Getting looped: RIT engineering and imaging science students move on to next phase of SpaceX Hyperloop competition
Student Stories

Two undergraduate teams make the cut with designs for futuristic tube travel

Dec. 11, 2015
Michelle Cometa

story photo

Team Two is Tyler Kuhns, second-year imaging science, Hamburg, N.Y.; Ryan Hartzell, second-year imaging science, Danielsville, Pa.; Zachary Assenmacher, second-year physics, Danielsville, Pa.; Jeff Maggio, second-year imaging science, Cincinnati, Ohio; Nate Dileas, second-year imaging science, Buffalo, N.Y.; Emily Faw second-year motion picture science, Sellersville, Pa.; Catherine Meininger, second-year motion picture science, Oklahoma City, Okla.; and Kristina Carucci second-year imaging science, Massapequa Park, N. Y. Faculty advisors are imaging professors Harvey Rhody and Joe Pow.

Two teams of undergraduates from Rochester Institute of Technology beat out universities, companies and individuals from around the world and had their preliminary designs accepted for the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition Design Weekend. Of the 1,200 designs submitted, only 318 teams from 162 universities in 16 countries are advancing to the first phase of the design process and presenting their unique designs Jan. 29-30 atTexas A & M University.

The Hyperloop is a futuristic high-speed rail system with multi-passenger, solar-powered “pods,” or capsules, speeding through a series of depressurized tubes. Elon Musk first proposed the Hyperloop idea in 2013, and his company, SpaceX, is one of several seeking to accelerate the development of a system prototype. He proposed a national challenge—to build a scaled-down pod model and necessary sub-systems. After several competition phases, Musk intends to hold a final contest in June at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., where a Hyperloop test track is being built.

Trying to get from this first design phase to the finals are two groups of undergraduates from RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering and the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science. All are only second or third-year students who have yet to start co-ops or major design projects within their programs, but who believe their Hyperloop ideas have the potential to make an impact on high-speed travel, said Willow Baker, a mechanical engineering major and leader for RIT Team One.

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“This whole competition is just a large brainstorm for this really huge idea. Get as many minds on a problem as you can, and it’s going to be solved that much faster, with that many more different approaches to the problem,” Baker said.

The six engineering students she is working with are designing a full pod. They are fine-tuning a full proposal complete with designs for the levitation system with a flexible barrier they call the “skirt” to maintain the air bearings, and a modular regenerative braking system.

“We were able to make comparisons for our system to other things we found in the real world like the takeoff and landing gears on airplanes, or like an air hockey table with the little openings that release air and try to trap the air under the game pieces so that they levitate. The Hyperloop is a new application that combines a lot of pre-existing technology,” said Baker, who is from Blue Bell, Pa.

Teams have the option of presenting a full-pod proposal or details related to one of the Hyperloop’s sub-systems. They will be required to present a working prototype plan, as well as the process to build the equipment, materials used and cost estimates for manufacturing the pod. They will be judged by university and corporate engineers.

Led by Kristina Carucci, RIT Team Two developed two sub-systems: a high-speed communications system and a sensor system to detect faults in the walls of the tube that could impede the motion of the pod. Both are relatively new technologies being enhanced so they can be applied to a higher speed environment, she said.

“It is an entirely imaging-based method. Other traditional methods that are used to scan tubes, like oil pipelines, would not work in this case,” said Carucci, a second-year imaging science student from Massapequa Park, N. Y. “Scanning the walls of the tube will use what is called ‘structured light,’ and it is commonly used to make 3D maps of stationary objects for scientific purposes. But it has never been used at such high speeds.

“Our proposed optical communications system will far exceed the current communications model in place. Not to mention, this would be the first time a system like ours could be used in a environment like the Hyperloop tube.”

Each of the teams had access to faculty from their colleges and took advantage of that expertise to learn more about successfully building mathematical models and to act as panelists similar to the ones that will question them at the Challenge in Texas about their new technologies. Over RIT’s holiday break in December, both teams will finalize designs, cost estimates, specifications and 3D models of components as well as simulations to verify that designs could work.

But futuristic models still have some real-world concerns. As both teams refine design specs they are also strategizing how to get to Texas for the competition. Managing prescribed budgets for a project plan is different than finding funds—and each team recognized that it is a different skill set and that they could be successful if they joined forces.

“The first thing I said to the team was, ‘Guys, we don’t know much, but there’s very little that we can’t learn.’ So we went and found what we needed to know—and it wouldn’t have been possible without the Internet,” said Baker, laughing. “It was just attempting to use our brains and the Internet, and going for it. And we are all attempting to see if we can figure out together how to get there.”

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University News

USRA Announces 2015 Scholarship Award Winners
Student Stories

CIS senior Elizabeth Bondi wins prestigous McGetchin Award

Oct. 14, 2015
Dr. James Lochner

Image:Left to Right: Risa Robinson (Professor, Mechanical Engineering, RIT); Anthony Hennig (Student, Mechanical Engineering); Zoran Ninkov (Professor, Center for Imaging Science, COI Representative, Rochester Institute of Technology); Elizabeth Bondi (Student, Center for Imaging Science); Mihail Barbosu (Professor, Mathematics). 

The Universities Space Research Association (USRA) is proud to announce the 2015 winners of the annual USRA Scholarship Awards. USRA's scholarship selection committee has chosen an outstanding group of students in physical science and engineering disciplines from universities across the United States. These students have shown deep interest in space-related careers and research.

Among the winners is Ms. Elizabeth Bondi, a senior imaging science major at the Rochester Institute of Technology, who won the Thomas R. McGetchin Memorial Scholarship Award, which honors Dr. McGetchin's contributions to planetary science. Bondi is a highly-motivated, in-depth learner, and has applied her imaging science expertise to historical documents and planetary imagery. As an intern at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, she characterized landing sites for the Insight Mars mission and also planned the test flight program for the proposed Mars Helicopter for the Mars 2020 Rover. She has also presented papers at STEM education conferences on project based learning and peer evaluations. 

