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

Dr. Jan van Aardt awarded 2014-15 Trustees Scholarship Award
Remote Sensing

Mar. 31, 2015

Dr. Jan van Aardt, Associate Professor in the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, is one of the two recipients of the RIT 2014-15 Trustees Scholarship Award. 

The Trustees Scholarship Awards were established to recognize RIT faculty who have demonstrated outstanding track record of academic scholarship that is integral to all aspects of a student’s educational experience at RIT. The selection process involves extensive review by a COS Trustees Scholarship Awards Committee, the COS Administrative Council, and the Deans Council.  The final selection is made by the Education Committee of the RIT Board of Trustees. For more information on the award and current and past winners, click here.

Dr. van Aardt is in good company - past Trustees Scholarship recipients from CIS include Dr. Joel Kastner (2012), Dr. Joseph Hornak (2010), Dr. John Schott (2009), and extended faculty Dr. Eli Saber, Dr. Bruce Smith (also CIS alumni), and Dr. Ryne P. Raffaelle.

CIS undergraduate Elizabeth Bondi named a 2015 Goldwater Scholar

Four RIT students have been awarded the 2015 Goldwater Scholarship.

Apr. 1, 2015

Elizabeth Bondi, a third year student in Imaging Science, has been named a Goldwater Scholar for 2015. Liz's history with CIS extends back to 2011 when she was a high school summer intern. Most recently she completed an internship at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Liz's career goals are to obtain a Ph.D. in Imaging Science, conduct research in computer vision, and teach at the university level.

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was authorized by the United States Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years of service in the U.S. Senate. 

Each scholarship covers eligible expenses for undergraduate tuition, fees, books, and room and board, up to a maximum of $7,500 annually. Goldwater Scholars must be sophomores or juniors during the 2014-2015 academic year and intend to pursue research careers in mathematics, the natural sciences, or engineering.

RIT emerges as leader in drone research
Remote Sensing

Mar. 22, 2015
Sean Lahman


On a cold March afternoon, RJ Garma is flying a small quad copter in a parking lot at the Rochester Institute of Technology. The craft, about 2 feet wide, hovers several hundred feet in the air as Garma controls its movements using an application on his tablet. A camera mounted to the bottom of the copter sends overhead images of the campus back to him.

But Garma is not just a student out for a few hours of fun. He's a U.S. Air Force captain, a doctoral candidate in the school's imaging science program, and one of a handful of RIT students and faculty piloting a revolution.

The school has long been known for its expertise in aerial and satellite photography — a science known as remote sensing. So it's no surprise that RIT has now emerged as one of the world's leading centers for research on drones, small unmanned aircraft.

David Messinger, interim director of the school's Center for Imaging Science, says he gets calls almost every week from companies seeking this expertise, and graduating students are in extraordinarily high demand. Messinger says he can't recall one in the last 10 years who walked across the stage without having a job lined up.

"Our students don't bother going to the job fair," he says, "because when employers want our students they come here and talk to them directly."

The Digital Imaging and Remote Sensing Lab is the biggest group within the center, and about three-quarters of the DIRS students are working on masters and doctorate programs. They're highly sought after by government and industry alike.

The Federal Aviation Administration has also turned to RIT. With drone technology advancing faster than regulators can keep up, the FAA has designated six organizations across the country to conduct research to help devise rules for the operation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the United States. RIT and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are the lead institutions for one of those six, a coalition of universities and industry called the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance, or NUAIR.

The development of inexpensive flying platforms — as well as ever smaller and cheaper digital cameras — has suddenly made aerial photography something anyone can do. For a few hundred dollars, you can walk into the mall or go online at Amazon and get a simple drone capable of taking pictures. With a modicum of skill, just about anyone can take overhead pictures of an urban landscape or a natural wonder.

Those breathtaking photos are nice, but what's really driving interest, what's turning this into a science and big business, is the idea of converting those aerial images into useful data.

