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15 December 2015

Pigeon vision: ‘flocksourcing’ cancer detection

Researchers are learning more about how to improve cancer
detection through teaching pigeons like the two above
to identify images of cancerous cells.
Pigeons have been taught how to detect breast cancer -- with an accuracy rate that surpasses humans -- and in the process have inspired ideas about how to better teach humans how to visually detect cancer.

Researchers from the University of California Davis, the University of Iowa, and Emory University published a paper last month detailing how they trained pigeons -- Columba livia, commonly called rock doves, to be precise -- to detect cancerous cells. The birds attained an accuracy rate of 85%, higher than the accuracy of humans doing the task (84%), the Chicago Tribune reported. (Also see the Wall Street Journal for more coverage.)

And when four pigeons were tested on the image and their results combined (“flocksourcing”?), the birds were 99% accurate in identifying cancerous cells.

The researchers also found that while the pigeons had high-accuracy results when looking at slides from tissue samples, they were not able to learn how to accurately identify signs of cancer when looking at mammograms. Unlike biopsied cells viewed under magnification, mammogram images show neighboring tissues such as blood vessels, a factor which affects human accuracy as well.

Because a pigeon’s vision works much the same as a human’s, the research could help scientists improve the results in teaching humans how to visually identify cancer.

“Pathologists and radiologists spend years acquiring and refining their medically essential visual skills, so it is of considerable interest to understand how this process actually unfolds and what image features and properties are critical for accurate diagnostic performance,” the researchers wrote in their article in PLoS ONE.

The research team included Edward Wasserman, Stuit Professor of Experimental Psychology at the University of Iowa; Elizabeth Krupinksi, professor and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences at Emory University; Richard Levenson, professor and Vice Chair for Strategic Technologies in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of California Davis Medical Center; and Victor Navarro, a graduate student in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Iowa.

30 November 2015

Improve and carry on, use the fear: advice from women in STEM

SPIE Women in Optics 18-month
planner for 2016-2017.
Interest in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) can lead to a wide variety of careers. A few examples:
  • exploring photonic nanostructures that can improve the efficiency of solar energy generation
  • observing micro-organisms in the Arctic ice to learn more about lifeforms of all sorts
  • developing optical systems for noninvasive diagnosis of tumors inside the body
  • assessing the radiation hazard to be incurred by humans travelling to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.
The paths to all careers include some challenges. For anyone looking at a career in STEM, the latest edition of a free annual publication offering insights on those paths has just been released.

The 12th edition of the Women in Optics Planner published by SPIE contains more insights from more than 30 women discussing their interests and occupations and offering advice. Among their stories:

Viera-Gonzalez
Perla Marlene Viera-Gonzalez, a PhD student at the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, specializes in optical design applied to solar illumination systems.

Her biggest career obstacle is “swimming upstream and (meeting) resistance to change. I sometimes encounter people who prefer to always do things the same way. The solution? I never give up. Believe in yourself. Try new ideas, and if you fail, learn from that. Improve and carry on.”

Viera-Gonzalez shares her inspiration and passion with her community, organizing STEM conferences for students, workshops for kids, basic education for teachers, science fairs, and other events, with support from SPIE and her university.

Mikkelsen
Maiken Mikkelsen, now an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and of physics at Duke University, grew up in Denmark and  found physics to be her favorite subject in school.

Now she leads a research group exploring the behavior of novel nanoscale structures and materials by studying their interaction with laser light, which may lay the foundation for future quantum- or nano-based technologies. Her advice? “Follow your heart and do what you love!”

Lukishova
Svetlana Lukishova earned degrees through her PhD at Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and is now a senior scientist at the University of Rochester leading a group in quantum nanophotonics.

As an undergrad, she followed the advice of a professor to select the strongest research group with an outstanding leader and ended up carrying out her master’s and PhD research under  Nobel Laureate Alexander Prokhorov.

As a working professional, she says, her biggest obstacle is that she is “too modest. In a competitive environment, it is necessary to defend your rights.” She advises young girls “to set the highest goals in your life and your scientific and engineering career; work hard, but with inspiration; and don’t forget that you are women.”

James Asirvatham
"Dream first, try next, and do your best," Juanita Saroj James Asirvatham, research associate at Lancaster University, advises young women who wish to pursue a career in optics and photonics.  

