CIS 2013-2014 Annual Report Now Available

The 2013-2014 Annual Report for the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science at RIT is now available.

Jan. 8, 2015

CIS High School Intern Program Now Accepting Applications

The 2015 application cycle for the CIS High School Summer Intern program is open through March 6.

Jan. 6, 2015

The summer of 2015 marks the sixteenth year of the high school summer internship program at the Center for Imaging Science. This unique program offers a limited number of highly qualified juniors the opportunity to work side-by-side with world class scientists on a variety of imaging-related research projects.

These unpaid internships give students the chance to get valuable hands-on experience in a real laboratory setting as contributing members of a research team. The internship program also provides an opportunity for interaction with other students from surrounding school districts who have similar interests and ambitions. Professional development activities, team building exercises, and at least one field trip are additional benefits.

Participation in this program is free, and upon successful completion of research students are provided a certificate of completion as well as letters of recommendation.

All current high school juniors* are eligible to apply. Application instructions as well as more information are available via our High School Internship webpage

*Notice regarding non-local applicants: While this internship is not limited to local high school students, it is not within the bandwidth of the program to offer any housing or housing assistance. If a non-local student wishes to apply, they must prepare appropriate living arrangements independently. 

Could Glitter Help Solve NASA's Giant Telescope Problem?
Astronomy and Space Science

Listen to the Story: All Things Considered (2 min 55 sec) ( Download MP3   |   Transcript )

Dec. 23, 2014
Joe Palca

Larkin Carey, an optical engineer with Ball Aerospace, examines two test mirror segments designed for the James Webb Space Telescope. The mirror for the scope is extremely powerful, but heavy and pricey.

Larkin Carey, an optical engineer with Ball Aerospace, examines two test mirror segments designed for the James Webb Space Telescope. The mirror for the scope is extremely powerful, but heavy and pricey. (Image courtesy NASA)

NASA is building a new space telescope with astounding capabilities. The James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in 2018, will replace the aging Hubble Space Telescope and will provide unprecedented views of the first galaxies to form in the early universe. It might even offer the first clear glimpse of an Earth-like planet orbiting a distant star.

But there's a problem with the James Webb telescope: It's expensive. Very expensive — $8 billion expensive. So NASA has been looking for cheaper alternatives for future telescopes, and Grover Swartzlander, a physicist specializing in optics at the Rochester Institute of Technology, thinks he has one.


Astronomers use giant mirrors to capture the light from stars and galaxies, Swartzlander explains, and the bigger the mirror, the finer the detail a telescope can see.

But giant mirrors are heavy and expensive. (The Webb's mirror weighs more than 800 pounds, not counting the structure that holds it. The entire spacecraft weighs around 7 tons.) So Swartzlander and his colleagues came up with the idea of making telescope mirrors that weigh practically nothing, because they are made of what is essentially glitter. Yes, that stuff you buy in a crafts store — tiny reflecting particles made of plastic with a metal coating.

The idea, he says, is to take the shiny particles into space, spray a cloud of them outside the spacecraft, and then use lasers on the spacecraft to manipulate them into the shape of a mirror.

"By controlling all these little glittery objects in space and sweeping laser beams across them we're going to orient them and stabilize them enough so that we can form some kind of an image," says Swartzlander.

Now, there is a problem here. Yes, the mirror would be lightweight, but it wouldn't be a mirror with a smooth surface like you get with a glass mirror. So the image that the mirror sends to the telescope's detector will essentially look like a bunch of speckles.

"It's going to be a very terrible image," he admits. "But, the real progress on this topic is that there's a new trend in imaging which is called computational photography." By analyzing a series of these speckled images, he says, a computer will be able to construct a good, clean image of the object.

Swartzlander says it will take decades to perfect the technology for making glitter mirrors that can fly in space. But that doesn't mean this is just a pie-in-the-sky idea.

"We've already demonstrated this glitter concept in the laboratory," he says. The researchers went to their local craft store, bought a jar of glitter and sprinkled it onto a concave surface.

Then they used a camera to make an image of what the mirror was pointed at. "One of my smart graduate students worked on some algorithms to actually achieve a perfect image," Swartzlander says.

He hopes to send a pint-size version of his glitter mirror into space in the next few years.

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Original Source: NPR

Fly-By Forestry Takes Off
Remote Sensing

Remote laser imaging can measure the health and density of forests, allowing scientists to observe large swaths of vital ecosystems all at once.

