University of Rochester

Rolland Named to New Brian J. Thompson Professorship in Optical Engineering

April 22, 2009

Jannick Rolland, professor of optics and biomedical engineering at the University of Rochester, has been named the first Brian J. Thompson Professor in Optical Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. She is also the associate director of the recently completed Robert E. Hopkins Center for Optical Design and Engineering.

"With the legacy we have here at the Institute of Optics, the caliber of our students, and the investment from industry partners and the University—all these factors together—I think we can really lead a global effort to educate the next generation of optical engineers," says Rolland.

"Jannick's appointment brings our school great new strength in such emerging technologies as free-form optics and biomedical instrumentation," says Robert Clark, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. "That's especially exciting in a year that has seen the establishment of the Hopkins Center and the mission to create a program in optical engineering."

The new professorship was created to support a scholar whose work exemplifies the research and teaching legacy of Provost Emeritus Brian Thompson, formerly the William F. May Professor of Engineering, director of the Institute of Optics, and dean of engineering. John Bruning, the former CEO of Corning Tropel Corp., endowed the professorship through a $2 million gift that also helped fund the Hopkins Center.

Clark added that in addition to Rolland's distinguished track record in research and education, she will also serve as a valuable role model at a time when Rochester and other universities are encouraging more women to enter the field of engineering.

From 1996 to 2008, Rolland taught at the College of Optics and Photonics at the University of Central Florida. There she helped establish the Optical Design and Applications Laboratory (ODALab), intended to foster interdisciplinary research in novel optical instrumentation for 3D imaging and visualization systems, image analysis, and assessment methodology. She received her diploma in 1984 from the Institut d'Optique in Paris, and her Ph.D. in optical science from the University of Arizona in 1990.

Rolland holds 15 patents and is the author of six book chapters and over 80 peer-reviewed publications related to optical design, augmented reality, vision, and image quality assessment. She also served on the editorial board of the journal Presence (MIT Press) from 1996 to 2006, and as associate editor of Optical Engineering from 1999 to 2004. In 2004 she was elected a fellow of the Optical Society of America, and in 2008 she was elected a fellow of SPIE, an international society focused on the science and application of light.

According to Rolland, the Institute's close working relationship with the University's Medical Center was a significant factor in her interest in coming to Rochester. Her research in biomedical optics, she said, had reached a critical juncture in which access to a major research hospital for conducting clinical trials was a top priority.

Rolland's research also demanded the capability for rapid prototyping of optical devices made to extremely precise specifications.

"There's really no better place in the world for Jannick to be than Rochester, particularly given her research requirements, and her desire to directly involve students in state-of-the-art optical fabrication," says Wayne Knox, director of the Institute of Optics.

Rolland agrees, saying, "There is culture here that in a very real way supports cross-disciplinary research, something my work depends upon. I'm excited to be a part of the positive synergy between engineering and not only medicine, but the arts and humanities as well. I believe strongly in the coupling of science and technology to society."

She has already begun collaborating with Renato Perucchio, professor of mechanical engineering, and Pablo Alvarez, a rare books librarian, on the study of the architecture of ancient cities, including Rome. Part of the effort is to use physics-based modeling and 3D visualizations to improve understandings of how ancient structures were built, and why some remain standing while others have collapsed.

"I really see my appointment here as a doorway to realize a vision where not only graduate students, but undergraduates as well, are educated in optical engineering through a direct engagement with a diverse range of real world projects," Rolland says.

Thompson, for whom the professorship is named, received his doctorate at Manchester University in the 1950s where he worked for a time with physical optics pioneer Emil Wolf, now the Wilson Professor of Optical Physics at Rochester. He came to the United States in 1963, working in industry and higher education before arriving at the University in 1968 as the director of the Institute of Optics. Thompson remained at Rochester thereafter, making a name for himself as a leading researcher in coherent optics, holography, phase microscopy, and image processing. In 1975 he became dean of what was then the College of Engineering and Applied Science, and moved to the provost's office in 1984. Thompson eventually retired in 1994.

Bruning, who endowed the professorship and the Hopkins Center, is an electrical engineer who received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. He is currently an executive scientist at Corning Inc. During his early career at Bell Laboratories, he developed relationships with Hopkins, Tropel and the Institute of Optics. Bruning's early work centered on the development of high accuracy interferometry for testing precision optical surfaces and lenses. Later work culminated with the invention of excimer laser lithography, which is still used today to manufacture microchips.

In 1984, Bruning left Bell Labs to become vice president and general manager of GCA Tropel, the same company founded by Hopkins 30 years earlier. In 1994, Bruning led a management buyout of Tropel, and in 2001, Tropel was acquired by Corning Inc. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of IEEE, OSA and SPIE.