As a research associate at Lancaster University, Asirvatham explores novel photonic nanostructures to improve the efficiency and economy of solar energy production. "STEM is for creative thinkers," she says. "Choosing a career in STEM will provide lifelong professional development.”

Greenwood
Born in Germany and educated in Scotland, Bernadette Greenwood, the director of clinical services at Desert Medical Imaging, advises young women in STEM fields to overcome barriers to success by applying logic, sensibility, and patience to any situation.

"Sometimes it's impossible not to feel discouraged, but stay strong and believe in yourself. Use fear as fuel for action," she says.

Greenwood oversees an MRI-based prostate cancer clinical trial, delivering laser interstitial thermal therapy to prostate cancer using thermal mapping with MRI.

Wang
For Hui (Catherine) Wang, deputy director of the Department of International Cooperation at the Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics, and Physics, the biggest challenge is not having a scientific background. She holds a master’s degree in English literature. Wang works at continually increasing her knowledge through reading books and journals, having discussions with colleagues, and attending academic conferences.

Do not to be afraid of difficulties and mistakes, Wang advises. "Facing these can make you stronger."

All the stories are available online; copies of the planner are free for the asking via the same link.

Thanks to all for the inspiration!

17 November 2015

Six dramatic advances in solar energy

Harvesting, collecting, and deriving usable energy from the Sun and other sustainable sources for people around our planet has made important leaps forward of late. Whether it is summer or winter in your part of the world, that’s excellent news for our future energy needs.

The dual nature of light, recently demonstrated
in an image from the Carbone group at École
Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, and featured
as Figure 1 in a review paper in the Journal of Photonics
for Energy
: "Energy-space photography of light
confined on a nanowire simultaneously shows both
spatial interference and energy quantization."
doi:10.1117/1.JPE.5.050997
An open-access article in the Journal of Photonics for Energy co-authored by nine international experts* details some of those advances. Here’s a short list from their review of the state of the art, titled "The role of photonics in energy."

1. Making cheaper and more efficient solar cells

Today’s solar cells are based on inorganic semiconductors -– particularly silicon, the second most abundant material in the Earth’s crust. However, silicon solar cells, although relatively expensive to manufacture, are not the most efficient at converting solar energy into electrical energy.

Solar cells based on other semiconductors are more efficient at conversion but also cost more to make.

A new generation of solar cells in development promises the advantages of low-cost materials, high-throughput manufacturing methods, and low-energy expenditure. These very new emerging cells are still less efficient than more established inorganic solar cells, but they have been improved dramatically over the last few years. Particularly promising are technologies using organic-inorganic hybrid materials such as perovskites.

2. Limiting lost light

Researchers are also working on methods of trapping light within a solar cell more effectively, to limit the amount of energy lost due to reflection off the silicon crystals or layers of protective glass. Existing antireflective coatings have performance limitations, often minimizing the reflection for only a select region of the solar spectrum, and are also dependent on the angle of incidence.

One possible solution is adding nanostructured surfaces (e.g., micro- or nanopillars or nanowires) to minimize reflection.

3. Directing and driving

An alternative to converting sunlight into electricity is harvesting the thermal energy of sunlight directly. Sunlight can be focused onto long pipes coated with an optically absorbing material and filled with a high-thermal-capacity fluid, which is used to drive a turbine. Coatings such as carbon-nanotube and metallic-nanowire arrays with high absorption capabilities are helping toward the goal of creating nearly perfect absorbers.

4. Storing it for later

Research is also being done on storing solar fuels as an energy source, via water-splitting, a process which occurs naturally during photosynthesis. Splitting separates water into its oxygen and hydrogen elements, and can be induced in a photochemical reaction. The induced process of sunlight-driven water splitting is as yet not efficient. But with that solved, the hydrogen produced could be stored in fuel cells and later used for local electricity generation, for example as a transportation fuel for electric vehicles.

5. Following the Sun

Optical and photonic sensors are widely used to make existing technologies that harvest energy and produce power more effective. Tracking systems adjust the positioning of solar collectors to ensure a continued optimum angle relative to the Sun (perpendicular to solar radiation). Sun trackers have the potential to increase the energy collected by solar energy systems by 10% to 100%, depending on factors including the time of the year and geographical position.

6. … or the wind

Wind farms utilize light detection and ranging (LIDAR) technology, which determines wind speed by measuring the Doppler shift of light backscattered by aerosols in the atmosphere. The accurate measurements of wind speeds and turbulence make it possible to more effectively survey potential wind farm sites, optimize their design, and make dynamic adjustments to their operation.

