NASA's Don Pettit at RIT (video)
Astronomy and Space Science

Apr. 17, 2015
RIT University News

NASA Astronaut Donald Pettit toured RIT to learn more about the university’s capabilities in photography, imaging science and science. He presented "Astronauts' Guide to Photography," which highlighted his 370 days in space, and how science and art grow by being active at a new frontier.


Original Source: University News

Glitter Cloud May Serve as Space Mirror
Astronomy and Space Science

Apr. 15, 2015
Elizabeth Landau

What does glitter have to do with finding stars and planets outside our solar system? Space telescopes may one day make use of glitter-like materials to help take images of new worlds, according to researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Standard telescopes use solid mirrors to image far-away objects. But the large, complex mirrors needed for astronomy can be quite expensive and difficult to construct. Their size and weight also add to the challenges of launching a space telescope in the first place.

A concept called Orbiting Rainbows seeks to address these issues. Researchers propose using clouds of reflective glitter-like particles in place of mirrors to enable a telescope to view stars and exoplanets. The technology would enable high-resolution imaging at a fraction of the cost.

"It's a floating cloud that acts as a mirror," said Marco Quadrelli from JPL, the Orbiting Rainbows principal investigator. "There is no backing structure, no steel around it, no hinges; just a cloud."

In the proposed Orbiting Rainbows system, the small cloud of glitter-like grains would be trapped and manipulated with multiple laser beams. The trapping happens because of pressure from the laser light -- specifically, the momentum of photons translates into two forces: one that pushes particles away, and another that pushes the particles toward the axis of the light beam. The pressure of the laser light coming from different directions shapes the cloud and pushes the small grains to align in the same direction. In a space telescope, the tenuous cloud would be formed by millions of grains, each possibly as small as fractions of a millimeter in diameter.

Such a telescope would have a wide adjustable aperture, the space through which light passes during an optical or photographic measurement; in fact, it might lead to possibly larger apertures than those of existing space telescopes.

It would also be much simpler to package, transport and deploy, than a conventional space telescope.

"You deploy the cloud, trap it and shape it," Quadrelli said.

Nature is full of structures that have light-scattering and focusing properties, such as rainbows, optical phenomena in clouds, or comet tails. Observations of these phenomena, and recent laboratory successes in optical trapping and manipulation have contributed to the Orbiting Rainbows concept. The original idea for a telescope based on a laser-trapped mirror was proposed in a 1979 paper by astronomer Antoine Labeyrie at the College de France in Paris.

Now, the Orbiting Rainbows team is trying to identify ways to manipulate and maintain the shape of an orbiting cloud of dust-like matter using laser pressure so it can function as an adaptive surface with useful electromagnetic characteristics, for instance, in the optical or radar bands.

Because a cloud of glitter specks is not a smooth surface, the image produced from those specks in a telescope will be noisier -- with more speckled distortion -- than what a regular mirror would generate. That's why researchers are developing algorithms to take multiple images and computationally remove the speckle effect from the glitter.

To test the idea, co-investigator Grover Swartzlander, an associate professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, and his students spread glitter on a concave lens in the laboratory. His team used lasers to represent the light from a double star system. They pointed the speckled mirror at the simulated stars, then used a camera to take pictures. With many exposures and lots of processing, an image of the two "stars" emerged using the glitter mirror.

Glitter Mirror

Researchers made a mirror surface out of glitter to test the idea of using a cloud of reflective particles as a space telescope mirror. They took images of two light sources using this mirror in a laboratory at Rochester Institute of Technology. Credit: G. Swartzlander/Rochester Institute of Technology
› Larger image

"This is a major achievement," Quadrelli said. "This demonstrates a highly controlled experiment in which we were able to do imaging in the visible light spectrum."

The technology could be used more easily for radio-band signals. Because the wavelength is so much longer (about one centimeter, compared to nanometers in visible light), the mirror grains don't have to be as precisely controlled or aligned. This opens up Earth science applications such as earthquake detection and remote sensing of water and other phenomena. JPL's Darmindra Arumugam is investigating possible mechanisms for remote sensing with Orbiting Rainbows.