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Original Source: USRA Press Release

When Ancient Texts Vanish, These Scientists Make Them Reappear
Cultural Artifact and Document Imaging

Sep. 29, 2015
Jake Rossen

(Image credit: Chet Van Duzer)

To Gregory Heyworth’s naked eye, the coat of arms was nothing more than a smudge. The emblem appeared on the bottom of the epic 14th-century French poem Les Eschez d’Amours; if it could be read, it would reveal to the medieval scholar which family had originally owned it. A firebombing in Dresden during World War II had marred its inscriptions, turning its provenance into a mystery.

“It looked,” he tells mental_floss, “like pigeon poop.”

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Heyworth, an associate professor of English at the University of Mississippi, hoped that ultraviolet light might reveal more than what his eye could see. In 2005, he started examining the document with it—but unfortunately, the view didn't improve. So after years of frustrating work, he jumped online and dug up details of the Archimedes Palimpsest, a bundle of 10th century documents that had been erased by a monk so its parchment paper could be reused to write prayers. Imaging scientists had been successful in excavating the “lost” text from the Palimpsest. He wondered if they could do the same for the poem.

In 2010, Heyworth met with Roger L. Easton, Jr., chair of the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT)'s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science. Easton had been working on new ways to image and decipher decaying manuscripts since the 1990s. At that point, X-rays (which can identify the iron in certain inks) and ultraviolet light had been in use for decades, but their reach was limited. There are hundreds of pigments, all of them responsive to different wavelengths. To properly exhaust most possibilities, there needed to be more options.The result of Easton's work was an arsenal of multispectral imaging hardware and software—photographic and analytical techniques that could take faded or erased text and, by reflecting different bands of light, make them visible to the eye for the first time in centuries. A very deliberate, sometimes exhausting practice, multispectral imaging is reviving vanished text and helping historians rewrite world history—a revolutionary new field blending science with the humanities.Using Easton's equipment, the two photographed Les Eschez d’Amours across a dozen wavelengths, each harboring the possibility of lighting up the pigments on the document. The images were loaded into processing software to further sharpen, enhance, and contrast. And there, viewable for the first time in hundreds of years, was the coat of arms: a unicorn and shield. Within two hours, Heyworth discovered that it was the von Waldenfel family of Bavaria, Germany, that had possession of the document prior to its known whereabouts in the 17th century. It was one missing piece of the poem's chain of ownership.

Les Eschez d'Amours is just one of many documents that can benefit from this process, potentially revealing more than we've ever known about civilization. The downside? There's currently a serious deficit of trained specialists, equipment, and money. "We have a minimum 60,000 manuscripts in Europe alone to image,” Heyworth says, noting that he has the only traveling multispectral system available. “It is, to me, a state of urgency. There is a real danger of some being lost forever.”


A page of the Archimedes Palimpsest, both visible to the eye (L) and after being processed as a multispectral image to reveal "overwritten," hidden text (R). (Image Credit:

Though it's been refined significantly in the past decade, multispectral imaging isn't an entirely new development. In 1996, Easton and colleague Keith Knox had successfullyenhanced faded text from the Dead Sea Scrolls using filtered lenses on a Kodak camera, a process originally developed by the late archeologist Robert Johnston. Easton’s eureka moment came as the team removed two colors of the RGB (red, green, blue) model present in the visible spectrum from the digital image.

“We subtracted pairs of these bands,” he says. “In one of the subtractions, we were able to see some poor-quality, fuzzy characters. I suggested we compare those to the original color image. Upon doing so, we realized that we had not noticed those characters in the original. These characters were new.”

The handwriting had become visible. Later, Easton would introduce multiple wavelengths ranging from ultraviolet to infrared, capturing images as they reacted to a dozen different bands of light.  

“One way to think of it is like the black light you see on crime shows,” says Kevin Sacca, a senior undergraduate student who works with Easton analyzing images at RIT. “The pigment has different spectral properties that can absorb, reflect, or transmit light depending on the wavelength.” Hitting the right combination of light and pigment is like having the tumbler in a lock click into place: It can make invisible text glow with new legibility.   

When the Archimedes Palimpsest was rediscovered in the late 1990s, Easton saw an opportunity to put his techniques to a considerable test. Archimedes was a mathematicianborn in 287 BCE who had his elaborate formulas copied on dried animal skin known as parchment. In the 13th century, a monk had used an abrasive liquid—likely orange juice—to scrape off the ink describing Archimedes’ work. (At the time, parchment was difficult to find and often reused.) This recycling is known as palimpsesting. In this case, the monk took seven of Archimedes’ scrubbed manuscripts, tied them together, and used them as a canvas for his own writing.


(Image Credit:

“Archie,” as the book is known to scholars, started out in rough shape and spent the next 700 years getting worse. Mold, age, and some ill-advised glue had all conspired to create a book that looked to be on the verge of crumbling. Imaging would not only provide a possible key to unlock the text, but a way of preserving it for future researchers to examine.

Though it had been photographed before Easton’s digital excavation in the 2000s, the scientist used multiple bands of light to create the best opportunity for the “undertext,” or the remains of the erased pigment, to be seen. A cell phone camera, for example, might take a picture in the three RGB bands visible to the eye; Easton photographed in a dozen bands, then blended the layers to form multispectral images. From there, the files would be examined in a software program called ENVI that can work to bring out faded or obscured writing by utilizing the different wavelength-specific bands used during photography and manipulating pixels for contrast.  

“The chances are, the ink written over it is different from the ink below,” Sacca says. “The spectral properties will be different, and we can separate them.”

