30 June 2015

Concluding Biophotonics ’15: just the right amount

Guest blog from Ven: Jacqueline Andreozzi, a PhD candidate at Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, blogged on her experience at the Biophotonics Graduate Summer School on the island of Ven, off the southern coast of Sweden, 6-13 June. SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, and COST, the European Cooperation in Science and Technology, are among sponsors of the school. Also supporting the school are DTU Fotonik, Technical University of Denmark; Lund Laser Centre; NKT Photonics A/S; Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, through its Nobel Institute for Physics; and Thorlabs.

Reflecting back on the Biophotonics ’15 Graduate Summer School, one word, new to my vocabulary, comes to mind: “lagom.” The Swedish expression, as I was informed by fellow student Johan Borglin on the first day while touring Lund University, translates roughly to the concept of “just the right amount.”

Indeed, the school provided lagom in every aspect of the week, from the scholarship, to the recreation, to the people present and the food prepared for us; everything seemed just right.

The school founders, Stefan Andersson-Engels (Lund University) and Peter Andersen (Technical University of Denmark), achieved a balance in programming which made it one of the most profitable weeks of my academic career in regard to both learning new material and networking with my peers.

Unquestionably, the lecturers chosen for the school were indeed leading experts in their respective subfields. Over the final three days, students had the privilege to hear lectures from Katarina Svanberg (Lund University), Kishan Dholakia (University of Saint Andrews), Wolfgang Drexler (Medical University of Vienna), Sune Svanberg (Lund University), Eric Potma (University of California, Irvine), Bruce Tromberg (University of California, Irvine), and Paul French (Imperial College London).

One of the exceptional aspects of the summer school was the opportunity to chat with these experts outside of the lecture halls: at meals, during our breaks, or even over a small glass of whiskey after the night concluded (The Spirit of Hven whiskey bar and distillery is internationally renowned). Unlike the sometimes chaotic atmosphere of a densely populated conference, the school provided an intimate setting for intellectual interaction from which, as was often joked, there was “no escape unless you’re a very strong swimmer.”

While all the teachers were charismatic and engaging, one of the highlights for me personally was the lecture by Dr. Katarina Svanberg on Wednesday morning, where she conveyed her clinical experience in cancer treatment. Asserting that “we have responsibilities as scientists to be strategic in our research,” her talk imparted compelling perspective to both the humanitarian potential of our work, as well as the scope of health issues that impact people around the world. She is a truly inspiring individual, with a kind heart, sharp wit, and admirable outlook regarding her fellow citizens of this world.

After Dr. K. Svanberg’s morning lecture block, students had the afternoon free to explore the island and connect with peers. Despite the absolutely beautiful weather tempting bike rides to the beach, most students elected to put the final touches on their entrepreneurial pitch presentations. Each “company” was formed from random assignment of sleeping cabins, and had less than three days to develop a marketable product or idea based on the skills and talents of the six to eight students in the allocated group.

As further incentive to participate, Eric Swanson (Acacia Communications, Inc.) offered his enterprise acumen as a resource to any team wishing to continue on to the SPIE Startup Challenge held at Photonics West (any interested individuals should contact Dirk Fabian, SPIE Startup Challenge Coordinator).

With 30 minutes until the start of the competition, company Unitissue makes final preparations.

Dr. Swanson and Dr. Andersen led the evaluation panel as each of the eight newly-formed companies had seven minutes to pitch their ideas, followed by an additional seven-minute question-and-answer period. Enterprises such as Unitissue, Sun Watch, and eyeSafe took the stage in front of their peers to convince the “venture capitalists” (i.e., our resident expert lecturers) to invest in their proposals. With nearly unanimous participation from the students, the competition was very well received, and I hope it becomes a new tradition incorporated in future iterations of the summer school.

Eric Swanson (right) questioning entrepreneurs Abel Swaan and Anat Vivante.

The school wrapped up Friday night with a lovely gala reception. Since “life is a competition,” as Dr. K. Svanberg was quick to point out, only a few individuals had the honor of being independently recognized, despite the widespread talent undoubtedly present. Five students (names to be posted on the Biophotonics ’15 website) out of 58 were recognized for their work during the poster presentations conducted earlier in the week. In addition, student company Cardiac Fast Check took home the highly coveted entrepreneurship prize.

