RIT researchers developing ways to use hyperspectral data for vehicle and pedestrian tracking
Remote Sensing

CIS plays a central role in new research project sponsored by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research

Mar. 5, 2019
Luke Auburn

Three researcher watch hyperspectral camera on roof.

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) funded a Rochester Institute of Technology project to utilize hyperspectral video imaging systems for vehicle and pedestrian tracking. The project will use the hyperspectral video system shown above, which was developed by Associate Professor and Frederick and Anna B. Wiedman Chair Charles Bachmann, left.

A classic scenario plays out in action films ranging from Baby Driver to The Italian Job: criminals evade aerial pursuit from the authorities by seamlessly blending in with other vehicles and their surroundings. The Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) has Rochester Institute of Technology researchers utilizing hyperspectral video imaging systems that make sure it does not happen in real life.

While the human eye is limited to seeing light in three bands—perceived as red, green and blue—hyperspectral imaging detects bands across the electromagnetic spectrum far beyond what the eye can detect. This high-resolution color information can help us better identify individual objects from afar. The AFOSR awarded a team of researchers led by principal investigator Matthew Hoffman, an associate professor and director of the applied and computational mathematics MS program, a nearly $600,000 grant to explore if hyperspectral imaging systems can do a better job at tracking vehicles and pedestrians than current methods.

“It is very challenging to track vehicles from an aerial platform through cluttered environments because you cannot really see a vehicle’s shape as well, and a lot of machine learning computer algorithms are based on shapes,” said Hoffman. “Buildings, trees, other cars, and a lot of things can potentially confuse the system. As hyperspectral video technology has improved, we believe we can use color information to more persistently track targets.”

The project will require a multidisciplinary approach and Hoffman will work closely with researchers from RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science. Co-PIs include Professor Anthony Vodacek, Distinguished Researcher Donald McKeown and Assistant Professor Christopher Kanan. The project will use a hyperspectral video system developed by Associate Professor and Frederick and Anna B. Wiedman Chair Charles Bachmann. Senior Research Scientist Adam Goodenough and several Ph.D. students will also collaborate on the project.

The challenge with using hyperspectral imaging is that it produces massive amounts of data that can’t all be processed at once, so Hoffman and his team are also tasked with creating a process to efficiently use the information on demand. The team will use the Digital Image and Remote Sensing Image Generation model developed by RIT’s Digital and Remote Sensing Laboratory to develop a new dynamic, online scene building capability that helps re-track targets after they have passed by obstacles. Hoffman said he is excited by the prospect of creating such a unique product.

“This would be a dataset that just doesn’t exist today, so it would be a really novel solution,” he said.

The three-year project got officially underway in December. The goal this year is to develop the system’s infrastructure and the team hopes to mount the system on a plane at the start of year two to begin testing.

This material is based upon work supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research under award number FA9550-19-1-0021. Any opinions, finding, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Air Force.

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Original Source: University News

Leaders in drone technology to converge at RIT for STRATUS conference
Remote Sensing

Conference on unmanned aerial systems chaired by RIT Assistant Professor Emmett Ientilucci

Feb. 15, 2019
Luke Auburn

story photo

Worldwide experts in unmanned aerial systems from industry, academia and government will land at Rochester Institute of Technology for the Systems and Technologies for the Remote Sensing Applications Through Unmanned Aerial Systems (STRATUS) conference Feb. 25-27. The STRATUS conference will explore how drones are revolutionizing fields including precision agriculture, environmental monitoring, and forest and water management, and showcase the latest developments in the hardware and algorithms that power unmanned aerial systems.

Keynote speakers include Sally Rockey, the first executive director of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), and Steven J. Thomson, a national program leader at the USDA National Institute Food and Agriculture. The three-day event will also feature tutorials, presentations, posters, sponsors, networking opportunities and vendor demonstrations.

