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04 July 2012

Biophotonics: Solutions for world's health needs


(SPIE Member Jijo Ulahannan, assistant professor at Government College Kasaragod in India, attended the biophotonics and imaging graduate summer school earlier this month at the National University of Ireland [NUI] Galway. Speakers composed a “who’s who” list of many of the top names in the field. Now back at home, Jijo filed this guest blog based on his notes.)

A week of high-end motivation, face-to-face interaction with challenging problems of the field, infused with the serene beauty of Irish countryside and the fun and excitement of Euro 2012: that’s the best way to summarize the recently concluded Biophotonics and Imaging Graduate Summer School (BIGSS) 2012. The school was attended by 22 researchers from all over the world and included highly motivating talks, technical presentations, live demonstrations and a highly competitive poster session.

The summer school began on a fine sunny evening with a welcome party hosted by Professor Martin Leahy who heads the National Biophotonics Platform of Ireland.

The very next day ideas started to rain in with the sessions on Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), starting with the review presentation of Professor Wolfgang Drexler. We were taken through the world of medical imaging, diagnosis and therapy mostly tackled by hybrid techniques rather than one single method. Advantages of OCT, various challenges faced by researchers were discussed thoroughly during this highly engaging talk.

The school had an excellent outing in the afternoon to have a city and coastal tour of Galway.

The evening session began with further deliberations on the topic by Professor Vasilis Ntziachristos who led the participants to the details of multispectral optical and opto-acoustic imaging.

The second day of the school had Professor Michael Kolios who took the participants to the world of the emerging field of photoacoustics that often supplements OCT, which is now a mature field of biophotonics. Professor Kolios gave the key idea that it is mostly the ultrasound principles applied to optical regime for detection and diagnosis. The presentation touched upon the scientific, technological and clinical aspects of the fields.

An excellent presentation on in vivo photoacoustic flow cytometry by Professor Vladimir Zharov engaged the participants in the afternoon. Professor Zharov aptly presented the challenge faced by his team as well as anyone else in the field would: “listening to one cell in a million.” This was the first session on the laser optoacoustic spectroscopy that again is a mature diagnostic and therapeutic field today. The research in the field includes several clinical trials, optical therapy that nowadays use nanoparticles for drug delivery and cell destruction

The fourth day brought Professor Gabriel Popescu speaking on quantitative phase imaging of cells and tissues, giving proper theoretical and experimental details of the imaging technique.

Mike Woerdemann finished the day with an excellent overview of optical tweezers and their applications, another area of recent interest in the field.

The day’s proceedings ended when all the faculty and students enjoyed the live action of a Euro 2012 match at the university.
Summer school attendees take in a Euro 2012 match.
The penultimate day of the school featured professors Anita Mahadevan-Jansen and Tayyaba Hasan.

Professor Mahadevan-Jansen led the school to the complex world of medical diagnosis, application-oriented research, optimization and proper choice of technology used in biophotonics research. Her approach was unique in the sense that it demanded the teamwork and participation every one of us to find solutions to current and potential problems faced by researchers in the field. She presented real-world problems and provoked our intelligence to come out with real-world issues that need amicable solutions.

Professor Hasan focused on the world of photodynamic therapy that delivers improved treatment to diseases such as cancer.
Professor Tayyaba Hasan presents on photodynamic therapy for cancer treatment.
The final day of the school began with a session on commercialization of research by Hugh Cormican who talked about entrepreneurship and ways to pursue if someone needs to convert research into products.

Olympus demonstrated their state-of-the-art confocal microscope system that can sit on a tabletop and deliver manuscript-ready research data.

It was time for the graduation ceremony thereafter, and all the participants received a wonderful NUI Galway certificate.

Poster awards were announced next. Setareh Ghorbanian of University of Toronto won the first prize sponsored by Mason Tech. Consolation prizes were secured by Kellie Adamson of Dublin City University, Davide Volpi of the University of Oxford and Christine O’Brien of Vanderbilt University.

Poster competition winners are congratulated by event organizers.
A grand closing ceremony followed, after which the entire school travelled to the majestic Bunratty Castle near Shannon for a medieval dinner and a stroll in their folk park. A fruitful week of learning and networking came to an end when all the participants left Galway cherishing the great hospitality of the hosting team of Professor Martin and the entire TOMI team.
Performers entertain in traditional costume at Bunratty Castle.


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