Want to know more? Read the two-part synopsis of the review article in the SPIE Newsroom:



*The paper is authored by Zakya Kafafi, the journal’s editor-in-chief, and Nelson Tansu of Lehigh University; Raúl Martín-Palma of the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid; Ana Nogueira of the University of Campinas; Deirdre O’Carroll of Rutgers University; Jeremy Pietron of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory; Ifor Samuel of the University of St Andrews; Franky So of North Carolina State University; and Loucas Tsakalakos of General Electric–Global Research Center.

04 November 2015

Speaking out about climate change is urgent in our ‘crucial century’

The approach of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in early December has global leaders from every sector thinking about technology opportunities to help meet greenhouse-gas-emissions reduction goals in an effort to mitigate climate change.

Photonics at work: A schematic illustration of
electromagnetic characterization and detection of
pollutants on a sea surface, in an SPIE Newsroom
article by researchers at Lab-STICC, CNRS, ENSTA Bretagne.
Photonics technologies play an important part in enabling and driving applications that support sustainable development and the green economy. Researchers, engineers, and developers in the optics and photonic community are continually finding new ways to enhance our lives with these technologies.

But there is another sort of opportunity for the photonics community to take up: speaking out about the urgency to take action, particularly in the face of climate-change skepticism or denial.

UK Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees is among scientists who are doing so. Framing the issue in a recent commentary in the Financial Times, he characterized this century as the first in the Earth’s 45-million-year history when “one species -- ours -- can determine the fate of the entire biosphere.”

While there may be some uncertainties in climate science, Rees said, it is certain that future generations will be affected by existing public policies and others implemented in our lifetimes.

Anyone who cares about those generations -- the grandchildren of today’s young children and others living in the next century and beyond -- “will deem it worth making an investment now to protect them from worst-case scenarios,” Rees said.

Given that, he said, the conversation needs to be based on “the best knowledge that the 21st century has to offer.”

Today’s knowledge includes work toward photonics-driven prospects such as:


Policy makers and non-scientists are supporting efforts to grow our knowledge even further, and working to strengthen the investment for future generations.

Governmental agencies and university departments collaborate in competitions such as the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. Teams design, build, and operate houses powered by solar energy, and that are affordable, energy efficient, attractive, and easy to live in. Congratulations to this year’s winner, Stevens Institute of Technology!

Citizen scientists get involved through activities such as the recent iSPEX-EU project. Using an add-on optical sensor with their smartphones, people across Europe measured and reported on aerosols during a 45-day period. The crowd-sourced approach provided information at times and locations not covered by current air pollution monitoring efforts.

As the world gears up for the climate conference in Paris next month, it will be wise to consider, as Rees has said, that “Whatever happens in this uniquely crucial century will resonate into the remote future and perhaps far beyond the Earth.”

23 October 2015

People's Choice Award: Light for education

The photograph "Studying" by Handi Laksono captured in a home in
Wae Rebo, Flores NTT, Indonesia, on  1 September 2014,
is the People's Choice Award winner in the
SPIE International Year of Light Photo Contest.
A photo of a 5-year-old boy studying in a dark hut, with only natural morning light streaming through a small window, has been selected for the People's Choice Award in the SPIE International Year of Light Photo Contest.

The contest was sponsored by SPIE Professional, the quarterly magazine of SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, as part of the International Year of Light observance. SPIE is a Founding Partner.

Captured by Javanese travel and landscape photographer Handi Laksono, the winning photo was taken after Laksono hiked three hours to the remote village of Wae Rebo on Flores Island in Indonesia.

Wae Rebo's only lighting source is solar, either direct sunlight or a few small solar panels, Laksono said. He noted that the solar panel in the house he visited powers a single light bulb that is used only for a few hours in the evening.

"For the children who wish to study in their houses in the morning, the light from the small windows is the option," he said.

See more of his work in Laksono’s portfolio.

See all the People's Choice contestants' photos in previous posts:

22 October 2015

Cars on Mars: following Curiosity and getting excited about science

Mars Curiosity Rover scientist Melissa Rice inspires
the next generation with talk of exploring the
Red Planet: see the video on SPIE.tv [23:55].
(Above, Rice at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab
with a model of the Curiosity.)
If it wanted to, NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover could stretch its 7-foot arm up from its 10-foot-high body and slam-dunk a basketball.