Further inspired by Dr. K. Svanberg’s words, several students took it upon themselves to initiate an impromptu ballot for the premier lecturer. This honor (along with a small gift of appreciation) was bestowed on Dr. Dholakia, for his exceptional, animated manner of explaining the complex intricacies of manipulating matter using light, which quite evidently resonated well with the students.

Sune Svanberg making a closing statement at the Friday night gala dinner.

Sitting down to dinner on Friday night was a surreal experience -- one of those instances where it felt like the school had just begun, but at the same time like we had always been there, talking over our group meals on topics ranging from optical coherence tomography to the Swedish infatuation with caviar. That strange dichotomy persists now, less than a week later, as I reflect back on the many amazing, accomplished, and driven people with whom I had the opportunity to interact, and reinforces my conviction that all aspects of the experience were, for me and I expect many others, lagom.

29 June 2015

‘People’s Choice’ highlights: Astronomy and the night sky


Humans have been improving photography since Aristotle’s first observation of a pinhole camera in 350 BC, with milestones such as the introduction of the Lumière brothers' panchromatic plate in 1894 and Willard Boyle and George Smith’s invention of the charge-coupled device (CCD) in 1969.

Today, improvements to digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras, which combine optics with digital imaging sensors, have introduced astrophotography to the wider public. Since its establishment in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has used astrophotography to render inspiring images of planets, stars, and solar systems.

In the photo above, Alexander Stepanenko has used astrophotography techniques to capture the aurora borealis -- the northern lights. The fascinating phenomenon is caused by the collision of solar wind and magnetospheric-charged particles in high-altitude atmosphere.

Using a DSLR camera (Nikon D-800), Stepanenko captured the photons and thermal noise of the northern lights. Wilderness areas, far from the light pollution of cities, are ideal places to photograph the night sky. Stepanenko captured this image from Guba Opasova, an isolated inlet on the Barents Sea, near Murmansk, Russia.

Stepanenko is one of 32 contestants in the People’s Choice Award competition in the SPIE International Year of Light Photo Contest. Judges have already chosen three overall winners, but now it's your turn to choose. SPIE is providing a prize of US $500 to the People's Choice winner. Online voting continues through 15 August.

Stepanenko has been documenting Russian villages for the past 28 years. After serving in the Soviet Army, Stepanenko started his career as a photojournalist, studying journalism at Moscow University in 1985. From the early 2000s Stepanenko’s work has been published in magazines and photo collections in Russia, Sweden, France, and Belgium.

For more information about Stepanenko's work, see Stepanenko’s website.

Other People’s Choice finalists who demonstrated astronomy or the night sky in their photography are:
“Natural Light and Artificial Light,” by Di Chang, at Empire State Building, New York, USA, 29 December 2013. Inspired by the sheer amount of light humans use, Chang’s photo demonstrates light pollution in New York City.
“Night Over Bardenas,” by Inigo Cia, Bardenas Desert, Spain, 18 August 2014. Cia’s image shows how the long exposure of a camera can reveal the light in a dark sky. See Cia’s portfolio.
“Fuerteventura Milky Way,” by Federico Giussani, Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, Spain, 8 August 2013. As a self-taught photographer fond of astrophotography, Giussani has contributed to several exhibitions, publications, and festivals in Italy. See Giussani’s blog

See more contestants' photos in previous posts in this series:

19 June 2015

Goal-line technology gets a workout at FIFA Women's World Cup



Seven cameras track the ball from every angle. (FIFA image)


The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, currently underway in Canada, is drawing record television audiences around the world. It’s also another milestone for goal-line technology (GLT), which is quickly gaining acceptance.

In the group stage, which ended on 17 June, FIFA reports that GLT was used to award goals by Mexico in a 1-1 draw with Colombia, by Thailand in a 3-2 win over Ivory Coast, and by Costa Rica in a 2-2 draw with Korea. Also, it confirmed a save (no goal) on a header by Meghan Klingenberg in the USA-Sweden game, a scoreless draw.

The Hawk-Eye GLT system consists of seven cameras positioned strategically at each end of the stadium, to track the ball precisely from every angle. Within one second of a play at the goal line, a signal is relayed to the referee’s watch to confirm the goal. It is reputed to be accurate within 1 mm. Hawk-Eye was selected for this year's tournament in March.

