Katie Hall

Distinguished Senior Lecturer in Physics

I am a researcher, entrepreneur and teacher with a passion for invention and recognizing and increasing underrepresented voices in science.

My research interests are in novel optical systems and devices. At Bell Labs in the mid-1980’s, I worked on some of the record-breaking “bit rate times distance” optical communication systems. At MIT and Lincoln Lab I studied nonlinearities in optical fibers and semiconductor devices and worked on early wavelength division multiplexed (WDM) optical networks, the technology at the heart of today’s terrestrial communication systems. I co-founded two companies to commercialize ground-breaking optical technologies; ultra-high-capacity optical transport systems and high-speed single-photon-counting receivers. At Wellesley I will be developing novel optical fibers for applications in communications, sensing and functional fabrics. Recent advances in multi-material optical fibers have yielded exciting new fiber devices that can generate and detect optical signals, convert sunlight to power and sense thermal and acoustic fluctuations in the surrounding environment. Exciting as stand-alone devices, these multi-material fibers can also be woven into fabrics that may enable our clothing to communicate, to sense our environment and health, and even change color.

I am currently teaching PHYS 106 and PHYS 108 both in the classroom and in the lab. I look forward to teaching courses across the physics curriculum. I hope to inspire students to notice things big and small in the world around us, to question why they are the way they are, and to use their scientific training to understand and improve how we live. I am also interested in teaching the scientific method in ways that appeal to students who may not be passionate about science.

I am interested in developing and commercializing new technologies that solve identified problems and I pursue this interest through my research and involvement with start-up companies. I am fascinated by the legal process associated with inventing and have submitted over 200 patent applications, 98 of which have already been issued, and have been an expert witness on a number of patent litigation cases. I support the scientific societies such as the Optical Society of America (OSA) and Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) Photonics Society that have been my professional home throughout my career and am particularly supportive of their outreach efforts to women and under-represented scientists and engineers.

I love to spend time with my family, travel, work in the yard, play with my dog and cats, and ride my electric bicycle. I also love loud music and rooting for the Celtics. I dream about spending every day at the beach and every night eating lobster rolls but am happy when I get to do that even just a few times a year. I could never sit and do nothing all day long.


2013 OSA Fellows

Symons Innovator Award


  • B.A., Wellesley College
  • M.S., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology