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SFI Fellowship for National University of Ireland, Galway, to Support AO Research

Galway, Ireland – November 6, 2002:   Science Foundation Ireland has awarded a five-year Fellowship to NUI, Galway to support the research of Professor Chris Dainty in the field of imaging and applied optics. The value of the award is approximately €6.1M over five years.
  Imaging and applied optics are enabling technologies that underpin many key developments in biotechnology, healthcare and communication, as well as a wide variety of consumer products. Professor Dainty’s research programme will be centred around the fundamentals and applications of adaptive optics, a technology developed by astronomers to compensate for the deleterious effects of atmospheric turbulence in astronomical imaging. He will be applying adaptive optics to the human eye, primarily to produce very high resolution images of the retina in vivo. Reversing the optical system could provide ‘supervision’ that would enable people to see better than ‘20/20’.

The research programme also includes basic and applied studies in the fields of smart optics, and light scattering and propagation through random media. Smart optical systems are ones where both the optical elements and the detector are programmable, allowing complex tasks to be performed with potentially very low cost devices: consumer digital
Atlas of Laser Scanning Ophthalmoscopy, Scheuerle
cameras are one product area that could benefit from smart optics. Professor Dainty’s established research programmes related to the propagation of light through the atmosphere will continue in Galway, applied both to astronomy and to line-of-sight optical communications, a subject of growing interest to the IT community.

The programme has already attracted additional support from Hewlett Packard, and a number of other companies, particularly those involved in ophthalmology, are likely to join the programme in the next year. Professor Dainty will also co-ordinate an EU Research Training Network, ‘SHARP-EYE’ from his new base in Galway. He hopes that his new team will grow to 15–20 in the next three years, and he sees enormous scope for building collaborations within Galway and throughout the country with both industry and academia.

Chris Dainty was born in Canada and brought up in Scotland. He obtained his MSc and PhD degrees in optics from Imperial College, London, and from 1974 to 1978 was a Lecturer in Physics at Queen Elizabeth College of The University of London. In 1978 he moved to The University of Rochester in New York State, returning in 1984 to the UK to take up the Pilkington Chair of Applied Optics at Imperial College.

Professor Dainty was awarded the International Commission for Optics (ICO) Prize in 1984 and the Thomas Young Medal and Prize from the Institute of Physics in 1993. He is a Fellow of the Optical Society of America, SPIE (The International Optical Engineering Society) and The Institute of Physics and has served in many leadership positions in professional and international organisations in optics, including being President of ICO from 1990 to 1993. He will serve as President of The European Optical Society from September 2002 for a period of two years. He just stood down as Editor of the journal Optics Communications, having handled almost 5000 manuscripts in the past eight years.

‘This SFI Fellowship is a both a fabulous opportunity and a tremendous challenge’ says Dainty. ‘On the one hand, for the first time in my life, I will have the freedom to pursue what I consider to be important research, rather than have to rely on a multitude of funding agencies: this freedom is essential if one is to move rapidly and to innovate. On the other hand, I am setting up a new group from scratch, and it is a great challenge to build a motivated, capable team in a short space of time.’

‘Ireland is an ideal location for such an activity because of the close links between industry and universities, and because the focus of Science Foundation Ireland is towards the development of an agile and effective research base. Within Ireland, NUI, Galway is a superb location, both academically and culturally. On the academic side, I plan to develop strong links with the National Laser Applications Centre, led by Professor Tom Glynn, and with the astronomical imaging group of Professor Mike Redfern and Dr Andy Shearer. Culturally, I’ll doubtless enjoy the liveliness of Galway City and the beauty of the West Coast.’
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