"If I launched a drone and over the course of half an hour it covered the entire RIT campus at a 1-inch resolution, I'm not going to be able to physically look at all of that data." Messinger explained. "You've got to have some back end processing schemes that try to extract information out of the data.

"That's what you really want. You don't want the pictures. Nobody cares about the pictures. You want the information that you can get out of it," he said.

One of the first areas to leverage this new technology is precision agriculture, and researchers at RIT have been developing systems to address issues like drought management and disease detection.

Here's how it works. A farmer launches a small drone by simply throwing it into the air. The aircraft circles a couple of times to orient itself, then it goes back and forth until it has taken high-resolution pictures of each individual plant in his entire field. When it lands, the information is downloaded to a computer that can begin analyzing the images, asking questions about what the images show.

Questions like: Is that plant healthy? Is there a gap in my irrigation system? Is there a broken pipe someplace or an infestation of something that's moving across the field?

A test program launched in Genesee County last year, testing sensors that can estimate crop yields, spot potential pests or diseases, and help farmers to apply fertilizer more precisely. Another project by an RIT student examined vineyards in the Finger Lakes, using spectral imaging to assess water levels in plants.

Messinger says that the process usually starts with researchers going to customers and saying "this is what we can do, tell us if it's useful." If you could look at each plant in a thousand-acre field every day, what could you learn from that?

Sometimes it is about building these complex applications, but other times it's about developing solutions for simpler problems. Garma has been working on a system that takes off and follows him as he walks around. It flies in circles around him taking pictures. It's essentially a selfie drone, and it's not hard to imagine all sorts of practical applications for this technology.

Carl Salvaggio, an RIT professor who oversees the undergraduate program at the Center for Imaging Science, is working on building functionality into unmanned systems that makes them easier for nonexperts to use. You're not always going to have Ph.D.-level engineers like him to operate these systems, after all.

Salvaggio developed an inexpensive imaging system that can transmit live images of an area about an acre in size. It's designed for law enforcement or first responders who want to get an overhead view of what's going on in real time.

"A user can simply point at a spot on Google Maps," Salvaggio said. "The system will figure out where it is, turn and keep the camera trained toward that point on the ground the user selected."

In addition to the technology push, there's also an application pull: folks who come to RIT with a specific problem they need help solving. And perhaps the biggest problem is the one faced by the Federal Aviation Administration, which is charged with developing a plan for getting drones integrated into the national airspace.

They're concerned about these inexpensive fliers getting in the way of commercial aircraft, of course, and there are all sorts of technical and logistical issues that need to be addressed.

As one of the lead test centers for NUAIR, researchers at RIT are working on solutions for these challenges.

"With manned aircraft, we're pretty good at navigating from point to point," said Agamemnon Crassidis, a professor in RIT's Kate Gleason College of Engineering and the academic director for NUAIR.

Commercial aircraft use sophisticated navigation systems with an array of high-tech sensors.

"Those systems are large and they're expensive. You're not going to put an $80,000 inertial navigation system on a small unmanned aircraft," Crassidis said. "We're trying to develop sensors that are just as accurate but much cheaper, weigh less, use less power, and obviously are a lot smaller."

Collision avoidance is a major concern because drones are flying at lower altitudes than traditional manned aircraft. Crassidis says it's pretty easy to avoid buildings or hillsides, but that smaller obstacles — electrical wires or tree branches — present a more complex challenge. Part of the solution is developing better "detect and avoid" algorithms, but the real advances will be driven by those new sensors.

"The variety of potential applications for these unmanned systems is amazing, but we have to be able to do the testing to figure out how we can do those things safely," Crassidis said. "In terms of the technology, we're pretty close."

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Original Source: Democrat and Chronicle

High-Resolution 3-D Scans Built from Drone Photos
Remote Sensing

A drone spent hours swarming around Rio’s iconic Christ statue to show a cheap way to capture highly accurate 3-D scans.

