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Ask ‘Dear Abbie’ Anything on Digital Holography – A Reddit Science “Ask Me Anything” with the Naval


Ask ‘Dear Abbie’ Anything on Digital Holography – A Reddit Science “Ask Me Anything” with the Naval Research Laboratory’s Dr. Abbie Watnik

By Abbie Watnik

Every day I work on the cutting edge of science and technology and I love it. Our team at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, works specifically with advanced optical imaging technologies which work to help map the ocean floor. It is my passion for the science and for mentoring others to help to navigating the maze of challenges, opportunities and achievements in the field. Have a question on the latest in active imaging research? Are you looking to make your own impact on the science community?

We’ve highlighted five key professional development take-aways from this captivating AMA!

CoralineCastell asks - Hello there, Dr.! You mentioned working with cutting edge technology. I'm curious: what was the most exciting or innovative piece of technology that you got to use on your job?
Dr. Abbie Watnik - I typically use lasers, fast-framing cameras, spatial light modulators, diffractive waveplates, Shack-Hartmann wavefront sensors, etc. I think the innovative part is taking all these individual pieces of technology/equipment and figuring out how to use them in novel ways.

Yeshualynn asks - As an addendum to /u/CoralineCastell 's question, what is the coolest/most exciting thing you've gotten to observe as a result of the technology you work with? Thanks for this AMA, Dr. Abbie!
Dr. Abbie Watnik – One of my interests is adaptive optics - controlling and shaping light beams as they propagate, by altering the phase and/or amplitude of the light. Part of my research uses adaptive optics to control how lasers propagate through the atmosphere. However, I am impressed by how adaptive optics has been used by other fields in optics, such as retinal imaging (imaging of the eye). Very cool stuff! Here's an example of a seminal paper in the field.

Dr.KnockOut99 asks – Hi Dr. Watnik! I recognized your name and dug out some business cards I got last year and realized that I have met you before (proof). I was one of the sophomores who presented the "glove controller" project at the CSU ECE meeting last spring, the same day the senior projects were shown off. I really wanted to try and talk to the intimidating engineers to make some connections during that meeting, and you made it really easy for me to sit down and ask some questions about what being an engineer in the real world means. Thank you for that! Question: What kind of steps besides getting my bachelors in computer engineering can I take to begin working as a Navy engineer? What is the best use of my extra-curricular time to try and get where I want to go? Are there any specific internships I should be thinking about applying for? Thanks!
Dr. Abbie Watnik - Glad to hear that you are working towards a bachelors in computer engineering! NRL offers several internship programs - for high school students, undergraduates as well as graduate students. You can check out more information here.

Dillo00 asks - As someone looking into a potential career in military science labs, I'd love to know how you got to where you are and what your job is like! Did you become an established scientist in non-military companies before going to work for the Navy, or did you start your career with them? What are the pros and cons of working for the government as opposed to the private sector? What were some favorite projects (that you can tell us about without killing us of course) that you worked on in the past? Thank you so much for doing this AMA!
Dr. Abbie Watnik - It's hard to narrow down my favorite projects! However, some of my previous research was on creating gigapixel holographic images. I was able to take individual holographic frames and combine them to create an effective larger aperture... a synthetic aperture. A larger synthetic aperture allows for much finer resolution than a single frame. See: OSA Imaging and Applied Optics, Optics Express.  One unique thing about this work - and where a subset of imaging technology may be headed in the future - is lensless imaging. The gigapixel holographic image was created without direct imaging. No lenses required! There are other groups in the field currently pursuing some very interesting work in lensless imaging as well: Applied Optics, ICCP.

Gork862 asks -
  1. What would you look for in a prospective intern/employee? Qualities, skills, anything that would set someone out from the others.
  2. What does your typical work day look like?
  3. Do most people serve in the military before you begin research at a navy research lab? Thank you so much for your time and help. It is much appreciated!
Dr. Abbie Watnik -
  1. Successful interns/employees: self-motivated, willing to learn new things, teachable, strong background in physics, engineering or math, a willingness to work independently
  2. Typical work day: Every day is different! There is really no typical work day. I do spend a lot of time reading the latest scientific journal articles to see what other people are doing. But then it's taking those ideas and concepts and applying it to my own work and applications.
  3. I am a civilian research physicist with no prior military experience. Most people at NRL do not have prior active duty military experience.
Thank you to all who joined us to ‘Ask Abbie Anything’! The complete transcript of this discussion has been archived at: The Winnower


Posted: 8 September 2017 by Abbie Watnik | with 0 comments

The views expressed by guest contributors to the Discover OSA Blog are not those endorsed by The Optical Society.