Admittedly, it isn’t likely that any of NASA’s Rovers -– cars on Mars, as some call them –- will find any basketball hoops on the Red Planet.

But the space agency’s newest robotic Mars explorer, the Curiosity, has found evidence of ancient lakes, captured images that reveal the composition of rocks on the planet’s surface, and done something many of us have done: taken selfies to post on FaceBook.

Curiosity’s discoveries are far from over. The robot is just now reaching the foothills of the lofty (5.5 km, or 18,000 feet) Mount Sharp, with its mission to scale the peak and report back about what it finds along the way.

That in itself is amazing. On top of that, the telling of that story by scientists such as Melissa Rice, a member of the Curiosity team and a professor at Western Washington University, turns out to be a powerful way to get kids interested in science -- and perhaps to inspire them to pursue careers in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

In an International Year of Light event in Bellingham, Washington, USA, this week, Rice told how light-based science and technology are used by the Curiosity Rover, now in its third year of exploration on Mars.

Curiosity uses solar panels to keep its batteries charged, sophisticated cameras not extremely different in concept from those in our ubiquitous smartphones to navigate and record the scenery, and lasers to vaporize tiny bits of rock that other cameras using special filters image to determine how the rocks were formed.

Wrapping up her talk, Rice noted that Curiosity has been such a success that NASA said “let’s build another.”

Now under construction, Mars 2020 is scheduled to land on Mars in 2021. Some of Rice’s students are involved in selecting the landing site, from which the robot will step out on its mission to drill into rocks and collect rocks to be studied on Earth with even more sophisticated experiments than Curiosity’s.

Rice concluded by reaching out to the younger set among the audience of nearly 1,000 who gathered to hear her and to experience the spellbinding laser show by Prismatic Magic that followed.

“Some of you in the audience tonight are the right age to be the first generation to go to Mars” she said, evoking images from the new book and movie The Martian in many minds. “In the 2030s and 2040s, I hope you look back and give us all a wave.”

After the applause died down, a 10-year-old boy was heard telling his father, “That’s definitely on my ‘bucket list.’ I have to go to Mars.”

Images from the laser show:



24 August 2015

16 visions for photonics: the next 60 years

The first 60 years of SPIE's history have seen amazing
advances, but what will photonics enable in the next
60 years? SPIE Student Chapter leaders will be among
those creating the future. Several shared their visions recently
at SPIE Optics + Photonics.
Sixty years ago, in 1955, the world had not yet seen the first laser -- it had not yet been invented. Fiber optics were brand new, there were no artificial satellites circling the Earth, no humans had been in space, and the first solar cell was in early stages of development as was the first video recording machine. Smartphone? How can a phone be "smart"?

In that environment, a group of engineers working in optics and optoelectronics to build the first scientific cameras gathered in a restaurant in Hollywood, California, to discuss a shared challenge. They needed to use high-speed photography to solve design issues and create capabilities in industries from aerospace to communications and to advance research. But although individual labs were devising solutions that held potential for multiple other applications, there was no forum in which to share information.

Their solution: the formation of SPIE, the Society of Photographic Instrumentation Engineers.

Sixty years on, optics and photonics technologies are helping to solve many problems, in measurement and medicine, space exploration and community security, to name a very few areas.

All that is history -- what lies ahead?

Who better to ask that question of than those who will build the future?

Early-career professionals and student leaders at the SPIE Optics + Photonics 2015 conference held in San Diego, California, last month were invited to share their visions.

Based on what they're seeing, while photonics has made some amazing changes in the past 60 years, the future looks even brighter. Here are 16 visions shared in San Diego.

