Indian-American Engineer Honoured With Edith And Peter O’Donnell Award In Engineering

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An Indian-American engineer, and professor Ashok Veeraraghavan has been honoured with the Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in engineering, one of the highest academic honours in Texas. As per the Texas Academy of Medicine, Engineering, Science and Technology (TAMEST), the institute which awards this honour, professor Veeraraghavan was chosen for this award for his groundbreaking imaging technology which makes the invisible, visible. Professor Veeraraghavan is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at George R. Brown School of Engineering at Rice University. 

Every year, the award is granted to researchers with milestone research contributions in the fields of medicine, engineering, biological sciences, physical sciences and technology innovation. The Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in engineering for this year went to Veeraraghavan, recognising his group’s “revolutionary imaging technology that seeks to make the invisible visible,” according to a statement from TAMEST, reported PTI. 

“I am delighted to receive this award. It is the recognition of the wonderful and innovative research that many students, postdocs and research scientists, in the computational imaging lab at Rice University have done over the last decade” Veeraghavan told PTI on receiving the award. 

Notably, Veeraghavan hails from Chennai where he spent most of his pre-adult life. His computational imaging lab conducts research on imaging processes holistically, from optics and sensor design to machine learning processing algorithms, to tackle imaging challenges that are otherwise beyond the reach of current technologies.

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“Most imaging systems today are designed in a way that does not take all these three things into account together; they are designed separately. Co-design opens up new degrees of freedom and allows us to achieve some imaging functionalities or performance capabilities that are otherwise not possible,” he said. 

Veeraraghavan’s research area aims to provide solutions to complex imaging scenarios where the visualization target can’t be reached through current imaging technologies due to the scattering of light in participating media. “There are many examples of this,” he said.

“One familiar example is when you’re driving a car and it’s foggy, so you can’t see too far out. In this case, fog acts as the scattering medium. If you’re doing satellite imaging, clouds can act as the scattering medium. And if you’re doing biological imaging, it’s skin that acts as the obscurant so you can’t see blood cells or the structure of the vascular system, for example,” he explained.

“In all of these contexts, the main challenge is that light interacts with the participating media and scatters, which means you lose information about the image you are trying to capture. I think imaging through scattering media is one of the most challenging problems that’s left in imaging. So that is what the core focus of my lab is, and we’ve made significant advances toward solving that problem.” he said.

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