Dec. 16, 2014
Catherine Clabby

2015-01SightingsF1.jpgClick to Enlarge Image

Despite some scattered recent gains, the world’s forests are in trouble. From 2000 to 2012, the planet lost a net total of 1.5 million square kilometers of forestland, according to a 2013 survey based on NASA satellite data. Much of the decline was due to deforestation in Brazil, Indonesia, and other tropical countries, but there have been many other setbacks as well. In the western United States, for instance, trees face an onslaught of wildfires, insect infestations, and drought. The assaults persist despite a growing awareness of the ecological value of forests, particularly their ability to absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide and sequester carbon.

As they formulate ways to protect endangered woodlands and rehabilitate ones already lost, scientists and governments need detailed information on the structures and vulnerabilities of forests around the world. Traditional ground-based surveys lack sufficient scope, so scientists are turning to another way to take the measure of the trees: light detection and ranging, or LiDAR, remote-imaging technology. Airplane-borne LiDAR scanners shoot 100,000 pulses of laser light per second to record the distance to the ground. From those data, researchers can measure the shape, type, and density of forest cover over tens of thousands of square kilometers. “That is the real power of LiDAR,” says Van Kane, an ecologist at the University of Washington who uses the technique extensively. “We can build tremendously large databases.”

2015-01SightingsF2.jpgClick to Enlarge Image

In one notable recent study, Kane and his colleagues used LiDAR to observe how fires of various intensities affect the forests in Yosemite National Park. Some fires are known to help keep forests healthy by creating gaps in their canopies that enable new growth. Kane’s LiDAR-based studies show more specifically that low- severity fires produce favorable density changes in areas dominated by red fir forests, but fires of moderate severity are needed to improve areas dominated by ponderosa and white fir–sugar pine trees. Kane has also combined airborne LiDAR with satellite vegetation data to study how natural fires alter tree density of Yosemite forests. They do so in more irregular ways than was previously known, creating variable mosaics of tree clumps. Those studies will aid forest managers designing controlled burns or mechanical thinning to mimic natural fire’s positive effects.

2015-01SightingsF3.jpgClick to Enlarge Image

Now the drive is on to make LiDAR even more useful. For instance, airborne LiDAR discerns only modest amounts of detail below the outer canopy in dense forests, so researchers are trying to fill the gap by adding measurements made with ground-based LiDAR. David Kelbe, a doctoral student in imaging science at Rochester Institute of Technology, recently adapted an industrial LiDAR device to create a portable scanner that can be carried into the woods. There, it can be used to acquire diameter data along the full length of tree trunks with enough detail to model three-dimensional trees. Such data could be useful for commercial forest inventories and for habitat studies, and also for calibrating across the different types of LiDAR studies. “We could take advantage of the fine-scale resolution by linking it to the large geographic coverage by an airborne or space-borne platform,” Kelbe says.

Carnegie Airborne Observatory earth scientist Greg Asner merges up-close and remote observations to get as near as possible to ground truth in tropical forests. He creates carbon maps, geographically accurate models depicting the density of vegetation in the forests; the more abundant the vegetation, the more carbon is sequestered in its roots, stems, and leaves.

To build these maps, Asner combines airborne LiDAR data with non-LiDAR research plot observations, rainfall records, and space-based measurements. By developing algorithms to extract high-resolution vegetation maps from archival data taken by the Landsat satellite, he quickly acquired a vast—and free—satellite data set.

2015-01SightingsF4.jpgClick to Enlarge Image

Following this approach, Asner has mapped large swaths of the Amazon River basin, Peru, Panama, and Hawaii to pinpoint where carbon sinks most urgently need protecting. He feels the urgency of his work: It can take decades to rebuild a damaged forest into a carbon sink, but almost no time at all to cut or burn a forest down. “So we integrate satellite data with the airborne LiDAR in order to scale up,” Asner says. “This helps to greatly reduce cost and improve our speed.”

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Original Source: American Scientist

RIT project wins funding in NYS Regional Economic Development Councils competition

Award, received as part of Finger Lakes Council allocation, will be used to generate jobs

Dec. 12, 2014
Ellen Rosen

Rochester Institute of Technology has received $1.5 million from New York state to fund a new economic development project — MAGIC Spell Studios.

The funding was included in the $80.7 million awarded to the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council at a ceremony today (Dec. 11) in Albany. The awards were part of the fourth annual round in which 10 regional councils across the state competed for a piece of $709.2 million in grants and tax breaks.

