Using lasers to detect methane leaks earns graduate student a scholarship from international optics society

Written by
Scott Lyon
June 20, 2023

Graduate student Michael Soskind, who studies advanced laser technologies for environmental sensing, has been awarded a 2023 Optics and Photonics Education Scholarship by the international optics and photonics society known as SPIE.

Soskind, a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate, has developed sophisticated remote sensing techniques to monitor methane leaks from energy production sites. A recent project combined the sensitivity of precision lasers with the agility of drones, using a set of ground-station sensors and specialized reflectors to identify and quantify leaks 25-times smaller than typical field systems and to locate them to within a meter. Soskind’s adviser Gerard Wysocki, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, said the work unlocked game-changing potential for atmospheric sensing.

SPIE awarded nearly $300,000 to 72 student members in 2023, selecting recipients based on their potential contributions to optics and photonics. Soskind’s publication record includes 34 co-authored papers, according to a statement from the Society. Founded in 1955, SPIE connects engineers, scientists, students and business professionals to advance light-based science and technology.

Soskind previously was awarded a 2021 Walbridge Fund Graduate Award for Environmental Research. That same year, he was a finalist for the best paper award at the Optical Sensing and Sensors Congress.