The initial approach was to blend the “overtext,” or the monk’s writing, together with the parchment to isolate the undertext. But it was too blurry—and if the overtext was written directly over the faded ink, it would all disappear. Instead, Easton essentially turned the pages into three distinct layers, “lifting” the undertext off, using ENVI to sharpen and darken the text for visibility, and sending the results to scholars. Figuring out which wavelength the pigment responds to can take days. Since ink and damage can vary even on the same page, the process has to be repeated constantly; ENVI can take hours to run a single software process on an image, whether it's a whole page or just a portion.


A page of the monk's work in normal light (L), imaged (M), and with the undertext made visible (R). The hidden text was written vertically on the page. (Image Credit: RIT/Center for Imaging Science)

The results, however, were nothing short of stunning. Archimedes, it turns out, was on his way to discovering calculus and was pondering the concept of infinity well over a thousand years before scholars believed anyone had. The discoveries that trickled out beginning in 2000 essentially rewrote what historians had believed about math.

After much of the Archimedes work had been completed—some passages that had been painted over and resisted all attempts under multispectral responded to a Stanford X-ray examination—Easton began helping Heyworth with his studies in 2010. Heyworth’s model for a portable imaging system, a key part of what he dubbed the Lazarus Project, would bring Easton’s abilities to a wider audience. They’d also entertain proposals from scholars eager to unlock the hidden knowledge of their own work. A request to examine some charred pageswritten by William Faulkner revealed never-before-seen poetry; the Library of Congress employed similar techniques to discover that Thomas Jefferson had erased “subjects” and written “citizens” in the Declaration of Independence.

While manuscripts were a foremost consideration, one historian was intrigued by a map likely used by Christopher Columbus that was slowly being lost to time. Easton had performed his document archaeology for manuscripts. Could he do the same for a massive canvas rendered in multiple kinds of paint?


A segment of the Martellus map before processing, viewed under an (unsuccessful) wavelength, and finally showing the faded text. (Image Credit: courtesy of Chet Van Duzer)

The Martellus map warned of monsters. Four feet high by 6 feet long, the geographical guide was crafted by cartographer Henricus Martellus in 1491. Scholars believe it almost certainly informed Christopher Columbus about the shape of Asia and the (erroneous) location of Japan before he set about discovering the New World. It had fascinated scholar Chet Van Duzer ever since he had first seen images of the map taken under ultraviolet in the 1960s. The light had illuminated spores of ink.

“It proved there was text on the map,” he says. “But you couldn’t see most of it.”

Van Duzer reached out to Heyworth and Easton in 2012, who were collaborating to steer the Lazarus Project into new directions. Heyworth knew that many universities didn’t have the finances to install expensive imaging rooms with just a handful of historical documents, making his portable equipment (which was provided free of charge) attractive. 

The three would eventually sit on the Lazarus Project's board; for now, Van Duzer was explaining how badly he wanted to resurrect Martellus’ old legends.

In August 2014, team members traveled to Yale University, where the map is kept in the school’s library behind a protective enclosure. Their in-house archivists freed it from the wall and balanced it on an easel. (The map had been backed to help preserve it.) Easton used aquartz lens made by MegaVision to take 50-megapixel images of overlapping sections—55 in all—while an LED light source loomed over the canvas. Because the map’s surface is uneven and painted, varying the distance to the stationary lens, Easton had to refocus the camera as they made their way across. 

That fall, Easton and Sacca worked in Rochester to pull the faded text from the map, sending digital files to Van Duzer in California to translate Martellus’ Latin. Sometimes words would trail off, leaving him to infer meaning; other times, he’d squint and try to decide whether he was seeing a “V” or “LI.”


(Image Credit: Chet Van Duzer)

Like a developing negative in a dark room, the words of Martellus slowly appeared. He warned of sea dangers, and how some cultures fished for sharks. "A sea monster that is like the sun when it shines,” he wrote of the orca, “whose form can hardly be described, except that its skin is soft and its body huge."

Text in specific regions told Van Duzer which sources Martellus had used. Citing the work of Marco Polo, for example, came from one of the early manuscripts and not a published edition. (Details can vary between the two.)

“We know almost nothing about Martellus,” Van Duzer says, “so whenever we can generate or verify his sources, it’s exciting.” Martellus was himself a source for later mapmakers like Martin Waldseemuller, the first cartographer to name America. Knowing how Martellus crafted his topography would increase our understanding of how other important maps were created.

Because of Van Duzer’s knowledge of the map, he was able to request Easton and Sacca focus on specific areas. “He’d email and say, ‘Can you check there? I think there’s text but I can’t see it,’” Sacca says. “I spent four or five days running data on that one area. Sometimes you get single words, sometimes entire paragraphs.”

The Martellus map, Sacca says, is mostly imaged, with roughly 90 percent of the faded text now visible. Other technicians could go over it and possibly find data he’s missed, but that requires time and resources RIT doesn’t have. Despite pleas from many scholars and universities to examine their holdings, Easton only has two students working full-time to unravel documents.

“People will ask me to image their grandfather’s diary,” Sacca says. They don't realize the thousands of documents already in the queue, or that there’s only so much expertise to go around.


An overwritten illustration of a 5th century medicinal herb becomes wholly visible after being imaged. (Image Credit:

At any given time, Easton, Heyworth, and other advocates for the burgeoning field oftextual science are traveling the world. Part of their mission is to image delicate relics that their owners wouldn’t dare think of transporting. (RIT is currently assisting in imaging the library at St. Catherine’s Monastery, home to thousands of ancient folios written in 11 languages and left behind by visiting monks as far back as the 4th century.) Another is to train students and other scholars how to use the technology so more manuscripts can be preserved and better understood.

