Scholarly Accomplishments of David L. Shealy

Ph.D., University of Georgia, 1973

Professor and Chair

Research Interests: The main research focus is directed towards fundamental understanding of new optical systems for applications using lasers and soft-x-rays to characterize and process materials.  Recent work includes application of computational techniques and machine-learning algorithms to solve difficult problems in optical design and theoretical optics.  Earlier work used diffraction theory and geometrical optics modeling and simulations of the performance of laser and free-electron laser cavities/systems and of soft-x-ray optical elements as applied to multilayer and grazing incident microscopes and projection lithography.  Another project involved design, development, fabrication, and testing of laser optical systems, which enable uniform illumination of materials for holographic fabrication of devices.

Keywords:  geometrical optics; caustic theory; aberration theory; optical design; optimization; genetic algorithms; differential equations; laser beam shaping; numerical analysis; and mathematical physics.

Teaching Program:  The emphasis of my teaching program has been directed towards graduate education - as major professor of seven doctoral students during the past 15 years.  Our group has weekly meetings using information technology – web, desktop/classroom video conferencing, multicast, e-mail, and teleconferencing – to enhance communications and learning process.  Each member reports on progress and problems associated with their work.  Full participation in discussions by all members is encouraged.  The experience level of these students ranges from first year to post-doctoral and staff research scientist and engineers.  This spectrum of experience is beneficial to all, since beginning and intermediate level graduate students can learn from those nearing final defense of their dissertation and since graduating doctoral students benefit from being required to explain their work to less experienced investigators.  At other times, I am available to discuss progress and problems with each student individually via e-mail or during personal conferences.  Throughout this process, I seek to guide the students on a path, which will lead them towards the goal of becoming an independent scientist who can readily conduct research, collaborate with others, and report results to others.  During the past 15 years students working in the group have co-authored 44 publications and made 61 presentations at professional society meetings.  This breath of experience enables graduates to enter industrial, governmental, and academic jobs.

Internet2 and Information Technology:  Founding member of the Gulf Central Gigapop (GCG) Initiative within the University of Alabama System to provide Internet2 regional connectivity, 1997-present. Founded UAB Internet2 Program:, 1997-present. Developed significant internal, corporate, and NSF grant funding for campus-wide advanced networking services at UAB, 1997- present.  Participated in the planning and implementation of the SURA Southern Crossroads Initiative - an Internet2 node at Georgia Tech, 1997- present. See for current work in middleware and grid computing.

Professional Societies:  Memberships in Optical Society of America; SPIE - The International Society of Optical Science & Engineering. Member of Program Committee and Session Chair of Multi-layer and Grazing Incidence X-Ray/EUV Optics Conference, SPIE 1991-93 International Symposium on Optical Applied Science and Engineering.  Member of Program of Program Committee of Laser Beam Shaping I - VI Conferences, SPIE 2000 - 2005 International Symposium on Optical Applied Science and Engineering, and co-chair of conferences since 2001.

Honors & Awards:  Topical Editor, Applied Optics – Optical Technology, May 2003- April 2006; Fellow, Optical Society of America, 1988.  Research Paper Award, IEEE – Alabama Section, 1984. Silver Quill Awards, Motorola Semiconductor Product Sector, 1982.  NASA/ASEE Summer Faculty Fellowship, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, 1980-81. NSF Graduate Trainee, University of Georgia, 1966-70. Ted L. Simons Memorial Award and Wheatly Award, University of Georgia, 1965-66.

Publications & Funding:  Review manuscripts and proposals for DOE, NSF, NASA, National Research Council, Applied Optics, J. Optical Society of America, Optical Engineering, and Optics Letters. Published 137 journal and proceedings articles, book chapters, and reports; presented over 146 invited and contributed papers; and extramural funding 1997-2004 is approximately $4.4M as PI or co-PI.

List of selected significant publications:

1.      D. L. Shealy and S-H Chao, “Design of GRIN laser beam shaper,” in Laser Beam Shaping V Conference, edited by Fred M. Dickey and David L. Shealy, Proceedings SPIE 5525, 138-147, 2004.

2.      D. L. Shealy and S-H. Chao, “Geometrical optics-based design of laser beam shapers,” Optical Engineering 42.11, 3123-3138, November 2003.

3.      D. L. Shealy, “Optical design of laser beam shaping systems,” International Optical Design Conference 2002, edited by Jose Sasian and Paul K. Manhart, Proceedings SPIE 4832, 344-358, 2002.