Last year’s men’s World Cup in Brazil was the first to use GLT – with a different system, GoalControl, which uses a similar seven-camera setup. France was the first to benefit from it, when an inconclusive goal was confirmed in a match against Honduras. Hawk-Eye had competed for last year's men's World Cup, but lost out to GoalControl.

SPIE Newsroom explored goal-line technology in 2012 when the technology was being considered by FIFA's rule-making body, the International Football Association Board (IFAB).

15 June 2015

‘People’s Choice’ highlights: Go solar!


Optical technologies and the people who work with them have brought tangible social, environmental, health, and economic gains to humanity. A prime example is the solar cooker, designed for sunny and dry climates. Varieties of these have provided thousands of people with alternative sources for cooking fuel. The top five countries with ideal solar cooking climates are India, China, Pakistan, Ethiopia, and Nigeria.

In the photo above, SandipanMukherjee demonstrates the popular use of solar cookers in a remote village in Nubra Valley, India. Off the national power grid, Nubra Valley is tucked away in a high-altitude, cold desert between the Himalaya and Karakoram mountain ranges. Solar-based technology plays a crucial role inthe village. Although it can be bitterly cold in Turtuk during the winter, the area still receives strong sun rays.

The three types of solar cookers are heat-trap boxes, curved concentrators, and panel cookers. The solar cooker shown above is a curved concentrator cooker, or “parabolic.”

Solar cookers consist of two simple black pots and plastic heat-retention bags surrounded by aluminum foil-covered cardboard which reflects sunlight and converts it to heat energy. Solar cookers have reduced time spent gathering wood for people, especially women, living in off-grid rural areas. Solar cookers also contribute to the environment by decreasing unhealthy smoke from wood fires and save one ton of wood each year.

The non-profit organization Solar Cookers International (SCI) spreads solar cooking awareness in areas like Turtuk, where there are diminishing sources of cooking fuel. SCI collaborates with not-for-profits and individuals worldwide to improve solar cooking technology and promote its impact on human health. The organization’s partners include the United Nations Development Program and the World Health Organization.

Mukherjee is one of 32 contestants for the People’s Choice Award competition in the SPIE International Year of Light Photo Contest. Judges have already chosen three winners, but now it's your turn to choose. SPIE is providing a prize of US $500 to the People's Choice winner. Online voting continues through 15 August.

Other People’s Choice finalists who demonstrated lighting solutions in their photography are:

"Educating," by Sadai Pandiyan Azhagu-Karpakam, residence without electricity, Virudhunagar District, Tamil Nadu, India, 29 September 2014. A mother helps her child study, while the father powers an electrical generator to fill the home with light.
"Solar Powered Street Lamps," by Maria Francesca Avila, basketball court, Quezon City, Philippines, 15 October 2014. Solar-powered LED street lighting offers a highly energy-efficient solution superior to conventional lighting and allows for a lamp-post spacing of up to 50 meters. Avila is a software developer and is involved in outreach programs located in remote areas of the Philippines. Read more about Avila.
"Sustainable Energy," by Dipayan Bhar, residence without electricity, Kolkata, India, 21 January 2013. A grandmother helps her grandson study using the electricity of potato biomass. The closed book in front of the boy is “Barnaparichay,” a beginner’s guide to the Bengali language written by Iswarchandra Vidyasagar. See Bhar’s portfolio on Smithsonian.com.
"The Light for Hope," by Abhijit Dey, madrasah in Duttapukur, West Bengal, India, 23 August 2010. Over a billion people around the world lack access to electricity. See Dey’s profile.
"Studying," by Handi Laksono, home in Wae Rebo, Flores NTT, Indonesia, 1 September 2014. Wae Rebo is a remote inland in Indonesia. Laksono trekked uphill for 3 hours to reach the home featured in the photo above. The home had a small solar panel attached to the roof and one small light bulb. See Laksono’s portfolio.
"The Human Light Tower," by Jose Ramos II, JalaJala, Rizal, Philippines, 24 May 2014. In rural areas of the Philippines, small towns cannot afford to construct light towers to guide small boats. Instead fishermen use petromax lamps to guide fishing boats.  
"Local Boys and Girls Studying with the Help of Hand-Held Torch and Lamps Where There Is No Electricity," by Md. Khalid Rayhan Shawon, night school in Satkhira, Bangladesh, 1 May 2013. See Shawon’s National Geographic profile.
"The Use of Solar Energy," by Nikki Sandino Maniacup Victoriano (Philippines), farm in Rizal, Philippines, 5 September 2012. AirJaldi Networks, a company that provides solar-powered Wi-Fi for the rural masses, is one of many organizations creating innovative technologies for developing nations.