“These students are the ones who will be doing the real work that will follow up on our efforts,” Easton says. “It is only by collaborations by people whose loyalties are to the objects and not to personal recognition or financial gain can the need be addressed.”

The rising tide of skilled image specialists face a danger beyond decaying pages: In 2012, Islamist extremists attacked one of the famed libraries of Timbuktu and burned its books. Fortunately, scholars had switched out their rare manuscripts, preserving the African writings, which date from the 10th century to 14th century.

“It’s the only record of scholarship of the continent from that period,” Heyworth says. “They’re endangered objects.” 

The more work that can be done, the more documents can be excavated, making interest in the field as much of a priority as imaging itself. Heyworth recalls a day not long ago when he invited a first-year student to sit down and interact with the ENVI software. A page from an ancient Vatican manuscript was onscreen. With a few mouse strokes, the text revealed underwriting. The student began to read the Greek out loud. 

"It was the first time anyone had heard that in over a thousand years," Heyworth says. "That moment made him a scholar. I want other people to have that experience.”

September 29, 2015 - 11:00am

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Messinger named Director of RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science
Remote Sensing

Sep. 9, 2015
Susan Gawlowicz

Dr. David Messinger

Rochester Institute of Technology professor David Messinger has been named director of the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, following a national search, announced Sophia Maggelakis, dean of RIT’s College of Science. His new role is effective immediately.

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Messinger served as interim director of the Center for Imaging Science after the departure of then-director Stefi Baum in August 2014. Prior to that, he was the director of DIRS (the Digital Imaging and Remote Sensing) Research Laboratory in the center.

“David brings to this position collaborative decision-making, a sense of community building, strong leadership and management skills, and dedication to the mission of the center, our college and RIT,” Maggelakis said. “As director of DIRS, he has done an excellent job leading the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science to many accomplishments that earned RIT national and international recognition.”

Messinger’s expertise in image processing helped produce useful imagery for crisis managers following the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, the Japanese nuclear disaster in Fukushima Daiichi after the earthquake and tsunami in 2011, and flooding in the southern tier of New York caused by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011.

More recently, Messinger has strengthened industry and government connections in Washington, D.C., and advocated for a national commitment to train imaging scientists to fill nationally sensitive positions held by an aging workforce. Messinger, RIT President Bill Destler and industry representatives, in 2013, briefed a congressional panel on the workforce need—and national defense concern—in a hearing made possible by Rep. Louise Slaughter.

“I am very happy and honored to be asked to be the next director of the Center for Imaging Science,” Messinger said. “The center, as a multidisciplinary academic and research program, serves a very diverse community of scientists, engineers and applications specialists working in many fields that use imaging systems. I look forward to the opportunities that await our faculty, staff and especially our students, to solve important problems using imaging systems.”

The Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science is a multidisciplinary academic and research center that focuses on systems used to create, perceive, analyze and optimize images. Researchers at the center use and develop imaging systems to answer fundamental scientific questions, monitor and protect the environment, enhance national security, aid medical research and digitally recover historical documents. The Center for Imaging Science offers BS, MS and Ph.D. degrees in imaging science.

As a mentor, Messinger has advised more than 25 MS and Ph.D. students, and involves students in his research projects. His work focuses on remotely sensed spectral image exploitation using physics-based approaches and advanced mathematical techniques with an emphasis on large-area search and target detection. Messinger’s scholarly activity extends to participating in national and international collaborations and organizing scientific expeditions. He has written more than 100 scholarly articles and numerous successful grant proposals.

Messinger is an associate editor of the journal Optical Engineering and serves as co-chair of the SPIE Conference on Algorithms and Technology for Multispectral, Hyperspectral and Ultraspectral Imaging, and on the technical committee of the Department of Energy Conference on Data Analysis, or CODA.

He is a member of the GEOINT Research and Development Working Group and a member of both the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation Activities Based Intelligence Working Group and Academic Advisory Board. He is a prior academic adviser to the Remote Sensing Advisory Board for the Department of Homeland Security and has served on several program review boards for various government agencies and national laboratories.

Messinger earned his Ph.D. in physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and his BS in physics from Clarkson University. Before joining RIT in 2002, he worked as an analyst for XonTech Inc. and for Northrop Grumman on the National Missile Defense Program for Northrop Grumman.

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Original Source: University News

Imaging Technology Reveals 15th-century Cartographer’s World View
Cultural Artifact and Document Imaging

Sep. 4, 2015
Steve Moyer

Henricus Martellus, a German cartographer working in Florence in the late fifteenth century, produced a comprehensive annotated map of the known world. Shown here is a detail, with the west coast of Africa and legends revealed by multispectral imaging.

(Image by Lazarus Project / MegaVision / EMEL, courtesy of the Beinecke Library, Yale University)

For many years after it was donated to Yale University in 1962, a detailed world map completed in 1491 by Henricus Martellus and in all likelihood consulted by Christopher Columbus hung unobtrusively on a wall outside of the reading room of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Potentially, the map had much to say about the intellectual rapport between cartographers and navigators in the fifteenth century, but many legends were unreadable. And yet where the text was legible, it revealed ways that Europeans of the day imagined the rest of the world. These impressions were sometimes based on the writings of Marco Polo, and others came from dignitaries visiting Europe from Africa. Even so, a great many of the legends allude to fantastically shaped critters and beings.

Martellus, a German cartographer working in Florence, used Ptolemy’s geography and projections from the second century CE and modified them to reveal a greater swath of the earth’s surface than almost any previous mapmaker had shown on a flat map. How and when Columbus consulted the Martellus map is not known, but historian Chet Van Duzer is nearly certain that he did see it or a very similar map.

