From Rochester Institute of Technology (US) : Women in STEM-Chi Nguyen; Serena Tramm “CIBER-2 experiment successfully completes first flight”

From Rochester Institute of Technology (US)

June 17, 2021
Luke Auburn

Project led by Assistant Professor Michael Zemcov will explore extragalactic background light.

Chi Nguyen ’21 Ph.D. (astrophysical sciences and technology) makes final adjustments to the rocket payload prior to CIBER-2’s launch.

By sending a Black Brant IX rocket on a 15-minute flight to space and back, researchers from Rochester Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology (US), Kwansei Gakuin University [関西学院大学](JP), and Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute[알림사항](KR) glimpsed traces of light from the earliest stages of the universe. The Cosmic Infrared Background Experiment-2 (CIBER-2) completed a successful first launch on June 7 at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, the first of four planned over the next several years.

Four RIT researchers spent time this May and June at the White Sands Missile Range preparing CIBER-2 for launch. From left to right: Assistant Professor Michael Zemcov; Mike Ortiz, master’s student; Chi Nguyen ’21 Ph.D.; and Serena Tramm, Ph.D. student. Credit: NSROC III/NASA

Led by principal investigator Michael Zemcov, an assistant professor in RIT’s School of Physics and Astronomy and Center for Detectors, the experiment aims to better understand extragalactic background light, which traces the history of galaxies back to the formation of the first stars in the universe. Zemcov said data collected by the study could help resolve discrepancies about how many stars exist in the universe.

“Scientists do this measurement different ways and we’re having a really hard time to make the results of those different ways agree,” said Zemcov. “So there’s a mystery going on. Why aren’t all these measurements agreeing? I think that CIBER-2 will start to unravel some of that.”

The experiment leverages an observational technique called intensity mapping used to study the structure of the universe. The rocket spends 6-7 minutes in space each flight taking measurements in six infrared wavelengths to help the researchers analyze the diffuse infrared glow in our skies.

Recent alumna Chi Nguyen ’21 Ph.D. (astrophysical sciences and technology), whose thesis and much of her graduate career were focused on the project, called the launch exhilarating.

“It feels amazing, a lot of weight off my shoulders,” said Nguyen. “It’s really exciting right now because we’re pulling the data and I can actually see star images. I think this is a great experiment and we’re doing a lot of interesting work in astronomy. It may take a while to get the science out of it but I think it has been a very successful first launch.”

Nguyen will next head to Caltech for a position as a postdoctoral researcher under Professor Jamie Bock, co-principal investigator of CIBER-2 and Zemcov’s former mentor.

Four RIT researchers spent the last several months in New Mexico helping to prepare the rocket for launch—Zemcov, Nguyen, astrophysical sciences and technology master’s student Michael Ortiz, and Serena Tramm, an astrophysical sciences and technology Ph.D. student. The experiment was nearly ready for launch in February 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic brought the project to a halt. Fortunately, after sitting idle for 15 months, the device just needed a few adjustments during testing and the launch went off without incident.

After launch, the researchers collected the payload, recovered the data from the on-board hard disk, and shipped the CIBER-2 device back to Rochester. In the months ahead, the team will analyze the data and make modifications in preparation for the next launch, expected this time next year.

The project is part of National Aeronautics Space Agency (US)’s Sounding Rockets Program, which uses rockets such as the Black Brant IX to carry scientific instruments for short sub-orbital flights at low vehicle speeds to carry out experiments. Zemcov called the program an ideal experiential learning opportunity for students.

“I think part of the mission of the sounding rocket program is to be a place where we can train the next generation of space scientists in a relatively low-risk environment,” said Zemcov. “The students get hands-on experience in the details of the engineering and the science and then get to think about how they would transfer those skills to bigger missions. That’s part of why the program exists, and we should remember that.”

See the full article here .


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Rochester Institute of Technology (US) is a private doctoral university within the town of Henrietta in the Rochester, New York metropolitan area.

RIT is composed of nine academic colleges, including National Technical Institute for the Deaf(RIT)(US). The Institute is one of only a small number of engineering institutes in the State of New York, including New York Institute of Technology, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute(US). It is most widely known for its fine arts, computing, engineering, and imaging science programs; several fine arts programs routinely rank in the national “Top 10” according to US News & World Report.

The university offers undergraduate and graduate degrees, including doctoral and professional degrees and online masters as well.

