NRL Researchers Receive 16 Top Scientists and Engineers Awards

6/15/2009 - 37-09r
Contact: Donna McKinney, (202) 767-2541

Sixteen Naval Research Laboratory researchers received the prestigious 2008 Dr. Delores M. Etter Top Scientists and Engineers of the Year Award. The Honorable Dr. Delores Etter, former Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development & Acquisition), established the award in 2006 to recognize Navy civilian and military personnel for superior scientific and engineering achievements, and to promote continued scientific and engineering excellence. A total of 20 Top Scientists and Engineers of the Year Awards were presented this year, representing 34 scientists and engineers.

Approximately 35,000 Navy scientists and engineers are eligible for this award. The honorees represent various commands across the Department of the Navy. Nominees must have demonstrated exceptional scientific and engineering achievement in their field during the preceding calendar year of the award. Nominees also include "Emerging Investigators" who contributed substantially during the year, have less than 10 years of government service, and show unique promise for future excellence. Achievements are considered significant when they establish a scientific basis for subsequent technical improvements of military importance, materially improve the Navy's technical capability, and/or materially contribute to national defense.

This year's honorees were recognized at a ceremony at the Pentagon. The Honorable Sean J. Stackley, Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition) gave opening remarks. The Honorable Dr. Delores M. Etter, for whom the award was named, was this year's invited speaker.

NRL recipients represent five Laboratory divisions. There were ten NRL researchers named as Top Scientists and Engineers and six as Emerging Investigators. Three group and seven individual awards were presented as follows:

Optical Sciences Division

Dr. Jonathan Neumann, Emerging Investigator, Applied Optics Branch; Mr. John Grant Howard, Emerging Investigator, Applied Optics Branch; and Dr. Eric Allman, Emerging Investigator, Applied Optics Branch - for jointly developing and transitioning a real-time long range airborne hyperspectral target detection and MASINT collection and exploitation system (i.e. the MX-20SW). The MX-20SW is a gimbal stabilized short wave hyperspectral imager and control/exploitation system designed for long range oblique object detection from manned or unmanned airborne platforms. Dr. Neumann is recognized for his leadership in the design, development, integration and flight testing of the sensor system. Mr. Howard is recognized for his implementation of the real-time operator control, data fusion, exploitation system. Dr. Allman is recognized for his development and implementation of the real-time target detection processor that allows for real-time detection and sensor cueing. The joint development of this system represents several major advances in the state-of-the-art of hyperspectral imaging and real-time sensor operation/exploitation, and has enabled unique target detection and fusion capabilities to be demonstrated and transitioned to DoD operational use.

Mr. Clay Kirkendall, Optical Techniques Branch - for the development of fiber optic towed array coherent noise reduction techniques and equipment. His efforts have led to the realization of an order of magnitude reduction in the coherent noise coupled into the system in the signal path between the tow platform and towed array. He developed algorithms for automatic calibration of the system and autonomous operation. The equipment he developed is "submarine ready" and was directly integrated into the production receiver chassis. The reduction in coherent noise improves the detection and tracking capabilities of the towed array helping our navy maintain superiority undersea. Mr. Kirkendall is also being recognized for his contributions to guiding the direction of the next generation of fiber optic hull array.

Dr. Hedi Mattoussi, Emerging Investigator, Optical Physics Branch - for his ideas and concepts centered on semiconductor quantum dots, which have had tremendous impact on the fields of nanomaterials and biotechnology. His research on the design and characterization of quantum dots (QDs), interfacing inorganic nanoparticles with biological systems, and the use of nanoparticle-bioconjugates for sensor design and intracellular imaging. His work has enriched the field of nanomaterials and has had far-reaching impact on the future of biotechnology.