“We are very excited about the MAGIC Spell Studios project, and what it will mean for our region,” said RIT President Bill Destler. “We appreciate Gov. Cuomo and the regional council’s support of this project, which we believe will capitalize on work being done at RIT to add great economic value to our community.”

The money will go toward construction of a new building for MAGIC Spell Studios, allowing RIT to create a program that will link the university’s academic programs with high tech facilities needed to commercialize computer gaming, film and animation, graphic design and imaging science projects.

RIT is already a recognized leader in these fields. Among the graduates of its nationally ranked School of Film and Animation are several Academy Award winners. Its game design and development program is ranked among the top in the country, and its alumni are leaders across the technology industry.

MAGIC Spell Studios will capitalize on RIT’s unique academic and research programs to become the center of a regional hub for these industries, attracting and nurturing student entrepreneurs who will drive regional economic development through the creation of businesses.

“We expect that this facility will be a magnet for companies in these industries to co-locate with RIT for access to our students, graduates and faculty conducting research in these areas,” said Jeremy Haefner, RIT provost and senior vice president of academic affairs. “It will leverage our existing strengths to develop and nurture entrepreneurs and drive innovation.”

Part of the goal is to retain the many talented graduates who now must move elsewhere in the country to find employment opportunities.

“We are currently producing the talent that drives these industries around the world,” Destler said. “With MAGIC Spell Studios, we can put Rochester on the map as a national contender. It’s time to engage that talent and grow businesses right here.”

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Original Source: University News

‘Smart dust’ technology could reshape space telescopes
Astronomy and Space Science

RIT scientist and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory explore adaptive optical imaging

Dec. 1, 2014
Susan Gawlowicz


A. Sue Weisler

Grover Swartzlander, associate professor at RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, is a co-investigator on an RIT and NASA team exploring a new type of space telescope with an aperture made of swarms of particles released from a canister and controlled by a laser.

Telescope lenses someday might come in aerosol cans.

Scientists at Rochester Institute of Technology and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory are exploring a new type of space telescope with an aperture made of swarms of particles released from a canister and controlled by a laser.

These floating lenses would be larger, cheaper and lighter than apertures on conventional space-based imaging systems like NASA’s Hubble and James Webb space telescopes, said Grover Swartzlander, associate professor at RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science and Fellow of the Optical Society of America. Swartzlander is a co-investigator on the Jet Propulsion team led by Marco Quadrelli.

NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts Program is funding the second phase of the “orbiting rainbows” project that attempts to combine space optics and “smart dust,” or autonomous robotic system technology. The smart dust is made of a photo-polymer, or a light-sensitive plastic, covered with a metallic coating.

“Our motivation is to make a very large aperture telescope in space and that’s typically very expensive and difficult to do,” Swartzlander said. “You don’t have to have one continuous mass telescope in order to do astronomy—it can be distributed over a wide distance. Our proposed concept could be a very cheap, easy way to achieve large coverage, something you couldn’t do with the James Webb-type of approach.”

An adaptive optical imaging sensor comprised of tiny floating mirrors could support large-scale NASA missions and lead to new technology in astrophysical imaging and remote sensing.

Swarms of smart dust forming single or multiple lenses could grow to reach tens of meters to thousands of kilometers in diameter. According to Swartzlander, the unprecedented resolution and detail might be great enough to spot clouds on exoplanets, or planets beyond our solar system.

“This is really next generation,” Swartzlander said. “It’s 20, 30 years out. We’re at the very first step.”

Previous scientists have envisioned orbiting apertures but not the control mechanism. This new concept relies upon Swartzlander’s expertise in the use of light, or photons, to manipulate micro- or nano-particles like smart dust. He developed and patented the techniques known as “optical lift,” in which light from a laser produces radiation pressure that controls the position and orientation of small objects.

In this application, radiation pressure positions the smart dust in a coherent pattern oriented toward an astronomical object. The reflective particles form a lens and channel light to a sensor, or a large array of detectors, on a satellite. Controlling the smart dust to reflect enough light to the sensor to make it work will be a technological hurdle, Swartzlander said.

Two RIT graduate students on Swartzlander’s team are working on different aspects of the project. Alexandra Artusio-Glimpse, a doctoral student in imaging science, is designing experiments in low-gravity environments to explore techniques for controlling swarms of particle and to determine the merits of using a single or multiple beams of light.

Swartzlander expects the telescope will produce speckled and grainy images. Xiaopeng Peng, a doctoral student in imaging science, is developing software algorithms for extracting information from the blurred image the sensor captures. The laser that will shape the smart dust into a lens also will measure the optical distortion caused by the imaging system. Peng will use this information to develop advanced image processing techniques to reverse the distortion and recover detailed images.

