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Project Summary

The Puerto Rico Atmospheric Major Research Laser Instrumentation Program (PR-LASER) is a partnership between Universidad Metropolitana (UMET), a non-profit private institution in the Ana G. Méndez University System (AGMUS), the NSF-funded National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center – Arecibo Observatory (AO), and the NSF-funded CEDAR Resonance and Rayleigh Lidar Consortium Technology Center (CRRL/CTC), at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

The objectives of this program are:

  1. To enhance upper-mesospheric research activities using new laser technology at AO through the acquisition of a state-of-the-art pulsed alexandrite laser.
  2. To improve data quality, system reliability, and to increase access to and training in the use of modern research instrumentation.
  3. To implement a research training program in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields in optics with an emphasis on atmospheric remote sensing for students from pre-college through graduate school and science teachers from Puerto Rico at UMET’s Puerto Rico Optical Sciences Institute (PROptScI).

The PI is Dr. Juan F. Arratia, Executive Director of the Student Research Development Center of AGMUS, who has more than twenty years of project management experience and was honored with the “2006 Presidential Award in STEM Mentoring” from the President of the United States. Dr. Arratia will manage the project. The co-PI is Dr. Jonathan S. Friedman of UMET and NAIC. Dr. Friedman, who has more than 18 years’ experience in Doppler lidar and high-power pulsed lasers, will be in charge of technical aspects of the project. Prof. Xinzhao Chu, Director of the CRRL/CTC, is a highly respected researcher and lidar expert who worked closely with the laser manufacturer to develop the current state-of-the-art for the UCB MRI Fe-Doppler lidar and will be a senior collaborator and technical advisor to this project.

The intellectual merit of the project stems from significant improvements in performance of the AO Doppler-resonance lidar. These will enhance the accuracy and precision of its measurements of K density and temperature, and ultimately enable wind measurements in the mesosphere and lower thermosphere (MLT). Increased laser reliability will mean more operational and less down time. Coupled with the ionospheric radar the improved lidar will make around-the-clock measurements that can determine daytime atmospheric air densities. With NSF permission, NAIC will transfer the old alexandrite laser to UMET's PROptScI program to extend the reach of education and training in lidar techniques and technologies.

The broader impact of the project lies on a new synergy between one of the great scientific research centers of the world with a majority-Hispanic university. Undergraduates from UMET will have the opportunity to participate in and learn the details of middle atmosphere research using state-of-the-art electro-optic technologies at UMET and AO. These students will become leaders in their chosen careers because of the unique opportunities presented by this partnership. UMET will partner with the CRRL/CTC and AO to undertake middle atmospheric research, develop lidar technologies, train undergraduate and graduate students who will be the next generation of lidar scientists, and involve teachers who will take their experience to the classroom.

Use of the lidar will, as always, be coordinated through NAIC’s proposal review system. Users (student and professional) will be trained either on-site with the new laser or at PROptScI. Access to the new instrument will be announced through UMET’s and NAIC’s websites, as well as that of the CEDAR community. The results of the project will be disseminated through peer-reviewed journals, conferences, meetings and publications. Data will be archived in databases at Arecibo, Cornell and NCAR (CEDAR database).