News Feature | May 11, 2022

Bright Ideas — JWST and LISA Reach Milestones, Women The Focus Of New Scholarship And Industry Award

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By Abby Proch, former editor


Two efforts to recognize and uplift women in the world of optics and photonics made industry headlines last week. The University of Arizona James. C Wyant College of Optical Sciences announced the new Marisa A. Edmund Women in Optics Scholarship. The award aims to support students who show a demonstrated interest in advancing women in optics and includes an internship at Edmund Optics. Marisa Edmund is a third-generation owner of Edmund Optics and serves as the company’s chief global marketing and sales officer. For its part, MKS Instruments was recognized by 50/50 Women on Boards for having at least three women on its board. The 50/50 advocacy campaign celebrates companies that drive gender balance and diversity on corporate boards. MKS’s board includes Jacqueline F. Moloney, Elizabeth A. Mora, and Michelle M. Warner.

Images snapped from the James Webb Space Telescope’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) have already produced crisper, clearer images than its predecessor, the Spitzer Space Telescope’s Infrared Array Camera. On Monday, NASA said MIRI’s images of a satellite galaxy in the Milky Way captured interstellar gas in “unprecedented detail.” Capturing images of these emissions will allow researchers to better understand the origins of stars and protoplanetary systems. Some setting up and testing remains, however, as NASA approaches its summer goal of conducting the telescope’s first scientific observations.

Those summer goals include snapping infrared images, made colorful with some post-processing, on a yet-to-be-named target. NASA, European Space Agency, and Canadian Space Agency officials have created a checklist of objects to observe but have kept them a secret from the public. The first target and its corresponding images are expected to be revealed in mid-July.

The ESA’s Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) has cleared the last stage of mission feasibility exercises, and scientists will soon be defining its mission requirements. LISA will observe the universe by studying its gravitational waves. LISA will be comprised of three equidistant spacecraft orbiting around the sun that capture small oscillations in gravitational waves and measure them using laser links that “monitor the displacements of test masses free-falling inside the spacecraft.” LISA will operate in a lower frequency band than existing interferometers and observatories and thus will be able to observe much larger and older systems.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order to further bolster the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) in the pursuit of quantum information system (QIS) as a national initiative by establishing a new  National Quantum Initiative Advisory Committee. The Committee, comprised of the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (or the Director’s designee) and no more than 26 members from industry, academia, and federal laboratories, is intended to support the National Quantum Initiative (NQI) with its diversity of knowledge and supplement the foundation laid by the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) Subcommittee on Quantum Information Science (SCQIS) and the NSTC Subcommittee on Economic and Security Implications of Quantum Science (ESIX).

They say the eyes are the window to the… neurological condition. At least, that’s what researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara are concluding with their new smartphone app that measures and tracks pupil dilation to identify the presence of a neurological conditions like ADHD and dementia. Using a smart phone’s near-IR camera, the app records pupillometry in a similar way to instruments in clinical settings. The researchers intend to further refine their work in hopes of making it resource more widely and readily available to the public.