Published: Oct. 11, 2018 By

Assistant Professor Greg Rieker in the Department of Mechanical Engineering was recently selected for the Peter Werle Early Career Scientist Award, considered among the highest honors for young scientists in his field. 

He received the award while attending the sixth Field Laser Applications in Industry and Research (FLAIR) international conference in September 2018. The award came as a surprise, though the influence of his pioneering work was visible throughout the conference as multiple presenters shared research involving techniques Rieker had helped to develop.  

Rieker describes Werle as a “luminary in his field,” one who was instrumental in establishing the FLAIR conference alongside researcher Francesco D'Amato. When Werle died unexpectedly in 2013, the Peter Werle Early Career Scientist Award was created to honor the scientist, mentor, symposium organizer and revolutionary intellectual thinker he was. Rieker said he feels honored to have been selected by a team of previous award winners and top names in the international laser sensing community. He was recognized specifically for his unique scientific achievements, drive for innovation and interest in applications and commercialization. 

Rieker’s main research contributions involve laser-based sensing and control in energy, atmospheric and industrial systems, and his activities span from fundamental research to applied science and field implementation. His early work and thesis focused on wavelength-modulation spectroscopy for measurements of gas temperature and concentration in combustion and high-pressure environments. A novel technique at that time, WMS spectroscopy is now commonly employed for absorption-based sensing in harsh environments. 

Currently, he develops optical measurement systems based on optical frequency combs, which allow him to sense atmospheric and combustion environments with truly unique capabilities for stability, resolution, and combinations of molecules. His scientific contributions were instrumental in bringing optical frequency combs to the field and using them for measurements of greenhouse gases, detection of methane leaks from oil and gas operations, and measurements in challenging combustion environments.  

But Rieker didn’t stop there; as he leaned further into his role as an engineer, he sought to bring these technologies together with their application. Rieker has founded two companies: LongPath Technologies, specializing in methane leak detection, and Fluence, a table-top plasma accelerator with medical applications. 

Rieker attributes much of his success to the College of Engineering and Applied Science and the Department of Mechanical Engineering where he leads the Precision Laser Diagnostics group.

Rieker says there is no finer environment for innovation and collaboration.

Three members of Rieker’s group, Ryan Cole, Amanda Makowiecki and Nazanin Hoghooghi, were also involved in the FLAIR 2018 conference where they spoke and presented posters.

As this year’s recipient, Rieker will now assume responsibility for the next Peter Werle Early Career Scientist Award selection process. As he looks ahead, Rieker says, “At a time where separation is prevalent, science still holds the ability to keep us together.” 


Meet Professor Greg Rieker