“This conference will promote the dissemination of research results, new ideas and technical advances in the emerging field of unmanned aerial systems,” said Emmett Ientilucci, assistant professor of imaging science at RIT and the STRATUS program chair. “We hope attendees will gain some general insight to the broad research areas unmanned aerial systems research touches.”

Ientilucci said RIT is an ideal host for the conference because of the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science and its state-of-the-art Drone Research Lab. He launched STRATUS as a one-day workshop in 2016 with support from the IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society (GRSS) and it has grown to a three-day event that attracts experts and scholars from as far as Germany, Colombia and Nigeria. This year’s program expanded to include input from nearby universities including University at Buffalo, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Cornell University and Hobart and William Smith Colleges. 

For additional details, including a full program and registration, visit http://ewh.ieee.org/r1/rochester/grss/STRATUS2019/.

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Original Source: University News

Catherine Carlson, longtime area philanthropist and community booster has died

Sep. 27, 2018

A woman who is known for her philanthropic activities in the Rochester area as well as her connection to the founder of Xerox has died.

Catherine Breslin Carlson was 91. Her friends say she died peacefully on Thursday morning.

Catherine Carlson was originally from Milton, Massachusetts, and moved to Rochester in 1969. She graduated from Boston University with a degree in philosophy, and after graduation embarked on a business career, including assisting the head of Leahy Clinic, working on staff with boat builder George O'Day, traveling for Connecticut General Insurance Company, and serving as registrar and development officer at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine.

While in Boston, Catherine met Rochester inventor Chester Carlson and his wife Dorris, and when traveling to Rochester on business, she often stayed at the Carlson home.

Chester Carlson developed the Xerographic process, which eventually led to the founding of the Xerox Corporation.

After Chester Carlson died in 1968, Dorris invited Catherine to assist her and continue Dorris and Chester's philanthropic work and support of spiritual interests. When Dorris died in 1998, Catherine became  Chair of the Chester and Dorris Carlson Charitable Trust.

That trust was administered through the Rochester Community Foundation. Its President and CEO, Jennifer Leonard says Catherine Carlson had a strong need to help people throughout the city.

“Going out beyond the club life, let’s say, of a lot of other people from her social strata and recognizing the needs of the poor and the hungry and of struggling women and families."

Catherine Carlson also has given many talks at scientific conferences about Chester Carlson and his achievements.

She served the community in a variety of ways, including founding the first lay Board plotting the future of the merged Nazareth Schools, Nazareth Academy and Nazareth Hall.

Catherine Carlson served on a number of boards, including the Rochester Area Community Foundation, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Greater Rochester Women’s Fund and the Reynolds Library benefiting the Rochester Public Library.

Libraries were a particular focus of her philanthropic activities. The University of Rochester campus is home to the Carlson Library, which houses most of the university’s scientific collections.

Catherine Carlson also funded the Patent and Trademark Resource Center to assist inventors in patent procedure based on Chester's early experiences as a patent attorney and provided scholarships to RIT's Carlson Imaging Center, Nazareth Academy, and Nazareth Elementary School.

Mary Ann Mavrinac is the Dean of the University of Rochester Libraries, which includes the Carlson Science and Engineering Library. A number of archival materials from Chester Carlson are housed there, but Mavrinac says Catherine Carlson didn’t just reminisce about past accomplishments.

"She was always thinking about the world in which we live. She had a great concern about the community and poverty and poverty in certain segments of the community," Mavrinac said.

Sister Beth LeValley of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Rochester  was a close friend of Catherine Carlson for a number of years. She remembers Carlson's interest in education and reading. "She would go and read to the students and all that, and then the migrants, I still remember going out to the Brockport migrant school which was at the former Nativity School, and, oh my gosh, reading to the kids and the kids had their shields,  and she was very good with children like that," Sister LeValley told WXXI News. 

