Donald R. Scifres

For his significant contributions as an engineering researcher, developer, and entrepreneur, the Purdue University Schools of Engineering are proud to present the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award to Donald R. Scifres.

President and Chief Executive Officer
Spectra Diode Laboratories, Incorporated
BSEE '68

Scifres bust

From his Purdue years to present

After receiving his bachelor's degree from Purdue, Dr. Scifres earned master's and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois, and in 1972 joined Xerox Corporation's Palo Alto Research Center as a research scientist. In 1976 he became manager of Opto-electronics Group at the center, and was named a Xerox Research Fellow in 1981. He left Xerox in 1983 to found Spectra Diode Laboratories, a semiconductor laser and electro-optics system manufacturer based in San Jose, California. The firm, which began with Dr. Scifres as its sole employee, today employs 95 people and is a world leader in the production of high power semiconductor lasers for industrial, medical, and military markets. Dr. Scifres, a Fellow of both the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Optical Society of America, has been granted 77 U.S. patents and has published numerous scientific articles as well as a contribution to the book, "Molecular Beam Epitaxy".


  • "I would say that Purdue did an excellent job of providing me with very solid electrical engineering education," says Dr. Scifres. "The school is known for providing that kind of fundamental engineering education with good physics, math, and chemistry background."


  • "That kind of training, in general, prepares students for a variety of opportunities."


  • "I can still remember a rhyme I learned in chemistry during my freshman year--I will flunk, if I don't learn, that nitrogen, will never burn," he says, recalling a poetic professor's words.

Young Scifres bust

Dr. Scifres' advice to the engineering freshman:

"I think the way to succeed in engineering and business is to work hard. That's the difference, really. There are a lot of talented and committed people in the world. You have to decide what job it is you want to do and not let things stand in the way of getting it done."