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ONR researcher wins prestigious Delores M. Etter Award

Office of Naval Research

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IMAGE: Dr. Thomas McKenna, a scientist at the US Office of Naval Research received the prestigious 2009 Dr. Delores M. Etter Top Scientists and Engineers of the Year Award recipient on... view more

Credit: U.S. Navy

Recognized for his contributions to the neuroscience community, Dr. Thomas McKenna, program manager in the Office of Naval Research's Warfighter Performance Department, was honored with the prestigious 2009 Dr. Delores M. Etter Top Scientists and Engineers of the Year Award on July 23 at the Pentagon.

Director for Defense Research and Engineering Zachary Lemnios honored McKenna and several additional winners for their contributions to basic and applied science and engineering. McKenna's award comes after more than a decade of work with panoramic periscope imaging. Seeing the need for a 360-degree situation awareness viewing for submarine periscopes, McKenna and his team organized science and technology efforts to provide an effective solution to limited periscope views; integrated the discoveries; and successfully demonstrated the technology in a sea trial.

"I was elated to find out I had won the award," McKenna said. "This comes after 15 years of working on this specific project, so the recognition is greatly appreciated."

The panoramic periscope imaging system combines advanced imaging hardware, with specific formulas for generating single viewpoint images and video software. These key components enable target tracking and classification for Navy submarines.

Dr. Terry Allard, director of ONR's Warfighter Performance Department, oversees McKenna's work in a number of areas, including force protection and intelligence; surveillance and reconnaissance; robotics; and neuroscience. Allard praised McKenna's contributions to neuroscience.

"The demonstration of a human-centric imaging system is the first of its kind, and includes a number of innovations conceived and managed by Dr. McKenna," Allard said. "The technologies represented in the panoramic periscope offer an elegant, cost-effective method both to obtain all necessary image data at one time and to process information quickly and effectively for platform commanders and control room teams."

This technology also has implications for public commercialization, particularly in the security field. In fact, just one of these 360-degree periscope viewfinders is comparable to a dozen traditional security cameras, which have a very limited field of view.

McKenna and his team plan on taking this technology a step further in the following year, designing a panoramic periscope imaging system that is much more powerful than the current model. "The new design will have 10 times more resolution than the current one, moving the images to 100 megapixels from the current 12 megapixels," McKenna said.

Several employees of the Naval Research Laboratory, the Navy's corporate lab, were also honored with the Dr. Delores M. Etter Top Scientists and Engineers of the Year Award. They are: Dr. Karen Swider-Lyons, Andrew Nicholas, James Waterman, Joseph Macker, Dr. Mario Ancona, Dr. Brian Bennett and John Bradley Boos.

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About the Office of Naval Research

The Office of Naval Research provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps' technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and 914 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,400 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel with additional employees at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.

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