The JPL optical design team, including Scott Basinger and Mayer Rud, has been working on the adaptive optics techniques that would be needed by an Orbiting Rainbows telescope. So far, the team has been exploring reflective, refractive and diffractive versions of a telescope based on Orbiting Rainbows, with maximum sensitivity to one specific frequency.

Orbiting Rainbows has not yet been demonstrated in space. For a test in low-Earth orbit, the researchers would deploy a telescope with a small patch of particles, no larger than a bottle cap, to show that it can be trapped and shaped to reflect light. The next step would be to make many of these patches and synthesize an aperture with which to do imaging.

The project represents a new application of "granular matter," materials such as dust grains, powders and aerosols. Such materials are very light, can be produced at low-cost and could be useful to the space exploration community. In this particular project, the "glitter" may be tiny granules of metallic-coated plastic, quartz or some other material.

Orbiting Rainbows is currently in Phase II development through the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program. It was one of five technology proposals chosen for continued study in 2014. In the current phase, Orbiting Rainbows researchers are conducting small-scale ground experiments to demonstrate how granular materials can be manipulated using lasers and simulations of how the imaging system would behave in orbit.

NIAC is a program of NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, located at the agency's headquarters in Washington. JPL is managed by the California Institute of Technology for NASA.

For a complete list of the selected proposals and more information about NIAC, visit:

For more information about the Space Technology Mission Directorate, visit:


Media Contact

Elizabeth Landau
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.


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Original Source: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NY pledges $200 million for photonics center in Rochester

New York state is promising to pony up $200 million toward a photonics prototyping and testing facility in Rochester if Uncle Sam also kicks in.

Apr. 9, 2015
Matthew Daneman

The SUNY Research Foundation, the University of Central Florida and the University of Southern California all are vying for $110 million from the U.S. Defense Department for a high-tech Institute for Manufacturing Innovation focused on photonics. That Institute has to be matched with at least $110 million in non-federal funding.

The SUNY Research Foundation pitch revolves around numerous educational institutions and companies partnering up, including the University of Rochester, Rochester Institute of Technology, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Arizona, as well as Corning Inc. and IBM.

The SUNY Research proposal is significantly Rochester-centric and points out the significant number of optics and photonics companies locally. Its ultimate aim is cutting the cost of photonics-related technology as well as making an easier path for turning those technologies into products.

In a letter released Thursday by the office of U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport, state Department of Economic Development Commissioner Howard Zemsky wrote the Air Force — the lead agency in the Defense Department project — saying that if the New York-centric application is chosen, the Empire State would chip in $250 million over the next five years.

That state money would include $200 million toward building and equipping a photonics prototyping and testing facility that would be located in Rochester, Zemsky wrote. It did not give any details.

Slaughter and U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand all have thrown their political weight behind the SUNY Research Foundation proposal, and Slaughter in December wrote a letter to the Cuomo administration in Albany, pushing it to commit money to the plan.

In a statement Thursday, Slaughter said, "The strong industry and state support we've built for our bid to secure the federal Institute for Manufacturing Innovation gives our application the competitive advantage needed to compete and win."

The deadline for proposals to be submitted was March 31. The final selection is expected to be made in June.


Photonics 101

Photonics, a cousin of optics, involves generating and controlling light waves and photons, the particles that make up light. And the optics and photonics industry has pointed to numerous applications with big potential economic impact, such as using light as a medical diagnostic and even treatment tool to better computer vision for more process automation in manufacturing to nano-photonic materials replacing the liquid crystal display and light emitting diode displays that are ubiquitous on phones, tablets, televisions and destktops.

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Original Source: Democrat and Chronicle

Foundations of Imaging Science Summer Short Course Being Offered Again in 2015

Full scholarships are available

Apr. 6, 2015

The Center for Emerging & Innovative Sciences, based at the Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences at the University of Rochester, is again offering a series of Optics, Photonics, and Imaging (OPI) short courses for the summer of 2015. The courses are designed for anyone interested in furthering their career in the OPI industries, including people who would like to transition into these industries.

CIS is pleased to be included in this offering with a 10-day course in Foundations of Imaging Science. If you or anyone you know would be interested in attending our short course, you may find more information by visiting the course description website.

