance. Both of them always encouraged me to give back to society whatever I can as long as I am in the manufacturing company.
How Would You Advise Members Who Want to Become More Involved in the Society?
Members need to participate actively instead of waiting. If anyone has any concerns about the Photonics Society activities, they also need to bring some proposals and solutions to better the Society.
Why Do You Think Members Should Be Involved as Society Volunteers? What Are the Benefits?
Volunteering is the main gateway to actively contributing to society. Volunteering is also a quick and straightforward route to meet new people and open new doors for career advancement.
What Advice Would You Give Someone Going Into a Leadership Position for the First Time?
I think one needs to be flexible enough to accomplish their purpose, hear their team members’ voices as much as they can, act with cool heads but warm hearts, and judge themselves with responsibility. I try to follow the maxim of C. Darwin—“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
How Do You Ensure IEEE Photonic Society and Its Activities Are Aligned With Your Core Values?
The IEEE Photonics Society is at the heart of my work. I made connections with so many renowned researchers and obtained some good friends while working on the Photonics Society’s activities and through the technical papers’ access. I consider this a priceless benefit.