Scholars such as Van Duzer have had hopes of bringing obscured texts on the map to light, and figuring out how people of the time conceived of the world. With funding from NEH, he led a team of scholars and imaging experts from the Early Manuscripts Electronic Library, Megavision, the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and the Lazarus Project at the University of Mississippi to unlock the map’s secrets. Now, with the help of imagery work, it is quite easy to look at the Martellus map and find the same western route to India that enticed Columbus.

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“Shortly after the Martellus map surfaced,” Van Duzer wrote by e-mail, “some photos were taken of it in ultraviolet light, and one of these in particular showed that northeastern Asia, where one hardly sees any text at all with the naked eye, is in fact dense with text.” It took decades for multispectral imaging technology to develop to the point where scholars would be able to read the legends. But the Martellus world map, which is six and a half feet wide and four feet tall, presented yet one more challenge. “Transporting it to a laboratory for the multispectral imaging,” Van Duzer said, “would have been detrimental from a conservation point of view, and difficult in terms of insurance.”

Fortunately, portable multispectral imaging tools have recently become more common, and Gregory Heyworth of the Lazarus Project has developed some that can be used with fragile artifacts.

Heyworth and the Lazarus Project team traveled to Yale to photograph the Martellus map. Years ago he began carrying his multispectral imaging tools in a golf bag in order to get around some airline restrictions regarding baggage. Not a golfer, he slips a green plastic putter and golf ball into the bag as a ruse, which smooths the way with airport officials but can also be the source of some embarrassment. While at Yale, a staffer there extracted the green putter with a quizzical look while Heyworth, chagrined, had to quickly explain.

Another participant in the project, Roger Easton of the Rochester Institute of Technology, talks about other, more technical, problems, pointing out that “since the map really is a painting rather than a manuscript, the contrast between the writing and background varies all over the place. . . . We often have to come up with some new methods to recover local sections of text, and these methods generally are not helpful for the next block of text nearby.”

While reflecting on his role in the work on the Martellus world map, Easton, an imaging scientist, takes the long view of the connection between the humanities and technology: “I feel as though I am an ally of the scribe who originally wrote the words. It is not a stretch to say that the scribe was an imaging scientist of his time. He was trying to preserve words by using the most advanced archival technology. These words were then ‘lost’ through no fault of his. We are trying to recover those words using modern descendants of the technology he used to write the original words.”

The recent types of multispectral technology developed by Megavision in California and at the Lazarus Project and used to more fully view the Martellus map have also been used in such groundbreaking projects in the digital humanities as the Archimedes palimpsest project and on the David Livingstone diaries. 

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Original Source: Humanities Magazine

The Next Steve Jobs Is Going to Come From One of These 13 Surprising Schools

Imaging Science cited as one of the key reasons why RIT is among the top schools in the world for producing innovators and entrepreneurs.



Aug. 25, 2015
Sophie Kleeman

Harvard and Stanford may jump to mind when it comes to tech titans. Microsoft's Bill Gates and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg chose the former, and Google's Larry Page and Sergey Brin flocked to the latter. But for the next generation of entrepreneur, we may need to look outside the Ivy League. (Steve Jobs, of course, attended Reed College, a liberal arts school in Portland, but didn't graduate.)

Innovation and creativity aren't exclusive to the most prestigious centers of education. They exist in schools all around the world with cutting-edge programs in science and tech, even if they fly further under the radar than "that college in Boston."

To build our list, we considered a variety of criteria, including ranking, research facilities, important technological discoveries, notable faculty and alumni, cost and relationships with the private sector. We drew our stats primarily from U.S. News & World Report and Times Higher Education rankings, as well as slightly lesser-known lists like this one from Great Value Colleges.

Scroll through the most promising of these schools below. Is yours one of them?

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1. University of Texas at Austin 

Source: atmtx/Flickr

The University of Texas at Austin has a lot of things going for it: its proximity to Austin, itself the home of a bustling startup scene; its connection to South by Southwest, a big-name technology and ideas conference; one of the country's top engineering programs; and a number of notable alumni, including Neil deGrasse Tyson and Dell founder and CEO Michael Dell (though Dell never finished, dropping out in 1984 to sell computers).

2. University of Toronto

University of Toronto's beekeeping program.
Source: Melissa Renwick/Getty Images

The University of Toronto is home to Geoffrey Hinton, a distinguished emeritus professor of computer science who, as the Toronto Star put it, is the "godfather of a type of artificial intelligence currently shattering every ceiling in machine learning." He also works part-time at Google, which recently spent $400 million on the purchase of an artificial intelligence company, as a "distinguished researcher."

3. Rochester Institute of Technology

U.S. News and World Report ranked RIT eighth on its 2015 list of Best Regional Universities (North), and it also offers a plethora of interesting programs, including video game design and imaging science majors. RIT is also well-known for its career-oriented approach to learning: Its large co-op program partners with over 1,900 employers worldwide to give students real-world work experience before they're actually out there in it.

4. Georgia Institute of Technology

"A member of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich robotics team shows the field that the team's entry in the Nano Cup robotics competition ... at Georgia Tech in Atlanta."
Source: John Bazemore/AP

With one of the best engineering programs in the country, including top 10 spots in every engineering category according to U.S. News & World Report, Georgia Tech is renowned as a top destination for tech whizzes. But it's also home to the Georgia Institute of Technology Cooperative Division and the Graduate Cooperative Education Program, two large influential programs that place students in real-world working environments.

5. Delft University of Technology

Located in Delft, Netherlands, the city's namesake university is the biggest and oldest university of technology in the country. It's also the incubator for a number of rad projects, like Denise, a robot with the ability to walk like a human, and Nuna, a solar-powered race car that won the World Solar Challenge four times in a row in the 2000s.