Mayor Lovely Warren issued this statement:

"I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Catherine Breslin Carlson.  As Chair of the Chester and Dorris Carlson Charitable Trust, Catherine worked tirelessly to continue the Carlson family legacy and their numerous philanthropic endeavors that benefited so many people in the Rochester community.  Her commitment to furthering education throughout the years by providing funding for libraries, countless scholarships for students throughout the area and books for children in our city schools has deep meaning for me, as we both shared a strong belief in the importance of learning.  Our city and our region have lost a truly special friend, caring neighbor, and a devoted philanthropist."

Catherine Carlson was a longtime supporter of WXXI, and was the Honorary Chair of the 21/21 Vision Campaign for the future of WXXI.

In recognition of her family’s generosity to WXXI, the television studio which has been home to Homework Hotline, Assignment: the World, and Need to Know was renamed The Carlson Family Studio in 2005.

WXXI President Norm Silverstein released this statement on the death of Catherine Carlson:

“With the passing of Catherine Carlson, a bright light is extinguished over the sky of Rochester.

After George Eastman and before Tom Golisano, the Carlson family, and especially Catherine Carlson, helped define philanthropy in our community.

Catherine was a donor, an advisor, an Honorary Board member, and most of all, a good friend. She especially loved the county library, WXXI and the Little Theatre, and local colleges and universities, and she helped all of them to thrive.

She will be sorely missed.”

Funeral arrangements are pending. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to a charity of your choice, or to the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Rochester, 150 French Road, Rochester, New York 14618.  

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Original Source: WXXI News

Collection phase begins for “Images from Science 3” exhibition planned for RIT in 2019

CIS is co-sponsor of display which will celebrate extraordinary images taken by scientists and photographers around world


Sep. 7, 2018
Rich Kiley

Scientists and photographers from around the world will have the opportunity to share their scientific research, discoveries and observations of natural wonders with the launch of the collection phase of an international images exhibition scheduled for Rochester Institute of Technology in 2019.

The exhibition is being led by Michael Peres and Ted Kinsman of RIT’s School of Photographic Arts and Sciences, along with Norman Barker of Johns Hopkins Medicine—each of whom has enjoyed award-winning careers as photographers, but also as authors, teachers and industry leaders exploring and making science images.

Because of their passion for the image in science, they are coordinating the production of the third in a series of traveling exhibitions exploring the diverse field of the image in science.

"Images from Science 3" (IFS 3) is being organized to build upon the successes of the Images from Science 1 and 2 exhibitions, held previously in 2002 and 2008, respectively.

“Much has changed in the world of science, technology and explorations in the decade since those exhibitions were mounted, including the explosion of new applications of imaging technologies,” said Michael Peres, associate chair of the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences (SPAS). Peres and Andrew Davidhazy, professor emeritus in SPAS, were the original creators of the project.

“IFS 3 seeks to identify and showcase up to 75 extraordinary examples of still and moving images, animations and illustrations that reveal science in new and visually exciting ways,” added Barker, a second organizer and professor of pathology and art as applied medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Similar to past projects, it will use the internet to promote the opportunity. IFS 3 will also feature a limited number of full-time student images as a part of the exhibition.” 

IFS 3 invites both new and recognized image makers who reveal science in photographs to participate in this latest collection of work. The exhibition’s goal is to produce “a traveling exposition that features extraordinary examples of still and moving images, animations and illustrations produced to explore or document a scientific process,” said Kinsman, an assistant professor of photographic sciences at RIT and a third organizer.

Seven international judges will curate the final collection of images, videos and illustrations, Kinsman noted.

IFS 3 has a number of sponsors helping provide support for the project using technology to solicit, judge, invite and display the technical excellence and creativity needed to make such photographs. In addition to RIT and Johns Hopkins University, sponsors include Carl Zeiss Microscopy, headquartered in Jena, Germany; RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science; SPAS; RIT’s School of Art; Science Source Images in New York City; and Service Photo in Baltimore, Md.

A four-color catalogue will be published by the RIT Press. The exhibition will premiere at the new RIT City Art Space in November 2019 and will then be displayed at Johns Hopkins in January 2020.