See more contestants' photos in a previous post in this series:

11 June 2015

Restoring art and culture of the past -- with photonics

Photonics play a major part in restoration of the look of
a set of murals by Mark Rothko at Harvard University.
Ramesh Raskar, a computational photography expert at the MIT Media Lab, and two students used the idea of light projection in helping to develop a method for art conservation, writing software to isolate the images’ colors one pixel at a time and restore the look of a set of Rothko murals.

For the exhibition Mark Rothko’s Harvard Murals, showing through 26 July at the Harvard Art Museums, Raskar and his team worked with art historians, conservation scientists, and conservators to develop digital projection technology that restores the appearance of the murals’ original rich colors.

The artworks had faded while on display in the 1960s and ’70s in a penthouse dining room on the Harvard University campus, for which they were commissioned. Deemed unsuitable for exhibition, the murals entered storage in 1979 and since then had rarely been seen by the public.

The team compared images of the murals in the new gallery to the restored photograph of the original. The software creates a compensation image that is sent to a digital projector and illuminates the murals exactly as they would have looked over 50 years ago ― and the vividness of Rothko’s murals is revived.

The museum turns off the digital projector every day from 4 to 5 p.m. so visitors can see the differences in Rothko’s murals before and after the process.

The SPIE Optical Metrology symposium later this month in Munich includes a plenary talk by Raskar on extreme computational imaging, and also includes a conference on applications of optics and photonics in variety of conservation methods.

The conference, Optics for Arts, Architecture, and Archaeology, chaired by Luca Pezzati of the Istituto Nazionale di Ottica and Piotr Targowski of Nicolaus Copernicus University, will include reports from projects concerned with examining pre-colonial Brazilian ceramics, post-earthquake inspection of masonry underlying murals, underwater survey of marble works submerged for centuries, and other topics.

A few of the many photonics technologies employed are pulsed-phase and infrared thermography, photogrammetry, 2D and 3D modeling, and optical microtopography.

These projects and the Rothko mural restoration are beautiful examples of one of the primary themes of the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies: to highlight the myriad ways in which light has influenced and continues to influence human culture. Learn more about the United Nations-declared observance at www.spie.org/iyl.

09 June 2015

Entrepreneurship is the theme for Biophotonics '15 on Ven

Guest blog from Ven: Jacqueline Andreozzi, a PhD candidate at Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, is blogging from the Biophotonics Summer School on the island of Ven, off the southern coast of Sweden, this week. SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, and COST, the European Cooperation in Science and Technology, are among sponsors of the school.
Also supporting the school are DTU Fotonik, Technical University of Denmark; Lund Laser Centre; NKT Photonics A/S; Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, through its Nobel Institute for Physics; and Thorlabs.

    “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the
    work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

Biophotonics '15 participants arrive by ferry for the
summer school week on Ven.
This quote, cited in Dr. Eric Swanson’s keynote lecture series at the 2015 International Summer School in Biophotonics, embodies the opportunity to learn, network, and perhaps most importantly, inspire, that the organizers of this event have so brilliantly orchestrated.

The biannual school, currently in its seventh iteration, has brought together young investigators from around the world with top researchers and experts in the ever-growing field of biomedical optics.

After a brief address from Dr. Anne L’Huillier, professor at Lund University and Chairwoman for the Nobel Committee for Physics at the Swedish Academy for Sciences, the group of 58 students was ferried over to the small island of Ven, Sweden, for the weeklong course.

As of Tuesday, the fourth day of the course, the students have already benefited from in-depth lectures on entrepreneurship (Dr. Swanson, Acacia Communications Inc.), tissue optics (Dr. Steve Jacques, Oregon Health and Science University), photoacoustic tomography (Dr. Lihong Wang, Washington University in St. Louis), and fiber-based lasers for biophotonics applications (Dr. J. Roy Taylor, Imperial College).