6. Imperial College London

Prince Harry has a grand time at Imperial College London's Center for Blast Injury Studies.
Source: WPA Pool/Getty Images

U.S. World News & Report placed Imperial College London twelfth on its list of top global universities, and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings ranked it sixth in the world for engineering and technology, alongside titans like Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Princeton University. Meanwhile, according to the New York Times, recruiters from high-ranking companies in 20 countries put it ninth on its graduate employability list.

Even Prince Harry is a fan: He helped open its Center for Blast Injury Studies, a cutting edge program that studiescombat-related injuries.

7. Worcester Polytechnic Institute

"Worcester Polytechnic Institute students from left, Brian Morin, Paul Greene and Geoffrey Elliott pose with a laptop computer, which is logged onto the Microsoft homepage showing the company's Internet browser Tuesday afternoon, March 4, 1997, in Watertown, Mass. Greene uncovered a major security flaw in Microsoft's browser and along with Morin and Elliott posted the discovery on a public Internet bulletin board after being ignored for several days upon reporting the bug to Microsoft. The flaw could allow a Web site operator to secretly run programs or destroy files on someone else's personal computer."

Counting among its alumni Robert H. Goddard, the creator of the first rocket powered by liquid fuel, Paul Allaire, the former CEO and chairman of Xerox, and Gilbert Vernam, an early pioneer of cryptography, WPI in Massachusetts is also known for its propensity to churn out cash-friendly graduates — Bloomberg Businessweeknamed it one of its top 20 schools for return on investment in 2012. 

8. Technion-Israel Institute of Technology

Google CEO Larry Page, Cornell University President David Skorton, Technion professor Craig Gotsman and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg hold a press conference to answer questions about Cornell and Technion's tech campus, which temporarily resided in Google's New York City headquarters.
Source: Seth Wenig/AP

Israel is home to one of the best and brightest startup scenes on the planet, and its top university is just as formidable. Bloomberg Businessweek included it — the only non-U.S. entry — on a list of "Top 10 Colleges for Tech CEOs," and in 2012, it partnered with Cornell University to build a new engineering and applied science school on New York City's Roosevelt Island.

9. Montana State University

A street sign at the Montana State Innovation Campus
Source: Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images


In 2012, the school's Advanced Technology Park got a makeover, including a new name — the Montana State University Innovation Campus — and a new director, Teresa McKnight, who envisions it as a go-between for research and the private sector. In 2015, it has a variety of fields to its name — optics, biotechnology, agriculture, information technology — as well as number of projects, like the Center for Bio-inspired Nanomaterials and the Thermal Biology Institute.

10. University of California, Berkeley

Siemens Senior Vice President Terry Heath examines an offering at an entrepreneurship conference held at UC Berkeley.
Source: Jed Jacobsohn/AP

Network World reported in 2012 that UC Berkeley was a friendly home indeed for people who want to be the heads of massive tech conglomerates: "Among the 81 degrees obtained by top tech CEOs, Berkeley represents five of them," beating out Stanford, the site said. Despite its reputation as a hippie wonderland, it also has some pretty badass tech ventures to its name. (Oh, and it's also home to 51 Nobel Laureates, 22 of whom are or were faculty.)

11. University of Melbourne

Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd examines a prototype for a bionic eye at the the University of Melbourne.
Source: WILLIAM WEST/Getty Images

In the 1960s, Graeme Clark, a researcher at the school's Center for Neural Engineering, began to study the field of cochlear implants. In the 1970s, he and his colleagues developed the world's first bionic ear — a device that would later be implanted in more than 300,000 patients with hearing problems. Clark isn't done yet, however, despite being your grandfather's age: In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald in July, he described excitement over his new projects, which "could help with treatment of paraplegics, epileptics and ... the bionic eye implant."

12. Harvey Mudd College

"Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow Cesar Orellana '17 describes electro-spinning during summer research open house."
Source: Harvey Mudd College/Twitter

It may be the most expensive college in America, but the California institution also recently came out on top in the undergraduate engineering game: U.S. News & World Report awarded it first place on its 2015 list. It's also making strides to improve diversity within STEM fields, despite a few missteps along the way.

13. National University of Singapore


"The #604 NUS Urban Concept, Hydrogen UrbanConcept, from NUS, turns a lap on day four of the Shell Eco-marathon Challenge Asia at Sepang International Circuit in Kuala Lumpur."
Source: Peter Lim/AP


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RIT professor co-chairs international conference on ultrafast optics in Beijing, Aug. 16–21

Aug. 11, 2015
Susan Gawlowicz

RIT professor co-chairs international conference on ultrafast optics in Beijing, Aug. 16–21
Jie Qiao represents RIT, presents research

Rochester Institute of Technology professor Jie Qiao is the general co-chair of the international conference on Ultrafast Optics UFO X taking place in Beijing from Aug. 16 to 21.

Ultrafast optics uses short optical pulses that can provide higher intensity than a continuous wave of light. High-energy lasers can weld, cut and polish glass and other materials. The technology enables integrated photonics and integrated optoelectronics—that combine or bond different materials. Ultrafast optics holds the potential to advance additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, and free-form optics that go beyond traditional spherical shapes.

“Optics is the enabling technology right now for cutting-edge research in telecommunication, energy, environmental sensing and optical displays,” said Qiao, associate professor in RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science. “Ultrafast lasers can transform the way optical components are being manufactured, leading to a cost-effective, efficient and environmentally friendly solution for fabricating integrated photonics, freeform optics, micro-optics and optoelectronic packaging.”

Global interest in ultrafast optics has increased participation in the 10th international Ultrafast Optics conference that Qiao helped organized. The biennial event is expected to draw 200 scientists from 20 countries. This year marks the first time the conference has been held in China, which has a growing presence in optics research and development.

