TUCSON, Ariz., April 4 -- Michael Descour and James Wyant were honored at the second annual University of Arizona (UA) Technology Innovation Faculty Awards ceremony, held there last week.
"Optics is perhaps the most exciting field there is: fast-paced, technologically challenging and rapidly changing," said Wyant, director of the UA Optical Sciences Center and a UA professor of optical sciences and of electrical and computer engineering. His research focuses on application of microcomputers and software to
interferometric techniques for optical measurement and on development of commercial optical test equipment, based on phase-shifting interferometry. In 1982, Wyant and several colleagues founded Wyko Corp., which produced computerized interferometers for the measurement of surface roughness and surface shape. Its technology is widely applied in the data storage industry and in the automotive, semiconductor, optical and biomedical fields. Wyant has also been involved in establishing several other optics companies, including 4D Technology and DMetrix.
Descour, a UA associate professor of optical sciences, and his colleagues founded DMetrix, which is developing microscopic-imaging instrumentation incorporating advances in optical design, digital imaging, telecommunications and bioinformatics. The company’s products include high-speed scanning instruments and software tools to facilitate digital pathology. Descour is a pioneer in using micro-optical imaging technology to create innovations in health sciences and related fields. He leads the Optical Sciences Center’s Biomedical Imaging and Microscopy Laboratory, where international faculty members and students create optical solutions to problems in biology and medicine.
The awards were inspired by a meeting between Richard C. Powell, former director of UA's Optical Sciences Center, and two members of the Tucson community: Bob Hagen, who chairs the nonprofit Southern Arizona Technology Council, and Robert Breault, co-chair of the Optics Cluster unit of the Arizona Optics Industry Association. Breault is also president of Breault Research Organization Inc., a Tucson optical engineering firm that serves the aerospace, automotive, biotechnology, consumer electronics, defense, medical, semiconductor and telecommunications industries.
Powell, who is UA's vice president for research and graduate studies and a UA professor of optical sciences and of materials science, will retire in July; he was given an award for his service to the university and for "moving UA technology out of the laboratory and into the marketplace." UA said its technology transfer activity has grown dramatically under his leadership; from 1999 to 2002, total sponsored research expenditures increased from $320.2 million to $390.8 million and the number of US patent applications filed annually increased from 40 to 62. In the past three years, under Powell’s leadership, the university’s Technology and Research Initiative Fund yielded eight startup companies, 82 patent applications, 131 new industrial partners and $180 million in new research grants. Powell played a key role in the expansion of the UA Office of Technology Transfer and in the creation of UA's Arizona Center for Innovation, a buseinss incubator promoting the development of high-technology companies in Southern Arizona.
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