Dr. Jerry Meyer, Optical Physics Branch - for his breakthrough progress in the development of midwave-infrared semiconductor lasers for future transitioning to critical Navy infrared countermeasure and chemical sensing applications. Innovative design modifications were methodically applied to the interband cascade laser, which represents a hybrid of the conventional diode and the intersubband quantum cascade laser. Following three years of intensive research, NRL interband cascade lasers are now the world's leading semiconductor emitters for the important 3-4 µm wavelength range. A key 2008 milestone toward the practicality of this technology has been the first continuous operation above room temperature, by a narrow-ridge interband cascade laser emitting at 3.7 µm. That device's maximum lasing temperature of 319 K (115 °F) was a record for any wavelength between 3.1 and 4.6 µm, and more recent structures have operated to 334 K. By incorporating an NRL ICL into its external-cavity package, the company Daylight Solutions recently obtained ultra-broad single-mode tunability (Δλ = 0.12 µm) near λ = 3.7 µm. This unique capability will likely form the basis for a commercial product that is attractive in a variety of chemical sensing applications. For IR countermeasures, ongoing efforts to enhance the power achievable in a high-quality output beam have included the introduction of a 2D photonic crystal grating that maintains optical coherence across stripes as wide as 400 µm.

Plasma Physics Division

Dr. Phillip Sprangle, Beam Physics Branch; Dr. Joseph Penano, Emerging Investigator, Beam Physics Branch; Dr. Antonio Ting, Beam Physics Branch; Dr. Richard Fischer, Beam Physics Branch - for developing and successfully demonstrating a revolutionary, near term laser weapon concept for shipboard missile defense and other directed energy applications. The NRL laser system, based on incoherently combining high-power fiber laser beams, is highly efficient, modular, scalable, compact, and capable of continuous high-power operation. In a series of successful field demonstrations, the NRL team combined four high-power, high-optical-quality fiber laser beams and transmitted over 4 kilowatts of continuous laser power to a small target at a range of 3.2 kilometers with close to 90% efficiency.

Dr. Robert Meger, Charged Particle Physics Branch - for his leadership in development of the next generation electric launcher for the future electric ship. Dr. Meger's contributions to the development of a viable long lived railgun barrel have advanced the development of this next-generation weapons technology.

Materials Science and Technology Division

Dr. Steven Erwin, Center for Computational Materials Science, and Dr. Alexander Efros, Center for Computational Materials Science - for the discovery of the fundamental physical mechanisms that control the incorporation of intentional impurities, or 'dopants,' in semiconductor nanocrystals. This new understanding opens the door to a new generation of materials, in which selected impurities are used to precisely tailor the electronic, optical, and magnetic properties of nanoscale crystals. This capability is a significant step toward the development of novel functional nanoscale materials with wide application to real-world devices.

Dr. Berend Jonker, Senior Scientist for Magnetoelectronics - for developing electrical injection of spin-polarized electrons, and demonstrating the first generation, modulation and electrical detection of a pure spin current in silicon, the semiconductor on which modern electronics is based. Dr. Jonker further demonstrated that information could be encoded, processed and read out using this pure spin current. This demonstration is a key enabling step for developing devices that rely on electron spin rather than electron charge, an emergent field known as "spintronics." Dr. Jonker's work thus provides key enabling steps towards transitioning the science of semiconductor spintronics to the technologically dominant silicon electronics industry. Progress in this field is expected to lead to devices that provide higher performance, non-volatility, lower power consumption and less heat dissipation. These are clear benefits for portable electronics carried by the warfighter, as well as for electronic packages used by a wide variety of land, sea and air platforms. These capabilities offer significant advantages for various warfighter and Fleet missions.

Space Science Division

Dr. Bernard Phlips, Emerging Investigator, High-Energy Space Environment Branch - for his research in high-energy radiation detectors utilizing nanoscience techniques of deep reactive ion etching that has resulted in revolutionary improvements in performance and cost of detection systems for radiation/nuclear Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Dr Phlips conceived and demonstrated methods for nano-machining manufacture of semi-conductor radiation detectors, which has resulted in three pending patents in 2008. His research advances apply to Navy requirements ranging from WMD detection to space situational awareness.

Remote Sensing Division

Dr. Robert Jansen, Image Science and Applications Branch - for ground breaking development in ocean surveillance technologies, especially related to dark targets, that provides a solid basis in addressing the many challenges of this important field of research. This work culminated in transition delivery in December 2008 of an Ocean Surveillance Algorithm (OSA), which continues a pattern of providing highly valued tools and technical support to the operational community. Parallel to this effort has been the development and implementation of "plug-in" integration technologies that permit easy insertion of exploitation tools into commercial electronic light tables (ELTs) common to every analysts work environment. The acquisition arm of NGA has adopted this integration technology as a new cost effective means for tool insertion into the workforce, and sponsors of new R&D efforts are beginning to require software deliveries to be compatible with this technology.

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