The exhibition is being dedicated to Lennart Nilsson, the late Swedish photographer and scientist noted for his photographs of human embryos and other medical subjects once considered impossible to photograph, and more generally for his extreme macro photography.

"Images from Science 1" premiered in the fall of 2002 at RIT. Launched at the infancy of the internet and digital photography, it featured 59 photographs and traveled to 22 venues in seven countries until it was retired in 2007.

"Images from Science 2" premiered in the fall of 2008 and was displayed in 13 venues before it was lost in shipping from the U.K. to the Netherlands in 2014. Both exhibitions were produced as experiments to explore the power of the internet as the sole tool used to promote, identify and ultimately display some of the world’s most powerful photographs of science at the time of their production.

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Original Source: University News

RIT, NASA, JHU and STSI evaluate use of digital micromirror devices in space applications


Aug. 1, 2018

Multiobject spectrometers (MOSs) have benefitted from the use of digital micromirror devices (DMDs) as programmable slit masks in ground-based applications because of the high reliability and accuracy DMDs provide. For this reason, knowing how DMDs would perform under conditions associated with space deployment would benefit astronomers looking for slit masks to use in MOSs on space missions.

A collaboration between Rochester Institute of Technology (Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science & Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology), NASA Goddard Space Flight CenterSpace Telescope Science Institute and Johns Hopkins University (Department of Physics and Astronomy & Department of Mechanical Engineering) evaluated the feasibility of using DMDs in space applications. A series of tests were performed to investigate the performance of DMDs under conditions associated with space deployment to determine their suitability for multiobject spectrometers on space missions.

Space-based MOSs would encounter the same vibration and mechanical shock that is typically associated with any launch into space, so the DMDs were subjected to vibration and shock testing. DMDs underwent vibration testing while powered off as well as in the powered on and operational state. The project utilized Texas Instruments‘ DLP7000 .7” XGA DMDs controlled using the DLi4120 Development Kit in order to test the DMDs in two different operating modes; holding a steady pattern and quickly switching among several patterns. The team then inspected the DMDs for pixels that may have changed the direction of the tilt of the micromirrors and did not detect any pixels that changed state after the vibration testing.

The DMDs were also exposed to thermal cycling and low temperature testing to determine lifetime and performance at cryogenic temperature. Among several tests conducted, the DMD micromirror array was subject to an accelerated lifetime test, where it was cycled between the on and off state for 200,000 flips – an approximation of a 10 year life of a MOS using DMD technology. Among this and the other tests conducted, the results indicated that DMDs are insensitive to low temperatures, and able to operate at temperatures as low as 78 K.

Two separate experiments focused on the result of accelerated heavy-ion radiation on DMD reliability. The DMDs were exposed to heavy-ion radiation above realistic levels for fluxes, and did not obtain any permanent damage or experience hard failure. All micromirrors that were initially disrupted from testing were cleared with the loading of a new pattern on to the DMDs, allowing the team to conclude that DMDs have limited sensitivity to heavy-ion radiation.

The combined assessment of radiation, vibration, mechanical shock and temperature testing of DMDs allowed the team to determine that DMDs are extremely reliable and robust. Overall, the results confirm that DMDs are suitable for use in both ground-based and space-based multiobject spectrometry.

Click the Read More button for the full paper, “Evaluation of digital micromirror devices for use in space-based multiobject spectrometer application.”

Read More

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Original Source: Digital Light Innovations

USGIF Announces First K. Stuart Shea Endowed Scholarship Recipient
student award

PhD candidate Sanghui Han is first recipient of new endowed scholarship

Apr. 23, 2018

Monday morning at USGIF’s GEOINT 2018 Symposium, Sanghui Han was awarded the first ever $15,000 K. Stuart Shea USGIF Endowed Scholarship. Han is pursuing a Ph.D. in imaging science at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, N.Y. USGIFChairman of the Board The Honorable Jeffrey K. Harris presented the award to Han on stage.