Full Scholarships are available for this course through CEIS.

RIT microsystems director receives IEEE Technical Excellence Award

Engineering Professor Bruce Smith recognized for achievements in advanced nanolithography

Mar. 24, 2015
Michelle Cometa

Bruce Smith, director of the microsystems engineering doctoral program at Rochester Institute of Technology (as well as CIS extended faculty and Ph.D. alumnus), was recently presented an IEEE Region 1 Technical Innovation Award. Smith, a senior member of the local and national IEEE society, was recognized for his influential work in advancing the field of nanolithography for semiconductor devices.

The award, presented this past December, is both a reflection of his professional and research endeavors as well as his influence educating and mentoring engineering students in the fields of micro- and nano-technology.

“I am pleased to receive this award and this recognition. IEEE is an organization that has historically been tuned-in to the engineering activities in Rochester, not only from an industrial perspective but also, significantly, with the universities,” said Smith. “IEEE is an influential professional society recognized throughout the world. And the local involvement of IEEE among Rochester professionals, faculty and students is very big. This helps to create a very gratifying organization.”

Smith directs research activities in the Nanolithography Research Laboratory in RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering and is a member of the university’s Innovation Hall of Fame. His areas of expertise include high-resolution semiconductor lithography, thin film materials and optical systems. A member of the faculty since 1988, Smith has published more than 200 papers, a textbook and several book chapters. He also holds 27 patents in the areas of illumination systems, masking devices, optical system design and materials engineering, several of which have been licensed for commercialization.

He is a Fellow of the Optical Society of America and SPIE, the International Society for Optical Engineering. He holds memberships in the American Vacuum Society, the Society for Information Display and the American Society for Engineering Education. He has served as visiting professor with SEMATECH at the University of Texas, Austin as well as at the international semiconductor research organization IMEC in Leuven, Belgium.

Smith is currently on a yearlong sabbatical, increasing his involvement with IEEE and other professional societies, coordinating several international conferences, as well as working on high-resolution lithography research with semiconductor industry organizations.

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Original Source: University News

RIT graduate students recognized for exemplary research in astrophysics
Astronomy and Space Science

Students in RIT’s astrophysical sciences and technology program awarded for excellence

Apr. 4, 2014
Susan Gawlowicz


Valerie Rapson and Kevin Cooke (Photo by A. Sue Weisler)

Two graduate students in the Rochester Institute of Technology astrophysical sciences and technology program were recognized with Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Student Awards for their outstanding research posters at the 223rd American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington, D.C., in January.

Kevin Cooke and Valerie Rapson were among 31 winners chosen from nearly 450 students who entered the student competition. The Chambliss awards recognize exemplary research by undergraduate and graduate students who present posters at the society meetings.

Cooke, a first-year master’s student from Green Township, N.J., a won a gold-plated brass Chambliss medal for his poster on “Investigation of Extended Emission Line Regions in Intermediate Redshift BCGs.”

Rapson, a doctoral candidate and a resident of Greece, N.Y., received a certificate of honorable mention for her poster on “A Spitzer and Herschel Study of the Protoplanetary Disk Around the Young Nearby System V4046 Sg.”

RIT was represented at the society meeting with 19 poster presentations by high school, undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and an alumnus, as well with a dissertation and oral presentation.


Original Source: University News

Women in science, technology, engineering and entrepreneurship connect at RIT April 28

Professional organization looks to increase membership

Apr. 21, 2014
Susan Gawlowicz


Jie Qiao

Women in science, technology, engineering and business in universities and industries will meet for a roundtable discussion and networking event to help women gain regional connections and global impact in their fields.

Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Entrepreneurship Connect will hold LEAN IN Together with WiSTEE Connect from 3 to 5 p.m. Monday, April 28, at Rochester Institute of Technology in the Vignelli Center. Details are listed on the registration website.

The roundtable discussion will include Stefi Baum, professor/director, Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, RIT; Jannick Rolland, professor, Institute of Optics and director of the R.E. Hopkins Center for Optical Engineering, University of Rochester; Kelly Hutchinson-Anderson, assistant professor of chemistry education, Nazareth College; Toni Whited, professor, William E. Simon Graduate School of Business Administration, UR; Linda Marshall, president, Linmar Enterprises Inc.; and Kathleen Schubach, account executive, IPLogic Inc.

