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Dennis Hall

Professor of Physics and Electrical Engineering, Emeritus

Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Research Focus

interaction of light with matter; optical waveguide phenomena; propagation of light


Dennis G. Hall is Professor of Physics (primary appointment) and Professor of Electrical Engineering (secondary appointment) at Vanderbilt University (VU) in Nashville, Tennessee.  Prior to January 1, 2015, he served Vanderbilt as Vice Provost for Research and Dean of the Graduate School for nearly 15 years before stepping down from his administrative roles to focus on research and writing.  During his time in Vanderbilt’s central administration, he served as the chief academic officer of the Graduate School and as the chief research officer for non-medical research.  He worked jointly with the VU medical center’s chief research officer to oversee a number of university-wide activities and interests.  In addition, he oversaw the Vanderbilt University Press, the University Library, served on the Provost’s Budget Allocation Committee and as the permanent member of Vanderbilt’s Promotion and Tenure Review Committee.  From 2001-2008, he served as a member of the Board of Directors of Oak Ridge Associated Universities.  From September 2004 through December 2014, Prof. Hall served as Vanderbilt’s representative on the Governing Board that oversees the management of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  His occasional essays on a variety of topics have appeared in local and national venues. 

Prior to July 1, 2000, he was William F. May Professor and Director (department chair) of The Institute of Optics, an eminent academic department at the University of Rochester (New York). A member of the Rochester faculty from 1980, he served as Director of The Institute of Optics during 1993-2000. He is a Fellow of each of the Optical Society of America (OSA), the American Physical Society (APS), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and the International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE). He is a former (elected) member of OSA’s Board of Directors and served as a Topical Editor of the Journal of the Optical Society of America from 1994-1997. Prof. Hall is the recipient of two undergraduate teaching awards at Rochester, is the author or co-author of more than 125 journal articles and several book chapters, and is the editor of the 1993 reprint volume Coupled-Mode Theory in Guided-Wave Optics (SPIE Press). He has supervised to completion twenty-one Ph.D. dissertations and six M.S. theses. After completing the first two years of his college education at a community college (Belleville Area College – now Southwest Illinois College), Prof. Hall received (two years later) a B.S. degree in Physics from the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), followed by an M.S. degree in Physics from Southern Illinois University (Edwardsville), and a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Tennessee (Knoxville); his dissertation research in theoretical solid-state physics was carried out at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In 2009, the Illinois Community College Trustees Association selected Prof. Hall to receive its annual (statewide) Distinguished Alumnus Award, which was presented at a June ceremony in Chicago.

For most of his career, Prof. Hall’s theoretical and experimental research focused on laser and optical-waveguide phenomena, including interactions involving molecules, nanoparticles and textured surfaces. More recently, he has turned his attention to matters closer to the conceptual foundations of physics, including, for instance, the propagation of light in a gravitational field. 

Professor Hall and Rita, his wife of 45 years, have three children and four grandchildren (ages 9 years, 5 years, 5 years, and 2 years).  He is a licensed and active amateur radio operator (KK4RVW, Amateur Extra Class license).