The USGIF Board of Directors announced the creation of this new scholarship at the GEOINT 2017 Symposium in honor of K. Stuart Shea, one of the founders of USGIF and the first chief executive and chairman of the organization. The scholarship will be annually awarded to a Ph.D. student studying cartography, geography, or imaging science.

“Being a single mom and a student is challenging, especially financially,” Han said. “What this scholarship means to me immediately is some breathing room in my finances, which enables me to better conduct my research. Another facet to this scholarship are the recognition and networking opportunities, which would expand opportunities after I graduate and throughout my career by opening up possibilities for collaboration between organizations that have congruent missions. I hope the connections I make will empower me to bring together my experiences in the military and research at RIT to contribute to the advancement of geospatial intelligence.”

Han earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Colorado, and upon completion was commissioned as a U.S. Army intelligence officer. She began pursing her master’s degree in imaging science through RIT while deployed to Afghanistan and continued her studies throughout her Army tenure. She completed her master’s degree toward the end of military career and then began pursing a Ph.D. in imaging science full-time. Han’s research develops a framework for predicting utility of spectral images to facilitate the design of imaging systems. She hopes this research can help build simple, flexible systems optimized for various information requirements.

“Developing advanced tradecraft is a priority for the Foundation and the USGIF Board is very pleased to award the first K. Stuart Shea USGIF Endowed Scholarship to Sanghui,” Harris said. “Her career trajectory has an important connection to the GEOINT mission having served with the U.S. Army as a Joint Reconnaissance Officer in South Korea. This hands-on experience provides an excellent opportunity to help ensure that her research in improved precision image modeling can translate directly into positive GEOINT mission impact. Recognizing the substantial contributions to USGIF by former chairman Stu Shea, this scholarship reaffirms his leadership principal to actively build the community.”

This scholarship is part of the overall USGIF Scholarship Program. The full list of 2018 scholarship recipients will be announced this summer. Learn more about the USGIFScholarship Program here.

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Original Source: United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation

Space Weather Storms Could Set Modern High-Tech Life Back Hundreds Of Years

CIS Professor Roger Dube's article featured in Newsweek

Mar. 30, 2018
Roger Dube

Shortly after 4 a.m. on a crisp, cloudless September morning in 1859, the sky above what is currently Colorado erupted in bright red and green colors. Fooled by the brightness into thinking it was an early dawn, gold-rush miners in the mountainous region of what was then called the Kansas Territory woke up and started making breakfast. What happened in more developed regions was even more disorienting, and carries a warning for the wired high-tech world of the 21st century.

As the sky lit up over the nighttime side of the Earth, telegraph systems worldwide went berserk, clacking nonsense code and emitting large sparks that ignited fires in nearby piles of paper tape. Telegraph operators suffered electrical burns. Even disconnecting the telegraph units from their power sources didn’t stop the frenzy, because the transmission wires themselves were carrying huge electrical currents. Modern technology had just been humbled by a fierce space weather storm that had arrived from the sun, the largest ever recorded—and more than twice as powerful as a storm nine years earlier, which had itself been the largest in known history.

My seven years of research on predicting solar storms, combined with my decades using GPS satellite signals under various solar storm conditions, indicate that today’s even more sensitive electronics and satellites would be devastated should an event of that magnitude occur again. In 2008, a panel of experts commissioned by the National Academy of Sciences issued a detailed report with a sobering conclusion: The world would be thrown back to the life of the early 1800s, and it would take years—or even a decade—to recover from an event that large.

A solar explosion

Space weather storms have happened since the birth of the solar system, and have hit Earth many times, both before and after that massive event in 1859, which was named the Carrington event after a British astronomer who recorded his observations of the sun at the time. They’re caused by huge electromagnetic explosions on the surface of the sun, called coronal mass ejections. Each explosion sends billions of protons and electrons, in a superheated ball of plasma, out into the solar system.

