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Edmund Optics Reveals 2012 High Education Award Recipients

BARRINGTON, NJ—- Edmund Optics (EO), a provider of optical components to both industry and academia, announced the winners of its 2012 Higher Education Global Grant Program. This award is given in recognition of outstanding undergraduate and graduate optics programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics at non-profit colleges and universities worldwide. More than $80,000 USD in EO products will be awarded to the first-, second-, and third-place winners in the Americas, Asia, and Europe, in support of their research and education activities.

"Every year we are astounded by the technical excellence and ingenuity behind the applications we receive," comments Kirsten Bjork-Jones, director of global marketing communications. "They are furthering the science of optical innovation into areas that are saving lives, exploring space, and understanding our physical world. "

Forty-five finalists from 22 countries were selected after evaluating nearly 750 applications. The EO Grant Team chose the finalists based on two criteria: Technical merit, which is the application of optics in the program; and the innovative use of optics in the lab or research setting. After securing more in-depth information about the programs, the team selected the final award recipients.

In the Americas, the first place award of $10,000 in EO products, was given to Tomasz Tkaczyk of Rice University, for the development of optical imaging and detection techniques targeting chemistry, applied physics, nanosciences, and advanced biomedical engineering. Advancements are being made to miniature microscope objectives and endomicroscopy systems for in vivo detection of cancer and infectious diseases. The design provides low-cost, portable and self-aligning optical systems for quick and easy deployment. The microscopy systems are already being used to combat serious health problems such as tuberculosis and malaria around the world.

Second place award of $7,500 in EO products went to Ann Elsner and her team from Indiana University, for the advancement of biomedical imaging utilizing technologies such as Optical Coherence Tomography, Adaptive Optics, and specific polarization techniques in the study of age-related macular degeneration and other ailments of the eye. Elsner and her team are also developing low cost retinal imagers to detect diabetic retinopathy, another serious ailment that can lead to blindness. The combination of these three techniques provides an extremely innovative method of detection quickly and non-invasively.

Third place recipient of $5,000 in EO products is Gregory Lyzenga of Harvey Mudd College in California, for the remote detection of microbial life in space using laser induced fluorescence imaging and Raman spectroscopy (LIFIRS). Students and faculty have developed a novel non-destructive, non-contact optical device capable of rapidly generating reflectance and fluorescence images. These systems are being developed and integrated for a pair of autonomous rovers specifically designed for exploration of lava tubes on Mars.

In Asia, the first place award of $10,000 in EO products was awarded to Quan Liu of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, for developing new optical biopsy methods based on optical imaging and spectroscopy. These methods can non-invasively characterize the pathological status of tissues for medical diagnostics to reduce or even remove the need of performing physical biopsies. The NTU team also performs research to transfer these powerful optical techniques from bench-to-bedside.

Dr. Hayashi Jun from Osaka University in Japan is the second place award recipient of $7,500 in EO products for research on the ignition process of flammable mixed gases under the elevated pressure atmosphere or emission reductions to improve the environmental condition. This research is critical for understanding reactions of gases and materials that can be applied to a number of applications including biofuels and energy and plays a role in safer handling procedures.

Third-place award of $5,000 in EO products was awarded to Yin Chang of the National Yang-Ming University in Taiwan for developing an in vivo fiber-optic spectroscopy technique which targets the detection of epidural space in the spine. This new technique could replace the traditional method of inserting a needle into the epidural space and feeling by hand during anesthesiology. The spectral signal is shown on a screen providing a visual reference to guide placement of the needle.

In Europe, the first place recipient of €7,000 in EO products is David Margolis from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, for developing new techniques in biological imaging and cellular resolution imaging of the living animal to better understand fundamental questions of brain function and dysfunction. The new techniques integrate fast wide-field imaging methods with laser-scanning two-photon microscopy providing new insight into the stability and plasticity of cellular activity that previously have not been possible to investigate. The goal of Margolis' research is to develop and advance brain cancer diagnostics.

Kirstin Baum from the University of Marburg in Germany was selected to receive €5,000 in EO products as the second-place European recipient for developing an integrated 3-D diffuse optical tomography (DOT) scanner and innovative 3-D-surface reconstruction method to enable an easy operation of the DOT scanner by technicians without the need for advanced optical knowledge. With Baum's technique it is possible to separate information from the surface from that of the subsurface using Polarization Difference Imaging (PDI) in combination with structured light 3-D scanning, allowing the actual surface shape to be determined. Images from this new approach are then modeled together, using software, for analysis.

The third-place European recipient is Saiedeh Saghafi from Vienna University of Technology in Austria. The award of €3,000 in EO products was presented for creating an efficient Light Sheet Microscopy/Ultramicroscopy using an innovative beam shaping method of turning a Gaussian beam into an elliptical beam with flattened Gaussian intensity distribution. This beam provides 3-D nondestructive sectioning and imaging of a large sample such as a tumor as well as small samples such as neurons with micrometer resolution. The image quality in Ultramicroscopy depends on the shape and quality of the light sheet and this innovative method allows significant improvement in the optical characteristics of the light sheet.

To read more in-depth information about these award-winning applications or to view a list of all 2012 finalists with links to their programs, please visit www.edmundoptics.com/grant .

Don't forget to check back on October 10th to see who will receive the Norman Edmund Inspiration Award, an additional $5,000 in products, awarded to the program that best embodies the legacy of Edmund Optics' founder Norman Edmund. 

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