Monday evening brought a poster session in the
Spirit of Hven conference hall.
Further facilitating the exchange of ideas and information, every student presented his or her own research as part of a series of three poster sessions spread out over two days.

As a tool to garner feedback from both peers as well as the present experts, the poster sessions proved to be a huge success.

Following the spirit of this year’s school theme -- entrepreneurship -- the students have also been busy preparing for an internal enterprise pitch competition, which was revealed to the students on the Sunday evening.

Entrepreneur challenge participants Naomi McReynolds
(SPIE University of St. Andrews Chapter President)
and Elin Malmqvist (Lund University) work diligently
to prepare their pitch.
On breaks, in addition to riding the provided bright yellow bicycles around the stunning sites of the island, small groups of students can be found congregating in every imaginable nook, both inside and out, to maintain secrecy as they formulate their spontaneous enterprises. With a €200 prize, a certificate, and of course bragging rights on the line, pressures are high to come to the table Wednesday night with the best possible business pitch. The following article will be sure to provide an update on which group of students won this coveted prize.

About the author: Jacqueline Andreozzi is a PhD candidate at Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College. She holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Central Florida, and an M.S. in Optics and Photonics from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Her current work, under the guidance of advisor Dr. Brian Pogue in the Optics in Medicine Laboratory, employs Cherenkov imaging to improve accuracy and safety in clinical radiotherapy for cancer treatment. In a strong collaboration with doctors and researchers at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the research group is pioneering a novel prototype system intended to provide real-time radiation beam-tracking and dose verification, and advance quality of care for radiotherapy patients.

26 May 2015

‘People’s Choice’ highlights: Rock photomicrographs and the beauty of light science and technology



Bernardo Cesare’s photo (above) displays granulite rock under a microscope. The picture resembles a piece of stained glass window through sunlight, but it’s just a thin slice of rock 0.03 mm in thickness and 5 mm in size. The rock’s beautiful "interference colors" derive from the interaction of polarized light with the crystalline matter.

Cesare is one of 32 contestants for the People’s Choice Award competition in the SPIE International Year of Light Photo Contest. Judges have already chosen three winners, but now it's your turn to choose. SPIE is providing a prize of US $500 to the People's Choice winner. Online voting continues through 15 August.

This blog post features entries illustrating science and technology, including Cesare's, above, and four others, below. Future posts will showcase other entries -- follow the blog to catch them all.

Of his work, Cesare says on the National History Museum of London website,“My aim is to reveal the beauty of a world that is normally accessible only to geologists and through images to tell the fascinating story of our planet.”

Cesare is a professor of Petrology at the University of Padova. As a geologist, he uses photography in his scientific work. His project, micRockScopica, is a collection of photomicrographs and microphotographs which have been displayed in mineralogical and scientific photo galleries in Europe and the United States.

While studying minerals and rocks in Kerala, India, Cesare realized the potential beauty of this piece of granulite rock. After finding a thin transparent slice of the granulite he transmitted polarized light through the slice. The light rays displayed the natural interference colors shown in his photograph.

To brighten the original grey colors, he placed a red tint plate in front of the polarized light. The greys turned into blues and purples.

For more information about Cesare, see:


Other People’s Choice finalists who demonstrated light in science and technology in their photography are:

"The Constant," by Jasper da Seymour, Mystery Creek Cave, Tasmania, Australia, 15 July 2014. Inspired by the art of painting with light, Seymour uses fiber optic lighting in his photography. See Seymour's portfolio.

"Interference in Soapy Water Film," by Andrew Davidhazy, Rochester, New York, USA, 2011. Interference of light causes colors to appear in thin films which otherwise appear transparent and colorless. For more high-speed, schlieren photographs see Davidhazy's portfolio.

"Jewels on the Window," by Daniela Rapavá, residence, Rimavská Sobota, Slovakia, 12 January 2013. "The nature of light: what are photons?" For centuries we have used the word "interference" to describe the dark-bright bands recorded when we superpose two coherent light beams at a small angle on a detector.

"Phaser Laser," by Cory Stinson, San Diego State University, California, USA, August 2010. From healing the human eye to removing layers of pollution from century old marble statues, laser technology is helping researchers develop new ways to improve people's lives.