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Optica Developer Receives Queen's Anniversary Prize

May 4, 2001--Donald Barnhart, developer of the Mathematica application package Optica, is a member of a team that was recently awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education 2000, a biennial recognition of outstanding educational achievement in areas of service and benefit to the nation. Barnhart, a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering at England's Loughborough University, is part of the Optical Engineering Group (OEG) that was recognized for its pioneering role in developing applications of modern optics and laser technologies to find practical solutions to real-world problems.

The applications developed by the Loughborough OEG have been utilized in manufacturing and environmental industries, health and safety, medicine, defense, entertainment, and the arts; and the OEG now provides a national resource that is internationally respected. Says Barnhart, "Our Optical Engineering Group is made up of perhaps 20 separate research staff from the departments of mechanical and electrical engineering. In this regard, the award goes beyond the work of any one individual or research effort and recognizes the legacy of our group as a whole."

During the awards ceremony, which was held at Buckingham Palace, Barnhart had the opportunity to meet Queen Elizabeth, shake her hand, and speak a few words to her about his research activities. Afterwards, he was invited to lunch at the Royal Society, a prestigious scientific organization dating back to Isaac Newton in which membership is a great honor.

A long-time Mathematica user and developer, Barnhart says he uses Mathematica "in virtually every facet of my research life." That research is focused on developing new methods for taking holographic velocity measurements in fluid and solid mechanics. Barnhart also opted to write his entire 250-page doctoral dissertation in Mathematica and says that he has found Optica "to be particularly essential in my design of the holographic velocimetry systems at Loughborough University."

Barnhart, who will graduate in July, is currently concentrating most of his efforts around finishing Optica 2, the next version of Optica. In the fall, Barnhart plans to relocate back to the Champaign-Urbana area where he hopes to continue the development of several exciting Mathematica-based software packages as well as to establish a research alliance with the University of Illinois.