The university was founded in 1829 and is the tenth largest private university in the country in terms of full-time students. It is internationally known for its science; computer; engineering; and art programs as well as for the National Technical Institute for the Deaf- a leading deaf-education institution that provides educational opportunities to more than 1000 deaf and hard-of-hearing students. RIT is known for its Co-op program that gives students professional and industrial experience. It has the fourth oldest and one of the largest Co-op programs in the world. It is classified among “R2: Doctoral Universities – High research activity”.

RIT’s student population is approximately 19,000 students, about 16,000 undergraduate and 3000 graduate. Demographically, students attend from all 50 states in the United States and from more than 100 countries around the world. The university has more than 4000 active faculty and staff members who engage with the students in a wide range of academic activities and research projects. It also has branches abroad, its global campuses, located in China, Croatia and United Arab Emirates (Dubai).

Fourteen RIT alumni and faculty members have been recipients of the Pulitzer Prize.


The university began as a result of an 1891 merger between Rochester Athenæum, a literary society founded in 1829 by Colonel Nathaniel Rochester and associates and The Mechanics Institute- a Rochester school of practical technical training for local residents founded in 1885 by a consortium of local businessmen including Captain Henry Lomb- co-founder of Bausch & Lomb. The name of the merged institution at the time was called Rochester Athenæum and Mechanics Institute (RAMI). The Mechanics Institute however, was considered as the surviving school by taking over The Rochester Athenaeum’s charter. From the time of the merger until 1944 RAMI celebrated The former Mechanics Institute’s 1885 founding charter. In 1944 the school changed its name to Rochester Institute of Technology and re-established The Athenaeum’s 1829 founding charter and became a full-fledged research university.

The university originally resided within the city of Rochester, New York, proper, on a block bounded by the Erie Canal; South Plymouth Avenue; Spring Street; and South Washington Street (approximately 43.152632°N 77.615157°W). Its art department was originally located in the Bevier Memorial Building. By the middle of the twentieth century, RIT began to outgrow its facilities, and surrounding land was scarce and expensive. Additionally in 1959 the New York Department of Public Works announced a new freeway- the Inner Loop- was to be built through the city along a path that bisected the university’s campus and required demolition of key university buildings. In 1961 an unanticipated donation of $3.27 million ($27,977,071 today) from local Grace Watson (for whom RIT’s dining hall was later named) allowed the university to purchase land for a new 1,300-acre (5.3 km^2) campus several miles south along the east bank of the Genesee River in suburban Henrietta. Upon completion in 1968 the university moved to the new suburban campus, where it resides today.

In 1966 RIT was selected by the Federal government to be the site of the newly founded National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID). NTID admitted its first students in 1968 concurrent with RIT’s transition to the Henrietta campus.

In 1979 RIT took over Eisenhower College- a liberal arts college located in Seneca Falls, New York. Despite making a 5-year commitment to keep Eisenhower open RIT announced in July 1982 that the college would close immediately. One final year of operation by Eisenhower’s academic program took place in the 1982–83 school year on the Henrietta campus. The final Eisenhower graduation took place in May 1983 back in Seneca Falls.

In 1990 RIT started its first PhD program in Imaging Science – the first PhD program of its kind in the U.S. RIT subsequently established PhD programs in six other fields: Astrophysical Sciences and Technology; Computing and Information Sciences; Color Science; Microsystems Engineering; Sustainability; and Engineering. In 1996 RIT became the first college in the U.S to offer a Software Engineering degree at the undergraduate level.


RIT has nine colleges:

RIT College of Engineering Technology
Saunders College of Business
B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences
Kate Gleason College of Engineering
RIT College of Health Sciences and Technology
College of Art and Design
RIT College of Liberal Arts
RIT College of Science
National Technical Institute for the Deaf

There are also three smaller academic units that grant degrees but do not have full college faculties:

RIT Center for Multidisciplinary Studies
Golisano Institute for Sustainability
University Studies

In addition to these colleges, RIT operates three branch campuses in Europe, one in the Middle East and one in East Asia:

RIT Croatia (formerly the American College of Management and Technology) in Dubrovnik and Zagreb, Croatia
RIT Kosovo (formerly the American University in Kosovo) in Pristina, Kosovo
RIT Dubai in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
RIT China-Weihai Campus

RIT also has international partnerships with the following schools:[34]

