David O. Caplan

This is a headshot of David Caplan.

Dr. David O. Caplan is a senior staff member in the Optical and Quantum Communication Technology Group. His research has focused on high-sensitivity laser communication (lasercom) systems and related technologies, with an emphasis on photon- and power-efficient transmitter and receiver designs ─ and extensions with agile multirate and multiformat capabilities to support future free-space optical network architectures

Caplan led the development of transmitter systems for the GeoLITE mission, the world's first successful high-rate space-based lasercom system. His pioneering work on high-sensitivity multirate optical transceivers has been incorporated into several large programs at the Laboratory and into the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA's) deep-space interplanetary lasercom initiatives, including the Mars Laser Communications Demonstration, the subsequent Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD), and the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) program, which launched in 2021, and the ongoing Orion Artemis II Optical Communications System (O2O) program. Among other noteworthy capabilities, O2O will provide operational lasercom to future manned missions to the Moon, using modulation techniques, waveforms, and transceivers based on his designs that increase state-of-the-art uplink capacity by more than three orders of magnitude. His contributions in the field were recognized with the MIT Lincoln Laboratory Technical Excellence Award and a recent R&D 100 Award for multirate differential phase shift keying (DPSK) as one of the 100 most technically significant products of the year. The multirate DPSK is the basis for high-rate communications for the LCRD system.

In addition to his research and development activities, he has lectured at various in-house courses, served as the cochair of the Laboratory's highly successful Networking and Communications Course for invited attendees, and chaired the Laboratory's New Technology Initiatives Board. His efforts toward enhancing students' education include advising MIT graduate students, instructing courses on laser communications during the MIT Independent Activities Period, judging high school science competitions, and organizing several outreach events, such as Daughters and Sons Days demonstrations and Science on Saturday presentations on lasers and optics.

Caplan is a Fellow of Optica (formerly OSA) and has chaired the Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics (CLEO) Lightwave Communications and Optical Networks technology committee, and served as General Chair of the OSA Advanced Photonics Congress Photonics Networks Conference. An active member of both Optica and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), he was a guest editor for the IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics and Journal of Optical Communication Networks, served two terms as associate editor for the IEEE Journal of Lightwave Technology, and recently joined the editorial team for IEEE Access.

Caplan graduated summa cum laude from Tufts University with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and earned master's and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering from Northwestern University in the field of nonlinear and quantum optics. His work in the field has led to his more than 90 publications, including 18 patents, four post deadline conference papers, and two book chapters.