4.      D. L. Shealy, "Chapter 4: Geometrical Methods," in Laser Beam Profile Shaping, edited by Fred M. Dickey and Scott C. Holswade, (Marcel Dekker, Inc., New York, 2000).

1.      N. C. Evans and D. L. Shealy, "Chapter 5: Optimization-Based Techniques for Laser Shaping Optics," in Laser Beam Profile Shaping, edited by Fred M. Dickey and Scott C. Holswade, (Marcel Dekker, Inc., New York, 2000).

2.      D. L. Shealy, "Chapter 8: Classical (Non-laser) Methods," in Laser Beam Profile Shaping, edited by Fred M. Dickey and Scott C. Holswade, (Marcel Dekker, Inc., New York, 2000).

3.      S.H. Chao and D.L. Shealy, Design of an anastigmat two-mirror microscope, Selected SPIE Papers on CD-ROM series, Vol. 2:  Lens Design, Donald C. O’Shea, ed. (SPIE, Bellingham, WA, February, 1999).

4.      W. Jiang, D.L. Shealy, and K.M. Baker, Development and testing of a holographic projection system.  Applied Optics 35.20, 5994-5998, 1996.

5.      D.L. Shealy, C. Wang, and R .B. Hoover, Prospects for achieving ultra-high resolution with a multilayer, two-mirror microscope.  Journal of Soft X-Ray Science and Technology 5, 1-19, 1995.

6.      C. Wang and D.L. Shealy, Design of gradient-index lens systems for laser beam reshaping. Applied Optics 32.25, 4763-4769, 1993.

7.      D.L. Shealy and V. K. Viswanathan,  Design survey of x-ray/XUV projection lithography systems. in SPIE Advent Technology Series, AT 2, ed. Richard Feinberg, SPIE Optical Engineering Press, Bellingham, WA, 320-331, 1991.

Recent PhD Graduates and their place of employment:


Year Graduated

Thesis Research Area

Place of Employment

David B. Gore


Silicon/Silver Multilayer Fabry-Perot Bandpass Transmission Filter for Use Near 28.4nm

Advance Photon Source

Argonne National Lab

Chicago, IL

Neal C. Evans


Genetic Algorithm Optimization Methods in Geometrical Optics

Java Architect

Intermark Interactive, Inc.,Birmingham, AL


Overview of Research:

Dr. Shealy has made seminal contributions in several areas of optical sciences including laser beam shaping,[i] irradiance and caustic theory,[ii] differential equation and genetic algorithm-based optical design,[iii] and soft x-ray imaging.[iv]  This work has been directed towards fundamental understanding of the irradiance (intensity) and imaging characteristics of optical systems used for applications involving lasers and soft x-rays to characterize and process materials.  Theoretical, computational, and experimental methods have been used during these investigations. 


Significance of Selected Work

  • Laser Beam Shaping:
  • There are many scientific experiments and industrial/medical applications that require the irradiance profile of the laser beam to be transformed into a more useful intensity distribution.  Since 1965, there has been considerable work done in the area of laser beam shaping, but the publication of the theory, design, and measurement techniques has been scattered throughout the literature. 
  • The first book on laser beam shaping[v] was published this year.  Dr. Shealy was invited to write three out of the nine chapters in this book by F.M. Dickey, Distinguished Member of Technical Staff, Sandia National Laboratories.  In addition, Dr. Shealy presented the invited, opening presentation[vi] to the first Laser Beam Shaping Conference at the SPIE International Symposium on Optical Sciences and Technology, San Diego, August 2-3, 2000.  Earlier work in this field, Dr. Shealy and UAB Physics graduate student P.W. Rhodes authored a pioneering paper in laser beam shaping,[vii] which established a self-consistent and rigorous geometrical theory of design of laser beam shaping systems and enabled characterization of the non-spherical optical surfaces contours were required to transform the intrinsic non-uniform (Gaussian) intensity profile of a laser beam into a desired irradiance profile that would then be used to uniformly illuminate a flat or curved substrate surface. During the 1980’s, optical component fabrication technologies, such as, single point diamond computer controlled laves, developed significantly to allow fabrication and testing laser beam shaping systems involving aspherical optics which enabled Dr. Shealy and UAB Physics graduate student Wu Jiang to demonstrate in 1993 that a two-lens laser beam shaping system can be fabricated, tested and shown to operate efficiently over a wide range of laser wavelengths.  Then, Jiang, Shealy, and Baker[viii] incorporated laser beam shaping optics into a holographic projection processing system with a substantial increase in quality of mirco-optical arrays.  In subsequent work, Baker demonstrates[ix] further significant improvements of micro-optical arrays, leading to a feature article on holographic projection processing in the 10 January 1999 issue of Applied Optics.   Dr. Shealy has been asked to co-chair the SPIE Laser Beam Shaping II Conference in 2001 and is working with colleagues on a second book on laser beam shaping applications.
  • Irradiance and Caustic Theory:  Dr. Shealy has formulated analytical expressions for the irradiance and caustic surfaces of general optical systems, as presented in publications 6, 9, and 20 of his CV.  These results are expressed in terms of the differential geometry of the optical surfaces and have, therefore, formed a very good theoretical understanding of irradiance propagation and imaging within optical systems.  For example, the pioneering paper in laser beam shapingvii is an application of the general irradiance propagation theory developed earlier by Dr. Shealy to design an optical system by solution of differential equations.  In addition, results from Caustic Theory have been used to formulate a differential equation used to design anastigmatic optical systems[x] for wide field-of-view applications in lithography and microscopy.  In reorganization for his distinguished service in the advancement of optics, particularly for significant contributions to radiative energy transfer theory and the theory of caustics in geometrical optics, Dr. Shealy was elected to the rank of Fellow of the Optical Society of America in 1988.  Several publications of Dr. Shealy have been selected for inclusion in topical books.[xi]

