Jenny Atwood

Roles and responsibilities

Project Management

Programmatic and technical execution of projects, meeting agreed milestones and deliverables for the project. Responsibilities include labor allocation and coordinating activities, budgets, risks, and detailed schedules including high level milestones. Organize meetings, reviews, and presentations on project matters.

Optical Engineering

Responsible for developing optical designs for astronomical instrumentation projects ranging from Infrared imaging systems to complex adaptive optics systems to conceptual designs for project proposals. Develop requirements and interfaces, system performance budgets (top-down allocations, bottom-up best estimates), tolerance breakdowns and allocations.

GCWCC Campaign Leader

Responsible for leading the HAA campaign. Recruit and manage a team of volunteer ambassadors. Provide training, guidance and follow-up to ambassadors. Coordinate kickoff activities and campaign progress with United Way representatives.

Current research and/or projects

Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) - The Thirty Meter Telescope is one of a new class of extremely large telescopes that will allow us to see deeper into space and observe cosmic objects with unprecedented sensitivity and detail. TMT is being designed and developed by an international partnership among the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, the National Institutes of Natural Sciences of Japan, the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Department of Science and Technology of India, and the National Research Council (Canada).

The first light Adaptive Optics (AO) architecture for TMT, NFIRAOS (Narrow Field InfraRed Adaptive Optics System), has been designed to provide diffraction-limited wavefront quality and high sky coverage in the near infrared (IR) for the first TMT science instruments IRIS and MODHIS. Design, prototyping and fabrication activities of the TMT first light AO subsystems and their components are underway in Canada, France and the US. NFIRAOS is an order 60 x 60 laser guide star (LGS) multi-conjugate AO (MCAO) system, which provides uniform, diffraction-limited performance in the J, H, and K bands over 34 x 34 arc sec fields with 50% sky coverage at the galactic pole, as required to support the TMT science cases.

  • TMT Project Manager for Canadian Contributions
  • NFIRAOS Project Manager
  • NFIRAOS Lead Optical Engineer

The InfraRed Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) is a “workhorse”, first light instrument for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). IRIS is a modular instrument with a science channel including both an imager and an integral field spectrograph (IFS). IRIS hosts three on-instrument wavefront sensors (OIWFS) for natural guide star (NGS) Tip/Tilt/Focus (TTF) measurements, which work in conjunction with the AO system. Both the OIWFS enclosure and science cryostat are supported by the IRIS support structure, which also provides the mechanical interface to NFIRAOS.

  • IRIS (Canada) Project Manager
  • IRIS OIWFS Lead Optical Engineer

Gemini Observatory - The Gemini Observatory consists of twin 8.1-meter diameter optical/infrared telescopes located on two of the best observing sites on the planet. From their locations on Maunakea in Hawai‘i and Cerro Pachón in Chile, Gemini Observatory's telescopes can collectively access the entire sky.

The Gemini Infrared Multi-Object Spectrograph (GIRMOS) is an adaptive optics-fed multi-object integral field spectrograph with a parallel imaging capability. The instrument offers the ability to observe four objects simultaneously at high angular resolution with MOAO within the Gemini-North AO (GNAO) system's 2’x2’ field-of-regard, or a single object within a narrow field corrected by laser tomographic AO (LTAO) and tiling the four fields that feed light to four separate spectrographs. GIRMOS's imager offers Nyquist sampling of the diffraction limit in H-band over a 85”x85" imaging field, and can function in parallel with the spectrographs.

  • GIRMOS Imager Lead Optical Engineer


MS Optics, University of Rochester, 2000

BA Physics, Colorado College, 1998

Professional activities/interests

  • Instrumentation review panel, optical expert
  • Student advisor


International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE)

Key publications

Atwood, Jenny, et al. "A near-IR imager for the Gemini InfraRed Multi-Object Spectrograph (GIRMOS)." Ground-based and Airborne Instrumentation for Astronomy IX. Vol. 12184. SPIE, 2022.

Atwood, Jenny, et al. "InfraRed Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) on TMT: OIWFS opto-mechanical design update." Adaptive Optics Systems VII. Vol. 11448. SPIE, 2020.

Atwood, Jenny, et al. "NFIRAOS Pre-Production Optical Design Update." AO4ELT6, 2019

Atwood, Jenny, Jeffrey Crane, and Glen Herriot. "Non-sequential design of a thermal radiative baffle for NFIRAOS." International Optical Design Conference. Optica Publishing Group, 2017.

Atwood, Jenny, et al. "NFIRAOS in 2015: engineering for future integration of complex subsystems." Adaptive Optics Systems V. Vol. 9909. SPIE, 2016.

Atwood, Jenny, et al. "Polarimetric analysis of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) for modeling instrumental polarization characteristics." Modeling, Systems Engineering, and Project Management for Astronomy VI. Vol. 9150. SPIE, 2014.

Atwood, Jenny, Peter Byrnes, and Glen Herriot. "Optical design challenges of NFIRAOS, the first-light adaptive optics system for TMT." International Optical Design Conference. Optica Publishing Group, 2010.

Atwood, Jenny, Peter Byrnes, and Glen Herriot. "NFIRAOS: the optical design of an adaptive optics system for the Thirty Meter Telescope." Astronomical and Space Optical Systems. Vol. 7439. SPIE, 2009.

Atwood, Jenny, et al. "Present optical and mechanical design status of NFIRAOS for TMT." Adaptive Optics Systems. Vol. 7015. SPIE, 2008.

Previous work experience

2006-present Research Council Officer, National Research Council, Victoria BC

2000-2006 Sr Optical Engineer, KLA-Tencor, Milpitas CA

1999 Optical Design Co-op, Lawrence Livermore National Lab, Livermore CA

1998 Quantum Computing Intern, Los Alamos National Lab, Los Alamos NM

Jenny Atwood

Jenny Atwood

Research Council Officer, Optical and Infrared
Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics
5071 West Saanich Road
Victoria, British Columbia V9E 2E7
Preferred language: English
Telephone: 250-363-0019

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Sciences, Engineering