“Our goal at this point is to marry advanced computational photography with radiation-pressure control techniques to achieve a rough image,” Swartzlander said. “Then we can establish a roadmap for improving both the algorithms and the control system to achieve ‘out of this world’ images.”

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Original Source: University News

Imaging science students showcase deer alert system at Imagine RIT
Innovative Freshmen Experience
Student Stories

The concept for a high-tech deer-alert system that could make nighttime driving safer will be on display in the Gordon Field House during Imagine RIT on May 3.

Apr. 25, 2014
Susan Gawlowicz


The cohort of imaging science Ph.D. students finishing its first year in the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science will exhibit a deer-alert system at Imagine RIT on May 3. Shown in the top row, left to right, are Doug MacDonald, Kamran Binaee, Brittany Ambeau, Kevan Donlon, Viraj Adduru, Zichao Han and Yue Wang. In the bottom row, left to right, are Justin Harms, Utsav Gewali, Jie Yang, Yansong Liu, Osborn de Lima, Kelly Anderson, Zhaoyu Cui, Shusil Dangi, Lauren Taylor and Colin Axel. Not shown is Chi Zhang.

First-year Ph.D. students in the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science built a long-range infrared dual camera system to warn drivers of deer in their vicinity. The project was assigned to the cohort with the Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival on May 3 as a deadline.

“A big problem in the Northeast is the frequency of cars hitting deer, often between 1 and 3 a.m.,” said Roger Dube, professor in the Center for Imaging Science and facilitator of the introductory class for incoming Ph.D. students. “Our vision at night is limited to the region exposed in the headlights, which is at most a couple of hundred feet. At normal driving speeds, this doesn’t give the driver enough time to react.”

Working in teams, the students designed and built a system to see in the dark and warn the driver of nearby deer. Their proof of concept—tested on a big truck—integrates subsystems that collect data with thermal infrared cameras, process the imagery and communicate the proximity of deer within a quarter mile of the vehicle.

The system begins with two thermal infrared cameras mounted on top of a vehicle. The cameras, pointing in opposite directions, read information at far infrared wavelengths and detect heat given off by living things. “Hot” signatures are juxtaposed to the “cool” fingerprints of trees, buildings and other inanimate objects in the surroundings.

The students’ algorithms process images capturing heat from the deer’s bodies. These hot areas in the image are extracted from the background and matched to the templates of deer images the students created.

If there’s a positive match, the deer’s location is passed to a communication system comprised of speakers and 12 lasers mounted on the back of the vehicle with corresponding reflective dots on the windshield.

“The speaker will start beeping faster as you get closer to the deer and the dots with lasers will align where the deer is so the driver doesn’t have to take his eyes off the road,” said Colin Axel ’13 (B.S., imaging science), a Ph.D. student from Rochester. “The whole point is that we don’t want to take the driver’s eyes off the road at the moment when it is most important for them to pay attention.”

The team of Ph.D. students will display the project in subsystems at their booth in the Gordon Field House. They will demonstrate each of the components that create the overall system.“We will have a controlled demonstration of how the whole system operates,” said Justin Harms, a Ph.D. student and a U.S. Air Force officer from St. Louis. “We will also have other experiments using color and thermal cameras, where you can grasp the concept of looking at something not by its color but by how hot it is. You won’t see the room as you would normally see it; you see it as how hot or cold it is.”

The cohort of imaging science Ph.D. students who worked on the deer-alert system includes Doug MacDonald, Kamran Binaee, Brittany Ambeau, Kevan Donlon, Viraj Adduru, Zichao Han, Yue Wang, Justin Harms, Utsav Gewali, Jie Yang, Yansong Liu, Osborn de Lima, Kelly Anderson, Zhaoyu Cui, Shusil Dangi, Lauren Taylor, Colin Axel and Chi Zhang.

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Original Source: University News

RIT on TV: WiSTEE Connect

Time Warner Cable News reports on the "LEAN IN Together with WiSTEE Connect" forum at RIT, hosted by Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Entrepreneurship Connect. 

Apr. 29, 2014

WiSTEE Connect—founded and chaired by Jie Qiao, associate professor in RIT's Center for Imaging Science—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.

