December 2007
Volume 48, Issue 12
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Lecture  |   December 2007
Introducing Wolfgang Drexler, the 2007 Recipient of the Cogan Award
Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science December 2007, Vol.48, 5339. doi:10.1167/iovs.07-0768
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      Joel S. Schuman; Introducing Wolfgang Drexler, the 2007 Recipient of the Cogan Award. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2007;48(12):5339. doi: 10.1167/iovs.07-0768.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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The Cogan Award is presented annually in recognition of a researcher, 40 years of age or younger, who has made important and worthwhile contributions to research in ophthalmology or visual science that are directly related to disorders of the human eye or visual system and who shows substantial promise for future research. In 2007, the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology’s Cogan Award goes to Wolfgang Drexler, PhD. Professor Drexler is a shining light among young scientists and is already responsible for the development of major advances in optical coherence tomography. 
It is fitting that 2007 is the year in which the Cogan Award is presented to Professor Drexler, since he received his first exposure to lasers exactly 30 years ago, with the release of the movie Star Wars. From the first blast of the movie’s theme song, to the Imperial Cruiser passing overhead, to the glide of the first light saber, to the closing credits, Drexler was hooked. Like many of us, his life’s work was inspired by the cinema, although he has been somewhat more productive than most! 
Professor Drexler was raised and educated in Vienna, and from 1984 to 1991, he studied Electrical Engineering at the Technical University of Vienna. In 1991, he received his Master of Science degree and was granted an assistant professorship at the Institute of Medical Physics at the University of Vienna. While an assistant professor, he was involved in the invention of and research into partial coherence interferometry. 1 2 This work was translated to the clinic, where it is used throughout the world for measurement of axial length, often in connection with anticipated cataract surgery. 3  
Professor Drexler received his PhD in 1995 from the University of Vienna, where he continued as an Assistant Professor until 2000. From 2000 to 2006, he was Associate Professor of Medical Physics at the Center for Biomedical Engineering and Physics at the Medical University of Vienna. In 2001, he received the Austrian START Award from the Austrian Science Fund. This is the most prestigious Austrian research award for scientists under 35 years of age and carries with it a grant of ∼1,100,000. From 2002 to 2006, he was Director of the Christian Doppler Laboratory for Laser Development and their Application in Medicine. In 2006, he moved to Great Britain, where he was appointed Full Professor of Biomedical Imaging at Cardiff University in Wales. It is telling that when he moved to Wales, most of his laboratory group in Vienna moved with him. 
A crucial part of Professor Drexler’s training was the period from 1998 to 1999, spent in the United States as a research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. There, during his postdoctoral fellowship with Professor James G. Fujimoto, he devised and built the first ultrahigh-resolution optical coherence tomography unit. He produced the highest resolution images ever obtained up to that time (1 μm axially), in addition to demonstrating spectroscopy, Doppler imaging, and oximetry with this device. He published this work as the first author of a landmark paper in Nature Medicine in 2001. 4  
Since returning to Vienna in 1999, Professor Drexler has developed new, extremely broad-bandwidth light sources 5 6 7 8 and has devised adaptive optics high-speed ultrahigh-resolution OCT. 9 10 11 He has created functional OCT for depth-resolved, noninvasive measurement of retinal function. This work in retinal optophysiology was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2006. 12  
On a more personal note, Professor Drexler loves to play the piano and the guitar, and he has played in several bands. His band recorded on vinyl discs (this almost cost him the Cogan!). His music has been played on the radio in Austria. In addition, he played in the major Austrian basketball league as a left guard. He jokes that when he came to MIT for his postdoctoral fellowship, he always knew who the U.S. basketball fans were. They knew of Clyde Drexler of the Portland Trail Blazers and therefore could pronounce his name properly. 
Professor Drexler married his wife Dorothea in 1992 and a year later welcomed twins Stephanie and Katharina. His son Florian was born in 2000. In Dorothea’s words, “Wolfgang is a success at all he tries; he is a perfectionist with joy. He truly loves his work. If he does something, he does it with all his heart. He always makes time for the family.” 
Professor Drexler is an extraordinary individual who has made seminal contributions to ophthalmology and vision science. He continues to push the edge of the scientific envelope and to be a leader in optical imaging. 
HitzenbergerCK, DrexlerW, FercherAF. Measurement of corneal thickness by laser Doppler interferometry. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1992;33:98–103. [PubMed]
HitzenbergerCK, DrexlerW, DolezalC, et al. Measurement of the axial length of cataract eyes by laser Doppler interferometry. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1993;34:1886–1893. [PubMed]
DrexlerW, FindlO, MenapaceR, et al. Partial coherence interferometry: a novel approach to biometry in cataract surgery. Am J Ophthalmol. 1998;126(4)524–534. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
DrexlerW, MorgnerU, GhantaRK, et al. Ultrahigh resolution optical coherence tomography of the human retina. Nat Med. 2001;4:502–507.
UnterhuberA, HermannB, SattmannH, et al. Compact, low cost Ti:Al2O3 laser for in vivo ultrahigh resolution optical coherence tomography. Opt Lett. 2003;28(11)905–907. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
FujiT, UnterhuberA, YakovlevV, TempeaG, KrauszF, DrexlerW. Generation of smooth, ultrabroad-band spectra directly from a prismless Ti:sapphire laser. Appl Phys. 2003;77:125–128.
KBizheva, PovazayB, HermannB, et al. A compact, broad bandwidth fiber laser for sub-2 μm axial resolution optical coherence tomography in the 1300 nm wavelength region. Opt Lett. 2003;28(9)707–709. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
UnterhuberA, PovazayB, BizhevaK, et al. Advances in broad bandwidth light sources for ultrahigh resolution optical coherence tomography. Phys Med Biol. 2004;49:1235–1246. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
HermannB, FernándezEJ, UnterhuberA, et al. Adaptive optics ultrahigh resolution optical coherence tomography. Opt Lett. 2004;29(18)1–3.
FernándezEJ, DrexlerW. Influence of ocular chromatic aberrations and pupil size on transverse resolution in ophthalmic adaptive optics optical coherence tomography. Opt Exp. 2005;13(20)8184–8197. [CrossRef]
FernandezEJ, PovazayB, HermannB, et al. Three-dimensional adaptive optics ultrahigh-resolution optical coherence tomography using a liquid crystal spatial light modulator. Vision Res. 2005;45(28)3432–3434. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
BizhevaK, PflugR, HermannB, et al. Optophysiology: depth resolved probing of retinal physiology with functional ultrahigh resolution optical coherence tomography. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2006;103(13)5066–5071. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
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