WiSTEE Connect—founded and chaired by Jie Qiao, associate professor in RIT’s Center for Imaging Sciences—promotes women’s leadership in science, technology, engineering and entrepreneurship; bridges the gap between science, technology and business; and provides a forum to learn, connect and lead.

The organization aims to create extended networks to advance junior and mid-career women through career growth rather than career entry and support women in entrepreneurship in science and technology. WiSTEE Connect looks to form national and international connections.

For more information, contact Jie Qiao at or 585-475-6221.

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Original Source: University News

The sky’s the limit
Remote Sensing

RIT becomes part of national plans to improve use of unmanned aircraft systems

Apr. 3, 2014
Michelle Cometa


Robert Jones, right, a fifth-year mechanical engineering student, demonstrates the capabilities of a quadro-copter for Donald McKeown, distinguished researcher, left, and professor Agamemnon Crassidis. RIT, a national drone test site, will contribute its research into navigation and imaging systems technology as part of a university-industry partnership. (Photo by A. Sue Weisler)

Ever since Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos suggested using drones to deliver packages 
to customers, discussions about the 
possible uses of unmanned aircraft 
have taken a new flight path. 

He might have easily been dismissed 
as a dreamer or an opportunist. But Bezos’ announcement prompted a shift in thinking about unmanned aircraft systems from flights-of-fancy to real possibilities such as crop surveying, fighting forest fires, pipeline inspections, rescue operations, wildlife monitoring and disaster response. As the ideas mature and unmanned aircraft 
systems become more sophisticated, 
standard processes to assess usage, 
safety and technology are necessary.

Drones, also referred to as unmanned 
aircraft systems and more commonly 
associated with the military and law 
enforcement, are being developed for 
a wider variety of commercial uses—
some of which may be developed at RIT. 

The university is part of NUAIR, the Northeast Unmanned Aircraft System Airspace Integration Research Alliance, a group of more than 40 companies and universities in New York and Massachusetts selected in December 2013 as one of six Federal Aviation Administration test sites in the U.S. The alliance will conduct research and testing of safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems in the national airspace system. Nineteen universities are involved with RIT and Massachusetts Institute of Technology as regional academic leaders, said Agamemnon Crassidis, associate professor of mechanical engineering in RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering. 

“One of my key roles is to bring the 
universities together to see what kinds of research they are doing and how we can 
use that research,” said Crassidis, who will also serve on NUAIR’s board of directors. 

RIT is well positioned for this work with expertise in sensor and aeronautic system development from the engineering college, and in remote sensing and imaging from the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science. 

“This is a significant opportunity 
to expand use of remote sensing and 
imaging and make that imaging accessible to a broader constituency. In some disaster situations, especially with state or counties with tight budgets, access to low-cost 
imaging is big for them,” said Donald McKeown, distinguished researcher in 
the Carlson Center. 

Unmanned aircraft have flown since 
the mid-1900s and are more than remote-
controlled model planes. Today, they consist of complex systems for collision avoidance, automated controls and navigation; they also integrate imaging systems to gather and process data. RIT researchers have 
already been developing aspects of these technologies and can contribute to 
improving unmanned aircraft systems. 

Regulations currently do not permit 
UAS operations above 400 feet without 
certification, and these allowances are 
given primarily to law enforcement or 
the military. The FAA has directed new 
test site teams like NUAIR to contribute recommendations about how corporate 
and commercial unmanned aircraft 
can be part of already crowded skies. 
The Northeast corridor where NUAIR 
will operate has some of the highest 
volumes of air traffic to control. 

The team has already received testing and development requests since the December announcement and expects to have a formal test facility and process up within six months. “It’s not a competition between the sites, it’s just a goal for us,” said Crassidis. “What RIT brings to the table is its strong industry partners and our hands-on 
approach to teaching. Students will be 
involved in multidisciplinary projects 
related to this, plus undergraduate and graduate research. We will make use of 
our facilities, particularly the machine shop, wind tunnel and the Aero Design Club.” 

