2020-2021 OSA Rochester Speaker Series - Don Figer and Justin Gallagher, RIT

  • November 17, 2020
  • 7:00 PM
  • Zoom (link in confirmation email received after registering)


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Astrophysics Nobel Prizes and Instrumentation

Don Figer, Director of Center for Detectors and Director of Future Photon Initiative at RIT

Justin Gallagher, RIT



In this talk, I will discuss the key technologies that led to this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics, namely: large telescope mirrors, adaptive optics, and infrared detectors. The Prize was awarded to theoretical work by Sir Roger Penrose, and observational work by Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez. The observational work uses high school physics first described by Newton and Kepler, but it took hundreds of years to do the experiment because the necessary instrumentation to conduct the experiment was only invented in the 1990’s. I will also describe my own recollections of the observational work, my participation in it, and subsequent research and development programs at RIT to enable future world-leading Astrophysics.

About the speaker

Dr. Figer has a BA from Northwestern University with a triple major in Physics, Math, and Astronomy, an MS in Astronomy and Astrophysics from the University of Chicago, and a PhD in Astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles, in Astronomy.

Figer is the director of both the Center for Detectors and the Future Photon Initiative, as well as a professor in the College of Science at Rochester Institute of Technology. He researches massive stars, massive star clusters, the Galactic center, and advanced detectors for cross-disciplinary applications. He has developed detectors and instruments for the Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, and those used in Nobel Prize winning research that discovered dark energy and the supermassive black hole at the center of the Galaxy. He continues to develop infrared detectors and single photon detectors for astrophysics and quantum information science.

Figer has received numerous awards for his work, including the NYSTAR Faculty Development Award, the NASA Space Act Award, and the AURA STScI Technology and Innovation Award.


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