About 1 in every 20 coronal mass ejections heads in a direction that intersects Earth’s orbit. Around three days later, our planet experiences what is called a space weather storm or a geomagnetic storm.

While these events are described using terms like “weather” and “storm,” they do not affect whether it’s rainy or sunny, hot or cold, or other aspects of what it’s like outdoors on any given day. Their effects are not meteorological, but only electromagnetic.

Hitting Earth

When the coronal mass ejection arrives at Earth, the charged particles collide with air molecules in the upper atmosphere, generating heat and light called aurora.

Also, as happens anytime moving electrical charges encounter a magnetic field, the interaction creates a spontaneous electrical current in any conductor that’s available. If the plasma ball is big enough, its interaction with Earth’s magnetic field can induce large currents on long wires on the ground, like the one that overloaded telegraph circuits in 1859.

On March 13, 1989, a storm only about one-fifth as strong as the Carrington event hit Earth. It induced a large surge of current in the long power lines of the Hydro-Quebec power grid, causing physical damage to transmission equipment and leaving 6 million people without power for nine hours. Another storm-induced power surge destroyed a large transformer at a New Jersey nuclear plant. Even though a spare transformer was nearby, it still took six months to remove and replace the melted unit. Some people worried that the bright auroral lights meant nuclear war had broken out.

And in October 2003, a rapid series of solar storms affected Earth. Collectively called the Halloween solar storm, this series caused surges that threatened the North American power grid. Its effects on satellites made GPS navigation erratic and interrupted communications connections during the peak of the storm.

Larger storms will have wider effects, cause more damage and take longer to recover from.

Wide-reaching effects

Geomagnetic storms attack the lifeblood of modern technology: electricity. A space weather storm typically lasts for two or three days, during which the entire planet is subjected to powerful electromagnetic forces. The National Academy of Sciencesstudy concluded that an especially massive storm would damage and shut town power grids and communications networks worldwide.

After the storm passed, there would be no simple way to restore power. Manufacturing plants that build replacements for burned-out lines or power transformers would have no electricity themselves. Trucks needed to deliver raw materials and finished equipment wouldn’t be able to fuel up, either: Gas pumps run on electricity. And what pumps were running would soon dry up, because electricity also runs the machinery that extracts oil from the ground and refines it into usable fuel.

With transportation stalled, food wouldn’t get from farms to stores. Even systems that seem non-technological, like public water supplies, would shut down: Their pumps and purification systems need electricity. People in developed countries would find themselves with no running water, no sewage systems, no refrigerated food, and no way to get any food or other necessities transported from far away. People in places with more basic economies would also be without needed supplies from afar.

It could take between four and 10 years to repair all the damage. In the meantime, people would need to grow their own food, find and carry and purify water, and cook meals over fires.

Some systems would continue to operate, of course: bicycles, horse-drawn carriages and sailing ships. But another type of equipment that would keep working provides a clue to preventing this type of disaster: Electric cars would continue to work, but only in places where there were solar panels and wind turbines to recharge them.

Preparing and protecting

Geomagnetic storms would affect those small-scale installations far less than grid-scale systems. It’s a basic principle of electricity and magnetism that the longer a wire that’s exposed to a moving magnetic field, the larger the current that’s induced in that wire.

In 1859, the telegraph system was so profoundly affected because it had wires stretching from city to city across the U.S. Those very long wires had to handle enormous amounts of energy all at once, and failed. Today, there are long runs of wires connecting power generators to consumers—such as from Niagara Falls to New York City—that would be similarly susceptible to large induced currents.

The only way to reduce vulnerability to geomagnetic storms is to substantially revamp the power grid. Now, it is a vast web of wires that effectively spans continents. Governments, businesses and communities need to work together to split it into much smaller components, each serving a town or perhaps even a neighborhood—or an individual house. These “microgrids” can be connected to each other, but should have protections built in to allow them to be disconnected quickly when a storm approaches. That way, the length of wires affected by the storm will be shorter, reducing the potential for damage.

