Georgia Tech Research Institute’s Lidar Team Receives OSA’s 2012 Paul F. Forman Engineering Excellen


Angela Stark
The Optical Society

Georgia Tech Research Institute’s Lidar Team Receives OSA’s 2012 Paul F. Forman Engineering Excellence Award

The GTRI Lidear team
The Georgia Tech Research Institute Lidar Team with one of their recent brassboard lidar systems, a photon-counting aerosol lidar operating at 1.574 microns. Left to right, David Roberts, John Stewart, Leanne West, Jack Wood, and Gary Gimmestad.
Image credit: Kathryn Knox, GTRI

WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 2012—The Optical Society (OSA) has named the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) Lidar Team the winner of the 2012 Paul F. Forman Engineering Excellence Award. The award recognizes teams that have made major contributions to optical engineering. The team, whose members include Gary Gimmestad, David Roberts, John Stewart, Leanne West and Jack Wood, will be recognized for their 25-year history of making significant advances in atmospheric lidar technology to make it more cost effective, eye-safe, reliable, and capable of producing real-time data products. The group members will receive their award during the plenary session at OSA’s annual meeting, Frontiers in Optics (FiO), taking place Oct. 14-18 in Rochester, N.Y.

“GTRI’s Lidar Team exemplifies exactly what the Forman Award stands for—technical accomplishments alongside achievements in educational outreach in a team environment,” said OSA President Tony Heinz. “For more than 25 years, this team has been on the forefront of lidar technology, which today has diverse applications in areas like remote sensing and geographical mapping. OSA is pleased to recognize the Lidar Team’s achievements and congratulates all five members on their success.”

GTRI began lidar system development in 1986 with an ambitious project to build several specialized lidars simultaneously. Gary Gimmestad, principal research scientist, and David Roberts, senior research scientist, were on the first project team, and they soon developed the largest lidar in the world, known as Megalidar. Following that success, they pioneered lidar technology at the eye-safe wavelength of 1.5 microns. John Stewart, senior research scientist, joined the team in 1990 and he has served as the team’s lead software engineer ever since. Leanne West, principal research scientist, came on board in the year 2000, along with Jack Wood, senior research scientist, and they developed the laser transmitter for an ozone monitoring lidar known as NEXLASER, while Stewart developed the software to put real-time ozone and aerosol profiles on the Internet.  The team went on to develop lidars for many applications, while contributing to the theory of lidar optics and depolarization. They have developed extensive educational materials and they are currently writing a textbook on atmospheric lidar engineering.

The Engineering Excellence Award was established in 1989 and has since been bestowed to dozens of outstanding scientists and researchers in the field of optical engineering. Beginning this year, all nominees for the award were required to be research and/or engineering teams, rather than individuals.  Named in honor of Paul F. Forman, whose approach admirably exemplified team achievements, this award recognizes technical achievements such as product engineering, process and software development, and patent development, as well as contributions to society such as engineering education, publication and management, and furthering public appreciation of optical engineering. The award is sponsored by Zygo Corporation, Optical Research Associates (now the Optical Solutions Group at Synopsys), Cambridge Research & Instrumentation, Inc., Canon Inc., and individual contributors Gary and Carolyn Bjorklund, Barbara Marks Forman and G. Michael Morris. For more information on the award or the nomination process, visit OSA’s Awards & Honors page.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A photo of the winning team is available to members of the media upon request. Contact Angela Stark at

About OSA
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