Mar. 19, 2015
Tom Simonite

drone flies around hand in Rio’s Christ the Redeemer stature to capture photos

The 30-meter tall statue of Christ overlooking Rio de Janeiro from a nearby mountain was under construction for nine years before its opening in 1931. It took just hours to build the first detailed 3-D scan of the monument late last year, using more than 2,000 photos captured by a small drone that buzzed all around it with an ordinary digital camera. The statue’s digital double was unveiled last month, and is accurate to between two and five centimeters, enough to capture individual mosaic tiles.

The project was intended to help efforts to preserve the statue and to demonstrate how drones could lead to a dramatic increase in high-resolution 3-D replicas of buildings, terrain, and other objects. Being able to easily and frequently capture detailed 3-D imagery could have many uses, such as speeding up construction projects and helping Hollywood make better special effects, says Christoph Strecha, CEO and cofounder of Pix4D, the Swiss company that led the project. It collaborated with drone manufacturer Aeryon Labs and researchers at PUC University of Rio de Janeiro.

Mapping tools from companies including Google and Apple have made outdoor 3-D imagery commonplace in recent years. But they are mostly built with 3-D data from aircraft carrying expensive equipment. The 3-D shape of buildings and terrain is most often captured using a technique called lidar, which uses lasers. The photo-real 3-D models of cities in Apple’s “flyover” mode are made by processing images captured by a complex and expensive array of cameras (see “Ultrasharp 3-D Maps”). Both techniques rely on very accurate GPS technology.

Software screen shot shows stitches of a high-resolution 3-D model

Software stitches a high-resolution 3-D model by processing overlapping photos.

Drones don’t have very reliable GPS fixes by comparison, and can’t carry large sensors or cameras. But they are cheap, and Pix4D’s software can build highly accurate models by comparing many different overlapping photos, says Strecha. In fact, using lidar would have been impossible with the Rio statue, Strecha says, because of its size, shape, and location.

Other projects have also been weaving 3-D models from drone photos. Researchers led by Horst Bischof, a professor at the Technical University of Graz, Austria, are developing software that extracts information from such images. For example, for a company that restores old buildings, the researchers made a version of the software that calculates measurements necessary for producing custom-fit thermal insulation.


With the image processing more or less a solved problem, the ambitions of drone scanning will depend more on how well drones can be controlled or coӧrdinated in challenging conditions like the winds around Rio’s Christ, or to cover larger areas, says Carl Salvaggio, a professor at Rochester Institute of Technology’s Center for Imaging Science. “Drones are good for small-scale projects but traditional aircraft offer the time in the air to collect whole cities,” he says. “Perhaps when there are ‘armies’ of drones in the air, we will see a different landscape emerge.”

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Original Source: MIT Technology Review

Researcher talks of RIT’s role in finding new words on a 500-year-old map
Cultural Artifact and Document Imaging

Chet Van Duzer will speak at RIT about findings on the Columbus-era map

Mar. 13, 2015
Greg Livadas

A historically significant map from circa 1491 is yielding new information not visible until a researcher from Rochester Institute of Technology’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science processed images of the map collected under various colors of light.

Chet Van Duzer of California, a historian of cartography who is studying the results, will speak about the faded map and his findings Wednesday, March 18, at RIT.

His talk, at 7 p.m. in the Carlson Auditorium (Building 76), is free and open to the public and sponsored by RIT’s College of Liberal Arts and the College of Science.

The Henricus Martellus World Map, actually a painting about 6 ½ feet wide and 4 feet high, resides at the Beinecke Library at Yale University. Roger Easton, professor at RIT’s College of Science, said it is believed Christopher Columbus had a copy of this map when he sailed to America.

“The next significantly historical map was in 1507 and says ‘America’ on it,” Easton said. It is believed the Henricus Martellus map greatly influenced the 1507 map, but it was difficult to determine because the earlier map had faded.

“We went to Yale last year to image the map and Chet has been working on it ever since,” Easton said. “We took pictures under many colors of lights and you can use different combinations of the images under different lights to try to enhance the visibility of the things that have faded. He found all kinds of surprises,” including many words in Latin not visible to the eye.