Qiao’s leadership role in the international conference and her presentation, “Ultrafast polishing of silicon-based materials”—co-authored with RIT imaging science Ph.D. student Lauren Taylor—help put RIT on the map for ultrafast optics research and associated technologies.

Qiao’s Advanced Optical Fabrication, Instrumentation and Metrology Laboratory at RIT’s Center for Imaging Science produces fundamental research on theoretical modeling and experimental demonstrations of ultrafast lasers and materials interaction. Her other lines of research include an optical differentiation wavefront sensor for freeform metrology and phase imaging, and coherent phasing of segmented large-scale gratings for next-generation telescopes or laser systems.

Qiao gained her reputation in the field of ultrafast optics in 2007 with landmark research at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at the University of Rochester, where she developed an efficient optical system that produced high-energy, picosecond pulses. Qiao used three half-meter segmented gratings—optical components that control the travel path of different wavelengths of light—to compress high-intensity lasers pulses in a segmented optical system that works like a 1.5-meter, continuous system. Her research appeared in the high-impact journals Optics Letters and Optics Express. Qiao’s solution is now standard technology in high-energy laser optics.
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Multispectral Imaging: New Technology Resurrects Centuries-Old Texts
Cultural Artifact and Document Imaging

Jul. 25, 2015
Devin Coldewey

(Image courtesy of NBC News)

Look closely at the faded letters of a centuries-old piece of parchment, and behind them you might see the remnants of an earlier work: perhaps a play or poem thought lost for generations. Scholars are applying a high-tech method to extract these hidden texts, left unnoticed or ignored for centuries — and scrambling to do so before they're lost forever.

It's called multispectral imaging, and it's already brought back to life a map possibly used by Christopher Columbus, never-seen poetry by William Faulkner and a Baroque-era concerto that perhaps no living person has heard.

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"Most people don't realize the potential here to radically change the canon of literature, history, music — you name it," Greg Heyworth, an English professor pursuing the technique with a small set of students and colleagues, told NBC News.

Heyworth, at the University of Mississippi, and collaborator Roger Easton, from the Rochester Institute of Technology Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, are at the forefront of what amounts to a new field of study. They aim not just to preserve old texts that may not survive another decade in a damp archive or war-torn country, but to withdraw secrets from them that no one suspected were ever there.

Easton, for instance, has been working on journals written by the famed Victorian explorer of Africa, David Livingstone — who seems to have run short of diary pages.

"He wrote on newspapers, with berry juice — and the juice immediately faded. It's unreadable," Easton said in a phone interview with NBC News. With multispectral imaging, however, Easton and others were able to make the text as clear as day.

"It's amazing how much skepticism we had at first," Easton recalled of the scholars in the field. "They were saying, 'You won't get anything out of this,' and we said, 'Oh, yes we will.'"

A newsprint page used by David Livingstone as a diary but rendered illegible by fading. Multispectral imaging all but eliminates the interfering print, leaving the handwritten text readable. UCLA David Livingstone Spectral Imaging Project

'An esoteric science'

Multispectral imaging works by photographing the object illuminated by numerous, very specific wavelengths of light, one at a time. Various materials, pigments and inks respond differently to, say, ultraviolet light versus deep green, By examining each of these specially lighted images carefully and combining them ("the image processing is where the magic happens," Easton said), features that were invisible to the naked eye become distinct and readable.

"It really is an esoteric science," said Heyworth. "But it's transformative." In particular, palimpsests — documents that, to save parchment, were erased and written over long ago — respond well to multispectral imaging, but they're just the start.

A 15th-century map that may have been consulted by Columbus came to life under multispectral imaging, revealing names, annotations and descriptions far beyond what anyone expected, and potentially altering the story of the Italian's famous voyage to the New World.

The Martellus map as it appears to the naked eye (top) and through multispectral imaging (bottom). Yale University / Rochester Institute of Technology

Musical scores damaged by fire, time, water, or all three, can also be brought back to life. There are Biblical gospels sitting around that no one living has ever read. And a few lost poems by Faulkner that would have crumbled to nothing in a few years were saved as well ("They're terrible," said Heyworth, but nevertheless they are highly important to Faulkner scholars).

These recovered scraps, it turns out, aren't just footnotes or ephemera. Entirely new primary texts and pages of works thousands of years old are being discovered. Documents from classical authors like Archimedes and Galen, and newer works, like the the Declaration of Independence and Shakespeare-era books, are being scoured for interesting details. (Jefferson erased "subjects" and wrote "citizens" in one section of the Declaration, for instance.)

With somewhere over 50,000 (and perhaps several times that) parchments, scrolls, maps and other documents lurking in back rooms of monasteries, forgotten collections at libraries, or even hidden inside other books, there's a lot of potential for big finds.

A page from a Greek manuscript (visible light on left, processed multispectral image on right), on which can be seen letters written left to right and a separate set, partly erased, going up and down. Holy Monastery of St. Catherine at Mount Sinai / EMEL Sinai Palimpsests Project

The problem is that so few people are skilled in this kind of detective work. The equipment is fairly expensive — to build one from scratch might cost $100,000, Easton estimated — and can be bulky, though a new portable version fits in a suitcase and the cost is coming down. Even if it were cheap and compact, would-be discoverers require a lot of expertise to wrangle the dozens of images and settings involved.

With a dedicated group and a bit of grant money, however, it would just be a matter of time before these treasures were uncovered. If only there were time.

History in ruins

"Many of these objects aren't going to last," Heyworth said. "They're out there where there isn't money or the ability to reach them — and they're in danger, as you've seen with ISIS."

The Islamic extremist group has been razing monuments and statues all over the Middle East, and armed conflicts often go hand in hand with looting, bombing and vandalism of historical sites and museums.

