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History of the Department of Optics and Quantum Electronics

Establishment: The Department of Optics and Quantum Electronics came into being on 1 July 1989 after being spun off from the Department of Experimental Physics. The new department and the Laser Physics Research Group of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences were headed by professor Zsolt Bor. The Research Group and the Department closely cooperated in research targeted at the development and application or lasers.

Education: The educational tasks of the new department mainly included involvement in the training of physicists and physics teachers. This meant the delivery of main courses such as Mechanics, Wave Theory and Optics, System Theory, Spectroscopy, and Laser Physics, as well as special and laboratory courses. In addition, members of the Department taught Experimental Physics and Laboratory Courses in Experimental Physics for chemistry students. At the end of the 1990s the Chemistry Departments launched new degree programs: teacher of environmental studies, chemist-physicist laboratory operator, clinical chemistry and the extremely popular environmental science. In these programs the Department of Optics and Quantum Electronics was responsible for delivering the “standard” courses in the Fundamentals of Experimental Physics, but the members of the Department also started teaching several other, environmental science related courses. Gábor Szabó launched the courses titled Spectroscopy in environmental research, Physics in engineering and Experimental physics in informatics. Around the millennium the need for educational programs based on applied sciences arose. In line with this, in 2001 the Physics Departments launched new programs related to the application of physics: biophysics, astronomy, informatics in physics and applied physics.

2006 saw the introduction of the Bologna system of higher education in Hungary too, wherefore the above programs will be gradually phased out. In the new, two-stage model both BSc programs (physics, chemistry, environmental studies, materials engineering, bioengineering, environmental engineering and engineering/informatics) and MSc programs (physicist, astronomy, physics teacher, environmental science, chemist) are taught.

Research: The colleagues of the Department and the Laser Physics Research Group continued working on the research topics they started at the Department of Experimental Physics. The 1970s saw the development of dye lasers as well as N2 and excimer lasers that could be used for pumping dye lasers (István Ketskeméty, Béla Rácz, Zsolt Bor, László Kozma, Gábor Szabó, Gábor Kovács, Béla Német, János Hebling, Imre Sánta, József Klebnitzki). In the 1980s research focused on how to increase the energy and power of lasers, and how to reduce pulse length. This successful research served as a basis for cooperation between the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, within the framework of which Zsolt Bor, Béla Rácz and Gábor Szabó could work in the Laser Physics Department of the Göttingen based Max-Plank Institut für Biophysikalische Chemie. They spent several years in Germany in the period between 1980 and 1989. The results of this cooperation included the development of new methods for the generation of pico- and femtosecond laser pulses and the description of the special propagation characteristics of such pulses.

The successful work of the Department is reflected by the scientific degrees earned by its researchers and faculty members, the successful applications for research proposals, and the many instances of social recognition.

  • Zsolt Bor became the corresponding (1990) and then full member (1994) of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
  • Gábor Szabó became the corresponding (2004) and then full member (2010) of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
  • In 1993 Béla Rácz and Gábor Szabó were awarded the degree Doctor of Physics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, after which they were appointed full professors. In 2009 Béla Hopp, and then in 2013 Zoltán Bozóki were granted the degree Doctor of Sciences of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Several members of the Department have completed their habilitation.
  • Apart from other prestigious awards, Zsolt Bor was granted the Pro Urbe Prize from the city of Szeged in 1998. In 2004 he was awarded the Bolyai Prize for his outstanding scientific achievements and his work that created a new school of thought. In 2012 he received the Hungarian Corvin Chain Award, and in 2013 he was given the Prima Prize.
  • Béla Rácz was awarded the Hungarian Order of Merit, Officer’s Cross in 2006, and then he was granted the Pro Urbe Prize by the city of Szeged twice.
  • Tamás Szörényi was awarded the Hungarian Silver Cross of Merit in 2006.
  • Gábor Szabó was awarded the Academy Prize in 2000, the Gábor Dénes Prize in 2004, the Hungarian Order of Merit, Officer’s Cross and the Pro Urbe Prize from the city of Szeged in 2009. In 2010 he was awarded the Szőkefalvi-Nagy Béla Prize of Szegedért Alapítvány (Foundation for Szeged).

The colleagues of the Department also contribute to the completion of faculty and university level tasks both as leaders and committee members. Béla Rácz worked as General Vice-Rector between 1994 and 2000, and then as Strategic Vice-Rector between 2003 and 2013. Gábor Szabó was elected to the post of Rector of the University of Szeged in 2010. In 2014 his mandate was extended for another four years. Károly Osvay has been involved in the international ELI-ALPS (Extreme Light Infrastructure Attosecond Light Pulse Source) research project since the inception of the program. First he headed the WP4A working group on the Hungarian side, and since 2010 he has supported the Hungarian ELI-ALPS program as a scientific project manager. In 2012 he was appointed to head the scientific working group of ELI-Hu Nonprofit Ltd, and since October 2013 he has been working as the research technology director of the same organization.

Due to Zsolt Bor’s long-term scientific activities abroad, the post of Head of Department was taken over by Béla Rácz in 2006, and subsequently by associate professor Károly Osvay in September 2011. The Department has been headed by associate professor Béla Hopp since February 1, 2013. His deputies are assistant professor Attila Kovács and associate professor József Vinkó.

With the development of the Department our colleagues became involved in a range of diverse research topics, which necessitated the creation of research groups within the Department. These research groups are working successfully in their respective fields.