Original Source: University News

CIS alumnus and current Ph.D. student featured on WXXI Radio Show "Connections"
Innovative Freshmen Experience

Connections: A Preview of Imagine RIT

Evan Dawson chats with those involved with Imagine RIT festival about what attendees can expect when they visit the festival on Saturday

Apr. 30, 2014
Evan Dawson


Imagine RIT will draw thousands of people this Saturday, May 3, to the one-day innovation festival. So what are the innovations on display? We chat with Barry Culhane, chairman and founder of Imagine RIT and Heather Cottone, chair of programs for Imagine RIT.

We then talk with the following innovators who will present their works at the festival:

Sean Cooper, a student presenting a Motion Picture Science Holodeck

Colin Axel, a student presenting the Vehicle Hazard Detection and Alert System

Brendan Gordon, a student presenting Imagine Soap


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Original Source: WXXI News

STEM Dilemma: US is not producing enough talent despite high demand
Remote Sensing

Please note this correction to the following article: The CIS high school internship program is unpaid and is 6 weeks long.

May. 1, 2014
Melanie D.G. Kaplan

Ask a leader in the field of geospatial sciences about the inspiration that long ago catapulted him or her down a certain career path, and you’re likely to hear about one pivotal moment.

For the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s (NGA) InnoVision Director Doug McGovern, it was the race to the moon.

“That was a huge catalyst for my interest in science and technology,” he said.

But McGovern and his peers are quick to admit they face a rocky road in preparing today’s young people for careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)—and that academic curricula needs to reflect the quickly changing and expanding needs of employers.

But it starts with getting students excited about learning and raising awareness about the many opportunities in geospatial science.

“How do we inspire that same passion in people today?” McGovern asked.

This was among the questions raised at a panel briefing on Capitol Hill in December, where representatives from the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF), NGA, industry, and academia gathered to discuss the lack of a strong STEM pipeline and what it means for the nation’s geospatial workforce of the future.

“The demand is tremendous,” said Michael Richardson, a researcher at Rochester Institute of Technology’s (RIT) Carlson Center for Imaging Science (CIS). “In the past decade, we have achieved 100 percent placement for our graduates.”

Currently, the graduate program has approximately 100 students, but RIT’s goal is to double enrollment in the next few years. CIS offers a paid, 12-week internship for high school juniors, which exposes them to imaging science and acts as a recruitment tool for the undergraduate program. But even with such outreach, finding qualified students is challenging.

According to the National Science and Technology Council, demand for professionals in STEM fields is projected to outpace the supply of trained workers. A 2012 report by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology estimates U.S. industries will be about one million STEM graduates short within the next decade.

USGIF CEO Keith Masback said furthermore, national security jobs aren’t easily filled with young, international talent, as is the case with many other industries.

“There are unique challenges when it comes to national security, and you can’t outsource it,” he said. “That, by definition, limits the scope even further.”

Roadblocks to growing the STEM pool include real and perceived obstacles.

“Starting with elementary school, STEM are perceived to be difficult topics,” said Peggy Agouris, acting dean of George Mason University’s College of Science and a USGIF board member. “But also, these are cumulative fields. So if there is a gap in knowledge, it’s hard to catch up later on.”

The U.S. population as a whole is unfamiliar with the range of jobs in geospatial sciences, even though they drive applications we use daily – from Foursquare to Google Maps. This is a problem when it’s time for parents and teachers to guide students. For those who have heard of the field, Agouris said, shows like “The Big Bang Theory,” where an awkward physicist meets a pretty girl, don’t help matters, Agouris said.

“You may laugh, but it’s true, and it’s done significant damage to recruiting in the STEM field,” Agouris said. “I’ve heard qualified kids say they don’t want to go to a strong STEM school because it’s for geeks.”

Young professionals agree K-12 exposure is imperative, and are becoming more involved with raising awareness. Sam Unger, a member of USGIF’s Young Professionals Group (YPG) who works at TASC, led an effort last year to help seniors at a Northern Virginia high school with GIS projects. This year, the mentoring initiative is expanding to more schools.

“Kids get really excited when they not only understand the application, but when they get things that they use on a daily basis,” Unger said.

There are countless ways to capture students’ imaginations and get them fired up about STEM.

“For any of these kids, it’s a trip to an air show, a NASA facility, or a movie that inspired them, and that was enough to say, ‘I think I want to do this,’” Masback said. “But without a concerted, collaborative effort among academia, industry, and the government, there won’t be an infrastructure to educate and train them with the knowledge and skills to follow that dream. It takes a village.”

To learn more about the YPG, contact Carrie Drake at

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Original Source: Trajectory Magazine