Harrison H. Barrett, Scholar and Mentor, Elected to National Academy of Engineering

    Harrison H. Barrett has garnered an astonishing array of honors in the course of his 40-year employment at the University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences, from research prizes to society fellowships to book awards to a Regents' Professorship.

    The latest of his accolades, announced on Feb. 7, is his election to the National Academy of Engineering "for contributions to the physical and statistical foundations and applications of radiological and nuclear medical imaging."

    NAE Membership

    Formal portrait of Regents' Professor Harrison H. BarrettBarrett's significance to the theory and application of image science has been profound.

    As OSC Dean Thomas L. Koch noted, "Harry Barrett is an icon in the field of image science, and his groundbreaking research in the mathematics of image reconstruction and image quality has had enormous impact in the field of medical imaging."

    Diego R. Martin, head of the Department of Medical Imaging at the UA College of Medicine, agreed. "The UA Center for Gamma-Ray Imaging, which he has pioneered and led, has had an incredible influence on the development of imaging technologies around the country. Having had the opportunity to work with Harry, I can attest to his dedication, brilliance and seemingly limitless energy and enthusiasm."

    Barrett's first action upon hearing of his election was thanking his colleagues. "I always want to acknowledge the incredible team I have at the Center for Gamma-ray Imaging: Lars R. Furenlid, Eric W. Clarkson, Matthew A. Kupinski, Zhonglin Liu and James Woolfenden. I would also add Luca Caucci, a 2012 graduate of the College of Optical Sciences, who is now a junior faculty member in medical imaging, and Gail Stevenson, a veterinarian in the group."

    Barrett is one of 67 new members of the National Academy of Engineering, each chosen for his or her significance in pioneering new and developing fields of technology; making major advances in traditional fields; or developing or implementing innovative approaches to engineering education. The NAE currently consists of 2,250 members and 214 foreign associates.

    Barrett is the seventh member of the OSC faculty elected to the NAE in the 50-year history the organizations share. These colleagues include Nicolaas Bloembergen, Kenneth A. Jackson, Thomas L. Koch, Robert R. Shannon, Donald R. Uhlmann and James C. Wyant. The National Academy of Sciences, a sister organization under the National Academies umbrella, includes Bloembergen, J. Roger P. Angel, Willis E. Lamb Jr. and Roy J. Glauber.

    Prolific Mentorship

    However, the recent distinction of which Barrett is most proud is tied to his irrefutable enthusiasm for mentorship. As of the spring of 2014, Harrison H. Barrett has advised 50 doctoral students at OSC, more than any other faculty member in the college's history. The Program in Applied Mathematics will be recognizing him for a similar accomplishment during its 35th anniversary celebration in April. Barrett said about his advisees, "I am very proud of them. I have learned far more from them than they have from me."

    Graduate student Ryeojin Park, who defends her Ph.D. thesis this month, stated, "Barrett has been the most influential mentor in my life. I have always been inspired by his enthusiasm, vast knowledge and thoroughness in his research and teaching. He is very attentive to his students and their research; and it truly made a huge difference to have a reliable and inspiring advisor."

    Harrison H. Barrett with Luca Caucci at a 2011 awards ceremonyAmong Barrett's former students are several current OSC faculty members: Eric W. Clarkson, M.S. 1996; Arthur Gmitro, Ph.D. 1982; John E. Greivenkamp, Ph.D. 1980; Meredith K. Kupinski, Ph.D. 2008; and Tom D. Milster, Ph.D. 1987. Associate professor Matthew A. Kupinski also served a postdoctoral fellowship in his lab.

    Another notable advisee was Kyle J. Myers, Ph.D. 1985, who received the college’s 2012 Alumna of the Year Award. Myers, director of the Division of Imaging and Applied Mathematics at the Center for Devices and Radiological Health at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said, "Harry's contributions to our understanding of the physics, mathematics, and engineering of medical imaging and image science is multiplied by his dedication to teaching. While he has formally graduated approximately 75 master's degree and doctoral students (and still counting), there is a larger group who have taken his courses at the University of Arizona, heard him lecture at conferences and short courses and had the benefit of his blackboard training." She continued, "The ground broken by these scientists and the resulting innovations are a direct product of Harry’s distinguished career."

    Harrison H. Barrett came to the University of Arizona in 1974 as an associate professor, reporting jointly to the Optical Sciences Center (now the College of Optical Sciences) and the Department of Radiology (now the Department of Medical Imaging). He was named a full professor in 1976 and a Regents' Professor in 1990. He served as acting director of the Optical Sciences Center in 1983 and as vice chair for research for radiology from 2005 to 2009. He has directed the Center for Gamma-Ray Imaging since 1999.

    Barrett is also a professor in the Program in Applied Mathematics, Arizona Cancer Center and Biomedical Engineering Graduate Interdisciplinary Program.


    Bottom photo shows Barrett with Luca Caucci, Ph.D. 2012, at a 2011 awards ceremony