Tim Southerton and Robert Jones, both fifth-year mechanical engineering students, are working on control systems for a Parrot AR Drone 2.0, a quadro-copter. They are upgrading the unmanned aircraft as part of a senior design project, integrating remote sensing equipment onto the frame and 
adding GPS navigation capabilities. 

These capabilities and others being developed make Bezos’ idea of delivering packages seem not so far-fetched. According to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, UAS may provide 100,000 new jobs in the U.S. and more than $82 billion in economic outcomes by 2025. 

Talk about soaring to new heights.

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Original Source: University News

NASA astronaut Donald Pettit tours RIT's Center for Imaging Science

Jan. 14, 2014
Susan Gawlowicz


Peter A. Blacksberg '75

David Messinger, director of the Digital Imaging and Remote Sensing Laboratory in the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, tells NASA astronaut Donald Pettit, third from left, about the center?s work for the World Bank after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Stefi Baum, center director, left, and Robert Constantine, director of planned giving, right, listen on.

NASA astronaut Donald Pettit visited RIT's Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science on Thursday, Jan. 9, while in town to give a lecture at the George Eastman House on his space photography.

Peter Blacksberg, a 1975 alumnus from the School of Photography, introduced Pettit to key members of the center: Stefi Baum, director; Joe Pow, associate director; and David Messinger, director of the Digital Imaging and Remote Sensing Laboratory.

"Knowing that taking photos from space posed some unique problems, Peter suggested that Don connect with our researchers here, thinking we might be able to help address some of these challenges," Pow said.

Pettit asked specific questions about imaging the sun from the space station.

"He posed for us an interesting question on what useful filtered photography of the sun might he do," said Baum. "We are investigating that and will be getting back to him soon."

Pettit has logged more than 370 days on the International Space Station and more than 13 spacewalking hours during his three times in space.


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Original Source: University News

NASA astronaut presents Astronauts’ Guide to Photography in Space on April 13

Veteran of three space flights will share photographic awe, challenges and solutions he’s encountered from the International Space Station


Peter A. Blacksberg (1975, School of Photography)

Donald Pettit

Apr. 1, 2015
Bob Finnerty

Note: Video available for this story

NASA astronaut Donald Pettit has spent 370 days in space, orbiting the Earth more than 3,000 times while traveling 82 million miles. The space traveler has also taken nearly a half-million photos to capture the awe of his journeys.

“Looking at Earth from space is amazingly beautiful,” said Pettit. “It’s a perspective where you can see things on a length scale of half a continent.”

Pettit will present his lecture “Astronauts’ Guide to Photography in Space” at 6 p.m. Monday, April 13, in RIT’s Webb Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

Pettit’s innovative photographic work and passion for low light photography has changed the way we see Earth from space. He is a veteran of three space flights. He has lived aboard the International Space Station for 5 1/2 months during Expedition 6, was a member of the STS-126 crew, and again lived aboard the station for 6 1/2 months as part of the Expedition 30/31 crew. He has also logged 13 hours in space walks.

Millions of photos are used as part of the scientific data set for NASA. Pettit will share the photographic challenges faced by astronauts on board the International Space Station as well as some of the ingenious solutions he developed during his time in space.

“Frontiers are interesting places. They offer experience outside of the norm where the answers are not found in the back of the book. You have to figure things out for yourself,” said Pettit, whose fascination with photography began in middle school.

“Space is such a frontier and documenting that experience with photography presents not only a fascinating arena but challenges to the Earth-centric mind. Do you compose and shoot using Earth-standard expectations, thus making photographs pleasing to planetary dwellers? Or do you compose showing how life really is conducted there? Such is the photographer’s dilemma.”

Pettit will remain on campus April 14 and visit with students, faculty and staff in the College of Science, the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science and the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences. Part of the visit includes meeting with student researchers who will examine ways to reduce damage to photos caused by cosmic rays in space.

RIT alumnus Peter A. Blacksberg ’75 (photography) was instrumental in arranging Pettit’s visit.

To learn more of Pettit’s photographic work and time-lapse movies, go to

The event is sponsored by the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences, the College of Science, the Office of Development and Alumni Relations and University News Services.

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Original Source: University News