Yeditepe University in Istanbul, Turkey
Birla Institute of Technology and Science in India
Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM) in Dominican Republic
Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo (INTEC) in Dominican Republic
Universidad Tecnologica Centro-Americana (UNITEC) in Honduras
Universidad del Norte (UNINORTE) in Colombia
Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas (UPC) in Peru


RIT’s research programs are rapidly expanding. The total value of research grants to university faculty for fiscal year 2007–2008 totaled $48.5 million- an increase of more than twenty-two percent over the grants from the previous year. The university currently offers eight PhD programs: Imaging science; Microsystems Engineering; Computing and Information Sciences; Color science; Astrophysical Sciences and Technology; Sustainability; Engineering; and Mathematical modeling.

In 1986 RIT founded the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science and started its first doctoral program in Imaging Science in 1989. The Imaging Science department also offers the only Bachelors (BS) and Masters (MS) degree programs in imaging science in the country. The Carlson Center features a diverse research portfolio; its major research areas include Digital Image Restoration; Remote Sensing; Magnetic Resonance Imaging; Printing Systems Research; Color Science; Nanoimaging; Imaging Detectors; Astronomical Imaging; Visual Perception; and Ultrasonic Imaging.

The Center for Microelectronic and Computer Engineering was founded by RIT in 1986. The university was the first university to offer a bachelor’s degree in Microelectronic Engineering. The Center’s facilities include 50,000 square feet (4,600 m^2) of building space with 10,000 square feet (930 m^2) of clean room space. The building will undergo an expansion later this year. Its research programs include nano-imaging; nano-lithography; nano-power; micro-optical devices; photonics subsystems integration; high-fidelity modeling and heterogeneous simulation; microelectronic manufacturing; microsystems integration; and micro-optical networks for computational applications.

The Center for Advancing the Study of CyberInfrastructure (CASCI) is a multidisciplinary center housed in the College of Computing and Information Sciences. The Departments of Computer science; Software Engineering; Information technology; Computer engineering; Imaging Science; and Bioinformatics collaborate in a variety of research programs at this center. RIT was the first university to launch a Bachelor’s program in Information technology in 1991; the first university to launch a Bachelor’s program in Software Engineering in 1996 and was also among the first universities to launch a Computer science Bachelor’s program in 1972. RIT helped standardize the Forth programming language and developed the CLAWS software package.

The Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation was founded in 2007. The CCRG comprises faculty and postdoctoral research associates working in the areas of general relativity; gravitational waves; and galactic dynamics. Computing facilities in the CCRG include gravitySimulator, a novel 32-node supercomputer that uses special-purpose hardware to achieve speeds of 4TFlops in gravitational N-body calculations, and newHorizons [image N/A], a state-of-the art 85-node Linux cluster for numerical relativity simulations.

Gravity Simulator at the Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation, RIT, Rochester, New York, USA.

The Center for Detectors was founded in 2010. The CfD designs; develops; and implements new advanced sensor technologies through collaboration with academic researchers; industry engineers; government scientists; and university/college students. The CfD operates four laboratories and has approximately a dozen funded projects to advance detectors in a broad array of applications, e.g. astrophysics; biomedical imaging; Earth system science; and inter-planetary travel. Center members span eight departments and four colleges.

RIT has collaborated with many industry players in the field of research as well, including IBM; Xerox; Rochester’s Democrat and Chronicle; Siemens; National Aeronautics Space Agency(US); and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (US) (DARPA). In 2005, it was announced by Russell W. Bessette- Executive Director New York State Office of Science Technology & Academic Research (NYSTAR), that RIT will lead the SUNY University at Buffalo (US) and Alfred University (US) in an initiative to create key technologies in microsystems; photonics; nanomaterials; and remote sensing systems and to integrate next generation IT systems. In addition, the collaboratory is tasked with helping to facilitate economic development and tech transfer in New York State. More than 35 other notable organizations have joined the collaboratory, including Boeing, Eastman Kodak, IBM, Intel, SEMATECH, ITT, Motorola, Xerox, and several Federal agencies, including as NASA.

RIT has emerged as a national leader in manufacturing research. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy selected RIT to lead its Reducing Embodied-Energy and Decreasing Emissions (REMADE) Institute aimed at forging new clean energy measures through the Manufacturing USA initiative. RIT also participates in five other Manufacturing USA research institutes.