GTRI Names Director of Electro-Optical Systems Lab

Gisele Bennett is chosen to lead new GTRI research group

The February 2001 photograph shows Gisele Bennett posed in front of a P-3 Orion antisubmarine aircraft with four undergraduate students who were then part of a Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) - U.S. Navy project to reduce maintenance costs in the aging aircraft.

That two of the four students shown in the photo are now full-time GTRI researchers says a lot about Bennett's leadership, mentoring skills and connections to Georgia Tech academic departments.

Director of GTRI's Logistics and Maintenance Applied Research Center (LandMARC) and a professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Bennett recently became the first director of the Institute's new Electro-Optical Systems Laboratory (EOSL). An electrical engineer by training, she brings to the job an appreciation for GTRI's existing customers and a vision for developing new research areas where the lab can apply its expertise.

"EOSL has core research technologies that have high potential for growth," said Bennett. "We are going to continue to be the research resource for our existing customers in areas such as optical sensing and systems design, and for our future customers in such areas as medical imaging and optical communication. We'll continue to grow our work with the Department of Defense, and we'll have new customers at the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and industry."

Though the lab's focus on electro-optical systems may seem narrow, the field includes a broad range of disciplines and a set of applications that continues to grow.

Traditionally a physics-based discipline, electro-optics now includes electrical engineering and chemistry - and such high-visibility applications as nanotechnology and solid-state lighting. Within EOSL, research areas include remote sensing; modeling and analysis; integrated sensing systems that include optical, RF and acoustic sensors; optical device technology; LIDAR system design and measurement; microelectronics; nanotechnology; solid state lighting; performance support systems; sensor data collection and analysis - and even education through the Department of Defense SENSIAC program.

New research areas, including optical communication and medical imaging, will build on the expertise developed for Department of Defense programs over the years.

"We've got significant programs in multi-spectral imaging and hyper-spectral imaging, and we've got some of the leading experts in modeling atmospheric turbulence and electro-optical systems," Bennett noted. "Medical imaging can involve optical systems for looking into the human body where there is a lot of scattering of the signal. Our expertise in atmospheric scattering and modeling can be applied to this kind of imaging."

Already, there are projects in such areas as bruise detection and locating blood vessels. There are collaborations with Grady Memorial Hospital, and proposals for research with Emory University, Piedmont Hospital and the American Heart Association.

Bennett, who holds a Ph.D. from Georgia Tech, is a professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. She teaches courses there in optics and design while supervising Ph.D. students. That's been helpful for her publishing, research collaboration, and recruiting graduate students who become GTRI engineers.

"That reach-back to the academic side is very important because students learn about applications and real problems from us, while we are recruiting our future engineers," she said. "Just about everybody in my former group was a student of mine at one time or another."

Beyond choosing the best Georgia Tech graduates, the academic collaboration also brings new ideas and new energy to her research. She currently has projects with eight of Georgia Tech's academic schools.

"The collaboration with the academic side is very important, and probably half of my current work has collaborative components with the academic side," Bennett noted. "Both sides can benefit from the different skill sets and the different interests in the types of problems we like to work on. It has worked out well for us."

As director for EOSL, she'd like to bring Georgia Tech's optics groups closer together so that the outside world will see a single unified research team. That collaborative approach also applies to GTRI labs, where she'd like to explore more joint projects.

"Collectively, we are stronger together than we are as individual labs," Bennett said. "We need to be one GTRI in all we do."

Beyond teaching, her leadership was recently recognized by Georgia Tech Provost Jean-Lou Chameau, who included her in the first group of ten fellows in the new Georgia Tech Academic Leadership Program.

In 2000, Bennett founded LandMARC as a multidisciplinary center which now has more than $12 million in direct research. The center focuses on condition based maintenance; RF and optical tagging, tracking and visibility, and performance support technology. The work led to two national awards for the Electronic Performance Support System and RFID utilization.

She is a member of the IEEE, Optical Society of America (OSA), SPIE International Society for Optical Engineering and International Society for Logistics (SOLE). On campus, Bennett has provided leadership for numerous organizations and activities, serving as acting chair of the Institute Promotion Review Committee, chair of the Conflict of Interest Policy Review, chair of the Faculty Status and Grievance Committee, chair of the Intellectual Property Committee and vice chair of the Executive Board.

Before moving to Georgia Tech, she studied or held positions at the University of Central Florida, the University of California at San Diego, and the University of Colorado at Boulder. She believes that experience gives her a different perspective on how organizations can work.

Beyond work, she enjoys flying, traveling around the world, motorcycle riding and collecting fountain pens - with a concern about writing as a "lost art."

GTRI Director Stephen Cross praised Bennett's vision for EOSL.

"The vision she has communicated has created real excitement in that lab," he said. "Gisele is well known in the campus community and has been involved in leadership positions both on campus and at the national level. We expect great things from EOSL."

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Media Relations Contacts: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail: (john.toon@edi.gatech.edu) or Kirk Englehardt (404-385-0280); E-mail: (kirk.englehardt@gtri.gatech.edu) or Jane Sanders (404-894-2214); E-mail: (jane.sanders@edi.gatech.edu).

Technical Contact: Gisele Bennett (404-894-0155); E-mail: (gisele.bennett@gtri.gatech.edu).

Writer: John Toon