University of Rochester

Professor Awarded Prestigious Imaging Science Medal

April 16, 2009

Duncan Moore, professor of optics, biomedical engineering and business administration at the University of Rochester, has been awarded the 2009 Edwin H. Land Medal in recognition of his pioneering work on gradient-index—or GRIN—optics and his extensive entrepreneurial efforts in optics education.

Established in 1992, the Land Medal is jointly sponsored by the Optical Society of America (OSA) and the Society for Imaging Science and Technology (IS&T), and is awarded annually to an individual who has made unique and noteworthy advancements in the field of imaging science and technology, and whose career reflects Land's many achievements as an inventor, scientist, entrepreneur, and teacher.

"It's quite flattering, especially given the prominence of the award's namesake," says Moore.

Land is perhaps best known as the inventor of the first inexpensive filters capable of polarizing light and as co-founder of Land-Wheelwright Laboratories, renamed the Polaroid Corporation in 1937.

Moore's groundbreaking GRIN work involved a departure from traditional lenses that rely on curved optical surfaces and a homogeneous structure to redirect light. Instead, a GRIN lens has an index of refraction that varies across its thickness, meaning it can have flat surfaces while allowing light to effectively travel through it in a curved path.

Applications for GRIN materials have been the central focus of the Rochester-based Gradient Lens Corporation, founded by Moore in 1980. Today the company is the exclusive producer of the Borescope, made using GRIN technologies developed by Moore. The Borescope has appeared on several episodes of the popular CBS television drama "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" to peer into places other cameras cannot go, such as down the barrel of a gun.

Today, Moore's research group is exploring how GRIN optics can be applied to the development of alternative energy sources.

As noted in the award citation from OSA and IS&T, the Land Medal was also given in recognition of Moore's forward-thinking efforts to bring entrepreneurship and a formal optics education together.

"Duncan is an exceptional scientist and engineer—a 'triple threat' in academics, excelling in his efforts toward research, education, and service," says Robert Clark, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. "What's more, is that he takes the extra step of translating his ideas, through entrepreneurship, for the benefit of society."

In 1988, Moore began teaching a course, titled Technical Entrepreneurship, which he continues to offer today. The first class was half MBA students and half engineering students, and was intended to create a bridge between different schools as well as emphasize the role universities could play in economic development.

"A course like that is pretty typical now, but at the time it was really radical stuff," recalls Moore. "I began teaching the course with Jim Gaeter from the Simon School of Business in an effort to push people to think about the importance of programs that build connections between schools, and between academia and industry."

"Duncan fully embodies the entrepreneurial spirit—in the way he thinks, acts, conducts research, and teaches—and through that course he has instilled many students with the very same passion," says Wayne Knox, director of the Institute of Optics.

Moore, who has served as the University's Vice Provost for Entrepreneurship since 2007, has continued developing innovative ways to bring entrepreneurship to the classroom. He's currently working on finalizing a proposed professional degree program in technical entrepreneurship and management that he hopes to unveil sometime this summer.

Having received the Land Medal, Moore finds himself in the company of past winners that have each made significant contributions to the field of optics, including Rochester alumni Charles R. Munnerlyn '69 (PhD) and Paul F. Forman '56, who received the medal in 2007 and 1998, respectively.