JoAnn Kuchera-Morin
AlloSphere Research Facility director JoAnn Kuchera-Morin is in a unique position with one of UC Santa Barbara’s most cutting-edge laboratory. (AlloSphere Research Facility phot)

[Noozhawk’s note: One in a series on the honorees at the Goleta Chamber of Commerce’s 70th annual Goleta’s Finest Community Awards Gala, to be held Nov. 23 at The Ritz-Carlton Bacara.]

Innovation (noun): the act of innovating; introduction of new things or methods. How does that dictionary definition apply to the AlloSphere Research Facility at UC Santa Barbara?

“We built this instrument that doesn’t exist anywhere else,” said JoAnn Kuchera-Morin, director of the AlloSphere, which will be honored by the Goleta Chamber of Commerce on Saturday with the Goleta’s Finest Innovation Award.

“And more important, the software that drives this instrument.”

In a nutshell, think of the AlloSphere at UCSB as a large, digital microscope, connected to a big computer that will allow you to see information at the atomic level.

You may be surprised to know that AlloSphere has been up and running on the campus since early 2007. But Kuchera-Morin arrived much earlier, an assistant professor hired to build a digital music center.

What qualifies one to build a digital music center AND wrangle a large digital microscope instrument?

Kuchera-Morin has a Ph.D. in music composition from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester in New York. Lest you think that simply means “composing music,” rest assured — Kuchera-Morin didn’t just compose for orchestras, she composed such complex pieces that instruments couldn’t even play them.

AlloSphere Research Facility

The AlloSphere Research Facility opened at UCSB in 2007. (AlloSphere Research Facility photos)

In the 1980s, she started using computers — a new “instrument” — before they could even make sounds.

“UCSB loved the orchestra music I was writing, my content,” she said. “And remember, content drives technology.”

What does this software and hardware do? Virtual experimentation!

“We work with the data that comes from our scientists’ microscopes, and we do it quickly,” Kuchera-Morin said.

The AlloSphere is ahead of the game of Virtual Reality. People are wearing helmets as individual players, but the AlloSphere is a like a huge interactive movie. And when it comes to global issues such as climate change, the AlloSpere could tackle that problem now, either how to fix it … or where to go, if it can’t be fixed.

Kuchera-Morin stands at the ready to show off the AlloSphere to anyone who would like to hear more about this amazing technology.

“Winning this award means one thing,” Kuchera-Morin said. “Bringing the highest level of arts, science, research, practice and the heart of educational reform to the community.”

The Goleta Chamber of Commerce’s 70th annual Goleta’s Finest Community Awards Gala will begin at 6 p.m. Saturday at The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, 8301 Hollister Ave. in Goleta. Click here for more information, or to purchase tickets.

— Kate Schwab represents the Goleta Chamber of Commerce.