A family using solar panels and batteries for storage and an electric car to get around would likely find its water supply, natural gas or internet service disrupted. But their freedom to travel, and to use electric lights to work after dark, would provide a much better chance at survival.

When will the next storm hit?

People should start preparing today. It’s impossible to know when a major storm will hit next: The most we’ll get is a three-day warning when something happens on the surface of the sun. It’s really only a matter of time before there is another one like the Carrington event.

Solar astrophysicists are also studying the sun to identify any events or conditions that might herald a coronal mass ejection. They’re collecting enormous amounts of data about the sun and using computer analysis to try to connect that information to geomagnetic storms on Earth. This work is underway and will become more refined over time. The research has not yet yielded a reliable prediction of a coming solar storm before an ejection occurs, but it improves each year.

In my view, the safest course of action involves developing microgrids based on renewable energy. That would not only improve people’s quality of life around the planet right now, but also provide the best opportunity to maintain that lifestyle when adverse events happen.

Roger Dube, Research Professor of Imaging Science, Rochester Institute of Technology.

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Original Source: Newsweek

RIT scientist modifies digital cinema technology for future space missions
Detector Research

NASA funds development of new astronomical imaging system

Mar. 29, 2018
Susan Gawlowicz

story photo

RIT professor Zoran Ninkov, right, and Dmitry Vorobiev ’17 (astrophysical sciences and technology), a postdoctoral researcher in RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, work on a new astronomical imaging system using technology found in Texas Instruments’ digital cinema projectors. (Photo by A. Sue Weisler)

Rochester Institute of Technology researchers are developing and testing an astronomical imager inspired by an Oscar-award winning cinema projection system.

RIT scientist Zoran Ninkov modified Texas Instruments’ Digital Micromirror Device—the micro-electro-mechanical systems, or MEMS, device found in Digital Light Processing projectors—to simultaneously capture light signatures from multiple objects in the same area of sky. The RIT astronomical imaging system is competing with other technologies for deployment on future NASA space missions for surveying star and galaxy clusters.

NASA is supporting Ninkov’s ongoing research on the RIT multi-object spectrometer with a $550,000 grant to recoat the Digital Micromirror Device with aluminum to increase its reflectivity and performance at ultraviolet wavelengths.

“We’ve worked extensively on space qualification for the Texas Instruments Digital Micrormirror Device and have shown the current generation of these devices is well suited to space applications,” said Ninkov, a professor in RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science. “There’s a need for a technology to allow for the rapid programmable selection of targets in a field of view that can be input to an imaging spectrometer for use in astronomy and remote sensing.”

The Texas Instruments device consists of 2048-by-1080 individual mirrors that can switch between two positions at thousands of times per second. Ninkov recognized the programmable mirrors had applications in astronomical imaging and remote sensing.

During the last decade, Ninkov’s team turned the commercial product into a scientific instrument to detect and capture astronomical data. The new technology selects targets from a two-dimensional sky field and deflects light down two distinct pathways—either to an imaging spectrometer or to an imaging array detector. The spectrometer records light at many contiguous spectral wavelengths and compresses information in the field of view into a data cube. The imaging detector array captures light signals from the objects with a charge-coupled device similar to technology found in digital cameras.

Ninkov’s team includes Dmitry Vorobiev, a postdoctoral researcher at RIT; graduate students; and collaborators at NASA Goddard Flight Center.

Ninkov leads the Laboratory for Advanced Instrumentation Research in RIT’s Center for Imaging Science. He is also a member of RIT’s Center for Detectors and the Future Photon Initiative.

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Original Source: University News

Being the CEO of Your Career

Optics and Photonics News talked with CIS Professor Jie Qiao about the importance of women in science taking an entrepreneurial approach to advancing their careers.