The project also involved the University of Mississippi, MegaVision of Santa Barbara, Calif., and was sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Original Source: University News

Plenty of Eyes in the Sky, Not Enough Minds on the Ground
Remote Sensing

The U.S. Intelligence Community Must Address a Workforce Gap in Remote Sensing Analysis

Mar. 5, 2015
Dr. Darryl Murdock, USGIF Vice President of Professional Development

In today’s world of light-speed satellite communications, advanced remote sensing, and supercomputers—and the mega-data they produce—we seldom think about who is applying all of this technology to meet our national security needs. It’s easy to act as if all available data is put in one end of a computer with the necessary information emerging at the other end.

While the Intelligence Community improves the technology needed to interpret this high volume of data and information, the sheer volume of data being consistently collected around the world mutes our existing analytic capability. At the intersection of technology and human intelligence are the GEOINT analysts who pore over the data retrieved by our increasingly sophisticated remote sensing technologies, assign the data context, and create actionable knowledge. GEOINT analysts regularly apply their skills to multiple national and international threat scenarios, military operations, and natural and manmade disasters. Without these dedicated GEOINT analysts we would have eyes (in the form of satellites and UAVs) on our tumultuous world but would not understand what the images they produce mean.

The Intelligence Community faces a rising demand for highly trained geospatial and remote sensing analysts. At a time of burgeoning and unprecedented threats including terrorism, asymmetrical warfare, and social unrest across the globe, the GEOINT Community is especially challenged as its workforce ages at a rate much faster than qualified analysts enter the workforce. Steps should be taken immediately to address this widening GEOINT analyst gap. Further delay will only make this current staffing problem more difficult and costly to address in the future.

Historical Precedent

The problem is simple to explain. In the aftermath of World War II and with the onset of the Cold War, the United States realized the pressing need for intelligence gathering. Aerospace and satellite technology developed in the ’50s and early ’60s gave the U.S. the necessary tools for this effort. Addressing the need for a highly skilled aerospace and intelligence analyst workforce, Congress passed the National Defense Education Act in 1958. The act provided U.S. universities with resources to improve technical education and graduate programs in order to produce an engineering workforce for the aerospace and intelligence gathering units of the federal government and commercial industry. This workforce was developed to observe and—more importantly—interpret the data that was just becoming available.

These first generations of intelligence analysts did a superb job during the Cold War and subsequently developed many of the remote sensing methods and technologies still used today. However, a large number of these pioneering geospatial analysts are heading into retirement and are not being replaced at a rate sufficient to bridge the mission performance gap.

A 2013 report by the National Academy of Sciences on the Future U.S. Workforce for Geospatial Intelligence claims qualified “GIS and remote sensing recruits are already hard to find.” It concluded that the nation needs to ensure an environment exists to create a STEM workforce trained specifically in remote sensing—with remote sensing being identified by the academy as one of the “five core areas on which the current production and analysis of geospatial intelligence relies.” An earlier report by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence came to the same conclusion with respect to the projected analyst gap and recommended the U.S. government partner with universities to prepare more students for space and remote sensing analysis careers.

Positioning universities to produce more GEOINT engineers and remote sensing analysts is a national security imperative. A new national strategy is needed to ensure the health of U.S. GEOINT analyst education. However, any amendments to the National Defense Education Act to recognize the modern challenges facing the GEOINT Community and our universities would require substantial financial support. Universities should be incentivized, as was done in the ’50s, to greatly expand education and training programs and work with NGA and other U.S. intelligence agencies.


At USGIF, we strongly believe, given the current state of global security, that maintaining and expanding our nation’s GEOINT capabilities is critical—and addressing the GEOINT analyst workforce shortage is essential to doing so. We support the strengthening of the strategic relationship between the U.S. defense and intelligence communities and the U.S. academic community, particularly in STEM disciplines focused on addressing the technical collection and analysis efforts required by our nation.