And if war doesn't ruin these treasures, they can fall to nature or old age: Documents are routinely lost to flooding, storms, fires and other natural disasters. Even relatively recent paper records, including documents from the civil rights movement in the 1960s, are fading away to nothing. Without someone like Easton or Heyworth to recover them, they will end up simply being thrown away.


Recovery workers sort through books damaged by floodwaters at the Louisville Free Public Library's main downtown branch in 2009. Bill Luster / The Courier-Journal via AP file

The gravity of the situation is producing a healthy multidisciplinary effort that's all too uncommon these days, Easton said: "You've got scientists and humanities people trying to talk. And we don't always speak the same language."

The goal is to spread the knowledge and equipment as widely as possible — Easton, Heyworth and their colleagues are in talks with libraries, universities and archives around the world in hopes that other concerned scholars and engineers will lend a hand. Much research is still needed about how to improve the process, detect falsified data and determine why and when multispectral imaging even works.

In the meantime, the results speak, or perhaps play, for themselves: Heyworth has retrieved a concerto by Georg Philipp Telemann, a contemporary of Mozart's, and hopes to find a collaborator who can help perform it — possibly for the first time in centuries. And the researchers themselves are having the time of their lives.

"It's stuff that we couldn't even imagine doing 20 years ago," Easton said. "Whenever we get something, I'm just blown away that, one, that we got it — and two, that I'm the one that gets to do it." 

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Original Source: NBC News

N.Y. consortium wins bid for a multimillion-dollar national photonics center

RIT, UR, SUNY Polytechnic leading a group that will receive $110 million federal investment, plus $250 million from the state

Jul. 27, 2015
Ellen Rosen

N.Y. consortium wins bid for a multimillion-dollar national photonics center

RIT, UR, SUNY Polytechnic leading a group that will receive $110 million federal investment, plus $250 million from the state

Follow Ellen Rosen on Twitter
Follow RITNEWS on Twitter


A New York-based consortium, led by SUNY Polytechnic, RIT and the University of Rochester, has been awarded a multimillion-dollar federal investment to create a national photonics center. The award, issued under the federal government’s National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), was announced today by Vice President Joe Biden and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a news conference at a SUNY Polytechnic facility at Canal Ponds in Greece.

A New York-based consortium, led by SUNY Polytechnic, Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of Rochester, has been awarded a multimillion-dollar federal investment to create a national photonics center.

The award, issued under the federal government’s National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), was announced today by Vice President Joe Biden and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a news conference at a SUNY Polytechnic facility at Canal Ponds in Greece, a suburb of Rochester. The new institute will be called AIM, short for American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics.

The consortium, which also includes Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Arizona, University of California at Santa Barbara and other academic and industrial partners, including Alfred and Columbia universities, was chosen over two other proposals that had also advanced to a final round in a U.S. Department of Defense program to establish a National Institute of Photonics. Championing the New York application, submitted on behalf of the consortium by the Research Foundation of the State University of New York, were Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter. The federal government has pledged $110 million for the new national institute and New York state has pledged $250 million.

“We applaud President Obama for recognizing the strategic importance of this industry, and choosing the New York state proposal to advance it,” said RIT President Bill Destler. “The Rochester region, with one of the largest photonics manufacturing hubs in the nation, plus academic centers with renowned work in microsystems, imaging science and packaging, is uniquely positioned to make great contributions in this field. We thank Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and Congresswoman Slaughter for their advocacy and leadership on behalf of our application, and we thank Governor Cuomo for the very significant commitment of state funding that no doubt played a key role in helping us win this proposal.”

Ryne Raffaelle, RIT vice president for research and associate provost, said advanced developments in integrated photonics are essential to the nation’s manufacturing capabilities in such areas as high-speed data and telecommunications. He said technologies developed at this national center would allow for more information to be transmitted far more efficiently.

Raffaelle said RIT is expected to support the institute’s work through workforce development, including short continuing education courses that use the university’s laboratories as well as its undergraduate and graduate programs, including a bachelor’s and master’s programs in microelectronic engineering, master’s programs in manufacturing and mechanical systems integration, telecommunications engineering technology, electrical engineering, computer engineering and imaging sciences, as well as its Ph.D. in microsystems engineering.

This is the second major designation of this type for the region. In 2014, RIT was named a core partner in the Chicago-based Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute and is slated for an investment of up to $20 million.

RIT has contributed to advances in the design, fabrication and manufacturing of electronic and photonic devices for more than 30 years as technology generations have progressed from the micron-scale to the nano-scale.

RIT’s leadership includes:

  • The microelectronics program, created in 1982, was the nation’s first Bachelor of Science program specializing in the fabrication of semiconductor devices and integrated circuits.
  • The microsystems engineering Ph.D. program began in RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering in 2002.
  • The university’s first doctoral program was imaging science in 1990, the first of its kind in the nation.
  • More than 2,000 RIT engineers have been placed into related engineering positions across New York State and throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia.

RIT assets in this area include:

  • Semiconductor and Microsystems Fabrication Lab: This includes more than 10,000 square feet of cleanroom space dedicated to manufacturing support, including a newly acquired metal organic vapor-phase epitaxy (MOVPE) system. This state-of-the-art tool gives researchers the ability to develop high-performance lasers and other optoelectronic devices, and is expected to be used to support fabrication and prototyping projects.
  • The Center for Electronics Manufacturing and Assembly: This academic research lab offers the Electronics Packaging industry research services, failure analysis, training, process development, consulting and laboratory rental.
  • RIT Nanophotonics Group: This group works to demonstrate optoelectronic chips that will revolutionize future computing, communication and sensing systems.
  • The Center for Detectors: The center designs, develops, and implements new advanced sensor technologies through collaboration with academic researchers, industry engineers, government scientists, and university/college students.
  • The IT Collaboratory: The NYSERDA funded IT Collaboratory


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