Impact of Work

  • Dr. Shealy is an international authority in the areas of laser beam shaping, irradiance and caustic theory as noted above. 
  • Dr. Shealy has received peer reviewed funded from NSF and US Department of Education in support of research, graduate education, and infrastructure development associated with the UAB Department of Physics and the Internet2 Program.
  • Dr. Shealy has contributed to the elevation of the arts and sciences as a result of the successful implementation of the UAB Internet2 Program during the past two years.  For example, Professor Panon (Music) was able to record the first live multi-city, multi-track CD[xii] via Internet2 as part of the Gala Event Virtual Halloween at the Rialto as part of the Annual Internet2 Members Meeting, Atlanta, October 31, 2000.
  • As Chair of Department of Physics, Dr. Shealy has recruited and hired during the 1990’s six tenured faculty – all have developed very good research programs involving undergraduates, graduate students and post-doctoral associates and are well funded from federal and industrial agencies.
  • Dr. Shealy sings first tenor with the Birmingham Concert Choral and the Chancel Choir of the Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church.


[i] See publications 19, 43, 45, 46, 79, 83, and 92 - 94 listed in the C of D.L. Shealy for substantiation.

[ii] See publications 4, 7, 9, 10, 14, 15, 17, 20, 21, 32, 34, 38, and 57 listed in the CV of D.L. Shealy for substantiation.

[iii] See publications 11, 13, 42, 74, 80, 85, 89, and 91 – 93 listed in the CV of D. L. Shealy for substantiation.

[iv] See publications 28, 33, 37, 39 – 41, 44, 49, 53 – 56, 65  – 77, 84, 101, 104, 108 – 111, 114, 116, 117, 119, and 121 - 124 listed in the CV of D.L. Shealy for substantiation.

[v] Laser Beam Shaping –Theory and Techniques, Fred M. Dickey and Scott C. Holswade, ed. (Marcel Dekker, New York, 2000).  

[vi] See invited presentation 32 listed in the CV of D.L. Shealy, and D.L. Shealy, Theory of geometrical methods for design of laser beam shaping systems, Proc. SPIE 4095, 1 – 15, 2000.

[vii] Applied Optics 19.20, 3545-3553, 1980.

[viii] Applied Optics 35.20, 5994-5998, 1996.

[ix] Applied Optics 38.2, 339-351 and 352-356, 1999.

[x] See publications 42, 72, 74, 80 and 88 listed in the CV of D.L. Shealy.

[xi] See publications 39 and 91-94 listed in the CV of D.L. Shealy.

[xii] Courtney’s Festiaval.  Copyright 1991 Julius Music (Words and lyrics:  Wayne Linsey, Lynne Fiddmont-Linsey, Leslie Drayton, Bridgette Bryant-Fiddmont, and Fred White).


Mailing Address: 1530 3rd Ave S, CH310, UAB, Birmingham, Alabama, 35294-1170
Physical Address: 1300 University Blvd, CH310
Phone: 205-934-8068 | Fax: 205-934-8042