To that end, I am in favor of a STEM-to-remote sensing pilot program focused on doubling the number of remote sensing analysts entering the Department of Defense and Intelligence Community within the next five years. This program could include tuition funding for up to four years, be open to both undergraduate and graduate students, and offer funded summer internships with industry, during which exposure to and work on hard problems should be the focus. All selected participants should also receive security clearance during their second program year, which would allow them to work within government facilities and on classified projects at their home school. When shown to be successful, such a program could be expanded to other geospatial intelligence sub-disciplines to develop cross-cutting, broad-based GEOINT analysts capable of producing finished intelligence products derived from a combination of remotely-sensed data, geographic information systems data, and open-source information.

Though some may argue such an initiative is not possible, similar programs have already been established in pockets around the globe. As our nation’s needs and priorities change, a STEM-to-remote sensing program could become a STEM-to-GEOINT program, which would include a strong and flexible remote sensing component.

Additional Resources

Read about the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) on Encyclopedia Brittanica.

Download a free PDF of the report, Future U.S. Workforce for Geospatial Intelligence, from the National Academies Press.

- See more at:

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Original Source: Trajectory Magazine

RIT scientist collaborates with UR colleagues to advance artificial tissue development
Biomedical Imaging

Maria Helguera contributes ultrasound techniques, image processing to NIH-funded project


The beginnings of artificial vascular networks created with ultrasound waves. The frequency and intensity of the waves organize the cells into position.

Feb. 2, 2015
Susan Gawlowicz

Circulating oxygen-rich blood through artificial organs and tissues is a bioengineering conundrum without an easy answer. The problem is in the plumbing. Biomedical teams around the world are working on different solutions to the problem of creating a synthetic vascular system.

Scientists at Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of Rochester are looking to ultrasound technology to create tiny blood vessels needed to nourish organs and tissues grown for reconstructive and surgical applications.

Developing complex vascular systems with high-frequency ultrasound waves is the goal of RIT imaging scientist Maria Helguera ’99 (Ph.D., imaging science), and UR’s Diane Dalecki, professor of biomedical engineering, and Denise Hocking, associate professor of pharmacology and physiology. The UR-led project is funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Helguera provides the team an expertise in ultrasound imaging and image processing through high-frequency ultrasound techniques and quantitative analysis of microscopy images of the tissue samples.

“We can use ultrasound in every stage of the process while creating artificial tissue,” said Helguera, an associate professor at RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science. “Ultrasound is a clean way of doing things in the sense that we are not delivering any harmful radiation. We can manipulate the cells and image them without hurting the samples.”

Ultrasound standing wave fields are generated in a tissue-culture plate containing endothelial cells embedded in collagen. Endothelial cells form the insides of blood vessels. Pressure from ultrasound standing wave fields nudges the cells into predetermined positions. The frequency and intensity of the waves organize the cells and control the density and spacing of cell bands. Samples are then polymerized in an incubator and locked into place. Their close positioning encourages cells to signal to each other and sprout three-dimensional blood vessels.

Tissue constructs are visualized with multiphoton microscopy, a technique that captures specimens in three-dimensional sections.

“Distinct and interesting formations can be seen depending on the frequency and intensity of the ultrasound stationary wave fields,” Helguera said. “We decided to quantitatively analyze these three-dimensional data sets to extract parameters characteristic of each exposure regime.”

Imaging science Ph.D. student Mohammed Yousefhussien developed an image-processing tool for evaluating the structures of the blood sprouts. Third-year imaging science student Amy Becker is modifying the tool to capture details that will help manipulate the sprouts’ growth. Determining the preferred direction in which the vessels branch outward will lead to networks resembling the vascular system within an organ.

“The goal is to design a quantitative protocol that will allow us to create a more complicated structure that is closer to a real system,” Helguera said.


Maria Helguera, associate professor in the RIT Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science

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Original Source: University News