Mar. 1, 2018

Jie Qiao is an associate professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology, N.Y., USA, and the founder and president of WiSTEE Connect (Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Entrepreneurship)—a group she started in 2012 while working as a laser scientist for the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at the University of Rochester. OPN caught up with her to learn more about the project and her vision for its future.

Q. What inspired you to found WiSTEE?

After I had worked at the University of Rochester’s Laser Lab for almost seven years, I suddenly realized that among close to 60 scientists at the lab, there were only three women. I talked with a dozen women faculty members at the university, and they all felt the same way—isolated. So I wanted to create a group to get women in junior-faculty and mid-career positions together. That was my intention. Then, at the first event, a group of students came in—including undergraduates, graduates and postdocs—and I quickly realized that having a pipeline of women at different career stages is actually really beneficial. But WiSTEE’s focus is still on junior and midcareer women.

Q. Why that career stage in particular?

Because there’s already so much effort to bring girls into science up to the K–12 level. So many schools have reached 50-50 in their student populations, but if you look at their faculty portfolio, it’s 1 woman for every 20 men. We put so much effort into bringing women into a science career, but once they’re there, many are forced out in mid-career, or not promoted. I want to have a group for mid-career and junior-faculty professionals, so they have a sense of belonging and they can exchange their thoughts and support each other. I think for women to be successful, they need to have supporters, collaborators and sponsors. There are many reasons why women drop out of STEM, but I think the deepest reason is the lack of role models who they can talk to and aspire to become. And this is so essential.

Q. At last fall’s Frontiers in Optics meeting, WiSTEE organized a “Global Women of Light” symposium. At that event you brought up the importance of having women be entrepreneurs in their own careers. What does that mean?

I learned this concept when I was in business school, pursuing my MBA, when I was learning finance, marketing and strategy. One day, I thought that for women faculty—not only for women, for everyone— when you think about your career, you have this productive element: you’re researching, writing papers and training students. But you also have a financial side: the most important thing for a new faculty member is not to run out of cash. You have a marketing side: you present your paper and you do workshops. And you also have a strategy side. How do you balance those factors? In those ways, a new faculty position is like a startup company. So it’s really a good comparison between a woman faculty member and an entrepreneur or owner of a new startup.

Q. That seems like a valuable perspective for anyone, though. Why is it particularly important for women?

I’m focusing on women entrepreneurs in science because many women, like men, also aspire to become entrepreneurs or technology leaders. But women entrepreneurs, like women faculty members, are more isolated. In reality, men probably get more opportunities, and they naturally have a team already—the whole department, which tends to be heavily male. Entrepreneurs need to raise money, and there is statistical data that if you’re a female entrepreneur pitching to a venture capitalist, the chance for a female entrepreneur to get funding is much smaller than for a male entrepreneur. This is also true for women PIs in academia. If you look at proposal or paper reviews, there is subtle bias there, too. So for women, there are really a lot of very subtle barriers.

Q. Looking ahead, how do you see WiSTEE growing?

In part, it’s the network effect. If one woman makes six contacts at a WiSTEE event, and there are close to 80 women attending, then WiSTEE can grow exponentially. That’s because it has established a trustworthy, organic connectivity that, in my view, can’t be replaced by other organizations. Right now, in structure, there are corporate members of WiSTEE through which individuals can become involved, there are national labs that want to have a branch, and there are students, academic faculty members, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and business leaders. Looking ahead, I want to grow WiSTEE as a global organization. And while I think optics can be a base, we would like to expand that into other areas of physics— astronomy, for example. Optics has never been an isolated profession; it’s always embedded into different applications. And that’s my vision—collectively we are stronger working together.

OPN Looking to the future, WiSTEE Connect is organizing a third Global Women of Light Symposium, to occur in conjunction with the 2018 Frontiers in Optics conference in September. For more information on WiSTEE and its activities to promote women’s leadership in science, visit www.wisteeconnect.org.

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Original Source: Optics and Photonics News