Donald Barnhart first used Mathematica to develop optical design and analysis software for his own research in optics. Now, scientists around the world use his Mathematica-based Optica software for applications in fiber optics, lasers, and telescopes.
For him, the biggest advantage of Mathematica is obtaining insights on his computer he would normally only get from lab experiments. Barnhart says, "It's really useful when you're trying to do cutting-edge stuff, and you don't know how things are going to turn out in advance, and you need to find out as much as you can before you start investing lots of money and time and effort...."
As part of his work with Mathematica and Optica, Barnhart designed a mirror that iCyt, a bioscience technology company, uses as the heart of all of its machines. He says, "It's very satisfying to be able to model something and then see it built and work."