UA to Honor Jannick Rolland-Thompson, PhD, as 2019 Alumna of the year in Optical Sciences

Award planned for the University of Arizona’s Homecoming Festivities in October

The University of Arizona Alumni Association has announced that Dr. Jannick P. Rolland-Thompson as the 2019 Alumnus of the Year for the Wyant College of Optical Sciences. Currently a professor of optics and biomedical engineering and professor in the Center for Visual Science at the University of Rochester, Jannick earned graduate degrees (MS ’85 and PhD ’90) from the University of Arizona. She will receive this distinguished award at UA’s 2019 Homecoming and Alumni of the Year celebrations on Thursday October 31.

“Jannick is an exceptional leader in the field of optics, and continues to enjoy great success in her career as an educator, mentor, and researcher,” said Thomas L. Koch, Ph.D., dean of the Wyant College of Optical Sciences. “In addition to her wisdom and pioneering creativity, her tireless dedication to advance the understanding and education of the optics is also mirrored by her extraordinary generosity to help fund educational opportunities for students with scholarship support. We are truly proud to recognize Jannick with this distinction,” Koch added.

After receiving a diploma in Optical Engineering from the Ecole Superieure D’Optique (i.e., also known as The Institut d’optique Graduate School), France (1984), Jannick relocated to the United States to further her education. At the University of Arizona, she earned an M.S. and Ph.D. in Optical Sciences in 1985 and 1990, respectively.

“When Jannick joined my research group (as a PhD student), she was already an accomplished and talented optical engineer, but I suggested an entirely new area for her, medical imaging,” said Harrison Barrett, Regents Professor at the University of Arizona in optical sciences and medical imaging.

“At the time she began that work, it was recognized that image quality in medical imaging had to be based on the performance of an observer on some specific task of medical interest, and numerous simulation and computational methods had been developed, especially for the task of tumor detection.” Barrett said. “I think it is fair to say that Jannick’s work launched the medical-imaging community in a new and very productive direction. Her dissertation and the subsequent journal papers are still very widely cited today, and her methodology is a key one in task-based assessment of image quality.”

With degrees in hand, Jannick launched a distinguished career in academia beginning as a postdoctoral fellow for 18 months in the Department of Computer Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Here, she focused on vision and computer graphics while also designing stereoscopic head-worn displays for medical visualization. Then in 1992, she became director for Chapel Hill’s Vision Research Group for Medical Displays.

In 1996, Jannick took her teaching career to the College of Optics and Photonics at the University of Central Florida. Here, she built the Optical Diagnostics and Applications Laboratory (ODALab), which supported a team of approximately 20 scholars from undergraduates to senior scientists. She also held joint appointments in Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, and Modeling and Simulation.

In 2009, the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester offered Jannick the Brian J. Thompson Professor of Optical Engineering Endowed Chair, a distinguished position that she continues to hold today. She also has joint appointments as professor of biomedical engineering and professor in the Center for Visual Science.

In addition to her professorship, she is the Director of the NSF I/UCRC Center for Freeform Optics (CeFO) that spans two Universities and focuses on graduate research and education. She is also Director of the R.E. Hopkins Center for Optical Design and Engineering that engages undergraduates in optical design, fabrication, and metrology at Rochester.

Considered as a leading pioneer in augmented and virtual reality, Jannick’s central research interests are Optical System Design for Imaging and Non-imaging Optics, Physics-based modeling, Metrology, and Image Quality Assessment. Currently in Jannick’s lab, these areas apply across a wide range of applications from Eyewear Displays for Augmented Reality to Space Optics, including Optical Coherence Imaging and Biomedical Research.

“Jannick has been a strong voice for the engineering community, women, students and early-career professionals. An OSA member since 1985, her contributions have greatly advanced a number of key programs across the society,” said Elizabeth A. Rogan, Chief Executive Officer, The Optical Society, adding that Jannick received the coveted David Richardson Medal in 2014. This distinguished honor recognizes researchers who have made significant contributions to optical engineering.

In 2016, Jannick collaborated with the OSA Foundation to honor her late-husband, Dr. Kevin P. Thompson (UA Alumnus of the Year for Optical Sciences in 2015), as well as, their collective passion for promoting the next generation of innovators, by endowing the Kevin P. Thompson Optical Design Innovator Award. This annual award is to recognize significant contributions in lens design, optical engineering, or metrology by an individual researcher at an early stage of their career.

Jannick is also the Chief Technology Officer of LighTopTech Corp., a start-up company she co-founded in 2013. She is holder of 35 issued patents, has written 14 book chapters and has over 400 publications, including 170 peer-reviewed publications related to optical design, augmented reality, vision, and image quality assessment.

She has also served on the Editorial Board of the Journal Presence (MIT Press) (1996-2006), as Associate Editor of Optical Engineering (1999-2004) and as Director at Large on the OSA Board of Directors 2010-2013. She is a Topical Editor for Optics Letters since 2016. She is a Fellow of OSA and SPIE, the optics and photonics societies.

For the University of Arizona Jannick and Kevin offered the Wyant College of Optical Sciences a generous gift in 2014 to establish a graduate student scholarship endowment named for her mentor at the lnstitut D’Optique in France. The Professor Michel Cagnet Graduate Student Scholarship in Optical Sciences is a part of the College’s FoTO (Friends of Tucson Optics) scholarship program of which provides a first-year graduate student with a stipend of $20,000 and waived tuition.

She and Kevin contributed to three other graduate student FoTO scholarships, of which one named for her UA PhD advisor, Dr. Harrison Barrett and another for Kevin’s UA PhD advisor, Dr. Rolland Shack.

“While the Wyant College of Optical Sciences is globally known for its leading teaching and research programs,” Dean Koch said. “Our reputation is a testament to the brilliance and dedication of our students, faculty – and alumni- who have pioneered scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs, introducing remarkable new ways that optics will impact the quality of our lives. As an alumna of the College, Dr. Jannick Rolland-Thompson exemplifies this commitment.”


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