In Memoriam: Oscar Stafsudd, Jr., Professor Emeritus and Micro-Optoelectronics Expert

Oscar Stafsudd

Courtesy of Stafsudd family

Apr 28, 2022

UCLA Samueli
Oscar Stafsudd, Jr. ’59, M.S. ’61, Ph.D. ’67, a professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, died April 14 at the age of 85.

For more than 50 years at UCLA, Stafsudd was widely recognized by students and peers for his enthusiasm, passion and deep understanding of an exceptionally broad range of technical and nontechnical disciplines. Colleagues and friends say he had an agile mind that was supported by an encyclopedic memory — making it difficult to keep up at times as he easily jumped from one seemingly disparate concept to another. Stafsudd loved sharing his knowledge generously with a zeal that captured students’ attention.

“Oscar was a true scholar and educator who had been a seminal contributor to UCLA,” said C.K. Ken Yang.

“Oscar was a true scholar and educator who had been a seminal contributor to UCLA,” said C.K. Ken Yang, chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. “He’d been an anchor in our department for nearly six decades, leaving an indelible imprint on our program with his energy, passion and generosity. We will miss him dearly and remember him fondly.”

An only child and the first in his family to go to college, Stafsudd transferred from Los Angeles City College to UCLA as a junior majoring in physics. Working at a variety of jobs to pay for his education, notably Atomics International and Hughes Research Laboratories, he received his B.S., M.S. and a Ph.D. specializing in spectroscopy from UCLA. Upon obtaining his doctorate in 1967, he joined the UCLA faculty in what was then known as the College of Engineering.

Oscar StafsuddStafsudd was a renowned authority in the areas of crystal growth that produces materials essential for lasers, optics and quantum electronics; infrared spectroscopy; and semiconductors used in infrared-detection systems and solar cells. He was also highly regarded for his expertise on micro-miniaturization and micromachining of optoelectronic components smaller than one millimeter. In recent years, he collaborated with the late Dr. Warren Grundfest, a surgeon and professor of bioengineering at UCLA, in developing real-time medical imaging techniques. Their work led to technologies for early cancer detection and an ongoing research collaboration with Dr. Maie St. John, professor and chair of the Department of Head and Neck Surgery at UCLA Health.

Known as an excellent and adaptable classroom instructor, Stafsudd served as an advisor to more than 160 students with diverse backgrounds who received doctorate and/or master’s degrees. He taught more than 20 different electrical and computer engineering courses, including upper-division courses on solid-state electronics, quantum electronics and photonics. He developed several graduate and undergraduate courses, including the Introduction to Engineering Design course that emphasizes teamwork and communications skills. Stafsudd shared these skills with professors across the department, earning him praise for his generous help in developing and teaching classes.

Stafsudd consistently received high ratings on student evaluations, many of which cited his enthusiasm, knowledge and patience. In 2011, he received the school’s Lockheed Martin Award for Excellence in Teaching. He also held several school administrative leadership roles, including serving as the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department’s vice chair for graduate affairs for 10 years and as vice chair for undergraduate affairs from 2011 to 2018.

Stafsudd and his wife of 55 years, Jacquie, who is also a UCLA physics graduate, contributed a $1 million estate gift in 2014 to the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department in support of undergraduate programs.

In 2017, the school celebrated Stafsudd’s 50th year on the faculty. Along with faculty and staff, many of his former students were in attendance. He retired the following year from full-time teaching but continued to teach his laboratory classes and collaborate on research. In 2019, Stafsudd received UCLA Samueli’s Lifetime Contribution Award, one of the school’s highest honors, in recognition of his long career and the many ways that he contributed to the school and the wider scientific community

Stafsudd had many nonacademic interests. These ranged from a love of sports cars, growing exotic flowers and plants, photography, classic movies and traveling the world with Jacquie from the Arctic to Antarctica and many points in between. He was an avid fan of building and flying radio-controlled sailplanes and powered airplanes. On many an early morning, Stafsudd could be found flying his planes at the Woodley Park Apollo 11 Model Aircraft Field in the San Fernando Valley.

In his spare time, Stafsudd immersed himself in astronomy, building up a substantial collection of different sized telescopes and objective lenses that progressed to thermoelectrically cooled electronic imaging systems. He incorporated telescopic optical systems in the teaching of optical principles to his students.

Along with his wife, Stafsudd is survived by his sons Peter and John, daughters-in-law Kellie and Jing, and grandchildren Kasey, Robert and James.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that gifts in his memory be made to the Oscar Stafsudd Undergraduate Student Research Fund.

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