Engineering Departments

Lester accepts engineering department headship at Virginia Tech


Luke Lester
Blacksburg, VA , May 15, 2013
Virginia Tech College of Engineering

Luke F. Lester, who holds an endowed chaired professorship of electrical and computer engineering at the University of New Mexico, will assume the duties of department head of Virginia Tech’s Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering on August 10, 2013.

“I am very pleased that Dr. Lester accepted our offer to lead our highly regarded electrical and computer engineering department. After conducting a nationwide search, Dr. Lester emerged from an outstanding pool of candidates due to his previous administrative skills, scholarly accomplishments, and entrepreneurial background,” said Richard C. Benson, dean of Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering who also holds the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Chair.

“I feel deeply honored to be given the responsibility of leading such an esteemed and dedicated group of faculty, staff, students and alumni. I look forward to working with all of them to take the Bradley Department of ECE to the next level.” said Lester.

Lester started as an assistant professor at the University of New Mexico in 1994, shortly after earning his doctorate in electrical engineering from Cornell University. He rose through the professorial ranks, and was named a fellow of both the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and the International Society for Optics and Photonics in 2013.

Among his administrative posts, Lester served as the interim chair of his department from July 2011 through the 2013 academic year. He was also the general chair of the optical science and engineering graduate program from January of 2009 until July of 2011, and the graduate director for the electrical and computer engineering program from August of 2009 until July of 2010. He served as the associate director of the University’s Center for High Technology Materials from January of 2004 until December of 2008.

In 2001 he co-founded Zia Laser, Inc., of Albuquerque, N.M.  Serving as its chief technology officer from 2001 until 2003, and its chief research officer from 2003 until 2005, he raised $11 million in two rounds of venture capital for the first quantum dot laser company that developed products for communications and computer/microprocessor applications. This company was acquired by Innolume, GmbH in 2005.

While pursuing his graduate work at Cornell, he was also employed by General Electric/Martin Marietta Electronics Laboratory where he developed ultra-low noise transistors and high speed, high-electron-mobility transistors. He co-invented the first pseudomorphic high speed, high-electron-mobility transistor, a device that was later highlighted in the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest transistor.

Also as a Ph.D. student, he developed the first strained quantum well lasers with millimeter-wave bandwidths. These lasers are now the industry standard for optical transmitters in data and telecommunications.

Lester has published more than 118 journal papers and 240 conference papers.

Paul Plassmann, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Virginia Tech, has served as the interim department head for the 2012-13 academic year, following the appointment of the former head, Scott Midkiff to Virginia Tech’s Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer.


Lynn Nystrom
(540) 231-4371