New York Photonics presents its 2018 awards for leaders in optics education and business

Oct. 27, 2018
RRPC / New York Photonics awards recipients are honored for their contributions to NY State's optics and photonics industry.

On Oct. 25, 2018, the Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster (RRPC) / New York Photonics honored three leaders in optics education and business for their contributions to New York State's optics and photonics industry. RRPC's executive director Tom Battley presented the awards before stakeholders from industry, government, and education from across the region at the New York Photonics 2018 Annual Meeting held at the George Eastman Museum (Rochester, NY).

Entrepreneur Award

The RRPC Entrepreneur Award is given each year to an individual for demonstrating creativity, innovative spirit, and drive in pursuit of the dream of creating an industry-leading company in the optics, photonics and imaging industry. The Entrepreneur Award recipient for 2018 is Bob Bechtold, CEO of Harbec (Ontario, NY).

Bechtold's life as an educator and inventor began in the 1970s, when he spent seven years as an instructor of mechanical technology for the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). In 1978, Bob established Harbec Manufacturing Co., bringing his experience and knowledge of the machining trade and in-depth experience in technical training and technology development to private industry. Under his management and direction as the sole owner, he has guided the company through many growth stages and expansion projects that employs about 150 people.

The company provides technical solutions to current and advanced manufacturing problems and opportunities. Among its many accolades, Harbec is one of the first companies in the world to successfully implement a completely microturbine powered cogeneration plant.

It was in Bechtold's barn in Webster, NY that he began his company, and where, later, two other local companies, OptiPro, begun by his brother Mike, and Optimax Systems, begun by Michael Mandina, both started.

Rick Plympton, CEO of Optimax, said in remarks, "When I moved back to Rochester and met Bob Bechtold, Mike Bechtold and Mike Mandina, I made a folder in my computer labeled 'the three musketeers.' Bob had the most business experience, and without him, I am not sure we would be where we are today."

Today the three companies employ more than 500 people.

Bechtold's educational credentials include a BS in vocational education from SUNY Utica-Rome, a BFA in metal from the Rochester Institute of Technology, and an MS in teaching from RIT. He is a long-time member of SPE and SME.

Leadership Award

The RRPC Leadership Award is given each year to an individual for working with RRPC members and the community to promote the Rochester region's optics, photonics, and imaging industry. The Leadership Award recipient for 2018 is Sujatha Ramanujan, managing director of Luminate (a program of Nextcorps).

Ramanujan is a serial entrepreneur and seasoned executive with 25 years of experience in clinical devices and in consumer electronics. Ramanujan has started, built, and grown three startup businesses in cardiac surgical equipment, optical communications, and nanomaterials. In addition, as CTO and product line manager of Mammography CAD and Pediatric Businesses within Kodak and Carestream, her team developed and launched clinical equipment and clinical IT on every continent.

She has held scientific, technical leadership, and laboratory head positions at Chrysler Corporation, GE, Kodak, Carestream, and Intrinsiq Materials. She holds 28 issued US patents. As a corporate investor for Kodak, then later working with regional investment councils, she provides guidance to start-ups, M&A strategies for growing businesses, and vetting of technologies to investors. She has served on investment advisories in US, Canada, and Israel.

Dr. Ramanujan holds a PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan and is an executive board member of the National Women's Hall of Fame. In 2017 Ramanujan was recruited as director of Luminate. Luminate, based in Rochester, NY, is the biggest optics, photonics, and imaging start-up competition in the world.

Education Award

The RRPC Education Award is given each year to an individual for inspiring students to embrace Optics, Photonics, and Imaging sciences and guiding them in career development. The Education Award recipient for 2018 is Michael Pomerantz.

Pomerantz is a technical lab associate at the University of Rochester, where he works at maintaining and teaching the use of computer numerical control (CNC) and conventional optical fabrication equipment for both the mechanical engineering and optics departments.

He began his career at Optimax (Ontario, NY) in 1996, where today he is a manufacturing engineering technologist in the laser-grade optics teamvery high-level optics manufacturing. Pomerantz does lean manufacturing cell setup, spherical lens manufacturing, and is a team leader/team member coach. He authors job traveler documents for use as manufacturing instructions.

He is also adjunct faculty at Monroe Community College (MCC; also in Rochester) where he teaches conventional manufacturing processes. Pomerantz has an associate degree of arts and sciences (A.A.S.) from Monroe Community College in mechanical engineering related technologies.

Source: RRPC / New York Photonics

About the Author

John Wallace | Senior Technical Editor (1998-2022)

John Wallace was with Laser Focus World for nearly 25 years, retiring in late June 2022. He obtained a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and physics at Rutgers University and a master's in optical engineering at the University of Rochester. Before becoming an editor, John worked as an engineer at RCA, Exxon, Eastman Kodak, and GCA Corporation.

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