  1. "In 60 years, optics will revolutionize healthcare with noninvasive and nondestructive diagnostics and treatments." Goretti Hernandez, Yuliana Espinara, and Jorge Sanchez, Centro de Investigaciones en Óptica
  2. "Light-based communication technologies will break the walls between nations and allow us to have a united world." Sergio Corranza, Universidad de Guadalajara.
  3. "The Earth could find its sister 'Earth' and co-exist in the universe with the development of photonics in astronomy." Sumeet Shrestha
  4. "Photonics will bring radical change in methods of communication and data security." Bhogyashri Darunkar
  5. "Photonics will enable us to see hypothetical particles like quarks, bosons, and leptons." Neerad Nanadan, Dehli Technological University
  6. "The development and integration of photonics in medical diagnostics will allow us to detect diseases in the early stages and save thousands of lives." Olga Bibikova
  7. "Today's research on semiconductor LEDs and solar cells are going to rock and serve future generations." Amir and Shaheer, National Institute of Technology Tiruchirappalli
  8. "Classically, photonics will enable computing to be done exclusively with optics. Quantum mechanically, photonics will provide a quantum internet that connects quantum computers." Joe Cha, University of Rochester
  9. Photonic and optical technolgy will lead us to discover what dark matter really is and what its properties are." Aaron Farley, Three Rivers Community College
  10. "Light is life, keep it in mind! Photonics will be everywhere to improve lifestyle, technology, health, people, ideas, art, and science. 'Fiat lux,' let there be light for the next 60 years and more." Francesca Giacomello
  11. "A huge breakthrough in ways of data transferring and processing with the help of light." Olexii Hudz
  12.  "Photonics accelerates everything to the speed of the fastest element of the world: photon!" Hamidreza Kaviani, University of Calgary
  13. "The world will be LED by photonics." Abhishek, National Institute of Technology Goa
  14. "Photonics will help to get clean energy, new medical technology, and faster communication to connect the world." Brhayllan Mora, Universidad de Guadalajara
  15. "Photonics will change the world in the next 60 years by providing the new equipment to make visible the things which are invisible now." Than Singh Saini, Dehli Technological University
  16. "All of us will be attending these conferences in the holographic world:
    -- more participants :)
    -- no travel grants :(."
    Vivek Trivedi
    , University of Delhi at Acharya Narendra Dev College Chapter

What's your prediction for what changes photonics will enable 60 years from now?

11 August 2015

‘People’s Choice’ highlights: Light illuminating spirits, minds, and hearts in every culture



People often like to separate culture, art, photonics, and optics as completely separate fields. However, when we combine the four fields we can capture beauty that seems so surreal. Light plays a vital role accentuating hidden beauties, illuminating spirits, minds, and hearts in every culture.

The advancements made in modern light technology has made it possible to highlight architecture, people, and objects. In the photo above John Danrev Bolus, has captured a “Night of Reflections” at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

Bolus 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 one more. SPIE is providing a prize of US $500 to the People's Choice winner. Online voting continues through 15 August.

Bolus is very passionate about his work and is proud to be representing his home country, the Philippines, as a finalist for the People's Choice Award.

Three other People’s choice finalist were able to use light to illustrate light illuminating spirits, minds, and hearts.


"Amiens Cathedral", by Spencer Cox, Amiens, France, 26 November 2013
Afternoon on the River, by Viễn Đông Phan (Vietnam), Ca Ty River, Phan Thiet, Vietnam, 13 January 2013.
 

"Transfer of Wisdom, Culture and Heritage", by Mario Cardenas, ve in Al Ain, UAE, 21 February 2014.


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



 

24 July 2015

‘People’s Choice’ highlights: Light in communication


Nearly all communication depends on optics and optical technology. Thanks to optical fibers, which are thin flexible fiber made of silica or plastic, we can transmit texts, media, and the internet through light signals over long distances. The internet allows people around the world to feel connected in a way that has never before been possible. Whether originating from mobile phones or modems, almost 100 percent of all telecommunications land on an optical fiber network.

In the photo above, Ebrahim Elmoly illustrates how humans rely on telecommunications to capture historic moments like the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. During the Arab Spring riots and demonstrations in Cairo and Alexandria lead to the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and dissolution of the parliament. The word  “لحرية” on flag means "freedoms" in Arabic.

Elmoly is 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 one more. 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 light in communication, including Elmoly’s, above, and two others, below.

Born in Alexandria, Elmoly is a freelance photographer and studying at the Faculty of Commerce, Cairo University. While working for NGOs, Elmoly focuses on social, and cultural issues and has won two golden medals from National Geographic Egypt.

For more information about the photographer, see Elmoly’s portfolio.

As mobile devices proliferate, stored data increases and computers of all types add more capabilities, the world is seeing a dramatic growth in the amount of energy needed for data processing. Among those working on solutions is Volker Sorger at George Washington University. He described his work in a recent video interview with the SPIE Newsroom.

Another researcher, Vurii Vlasov of IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, described in a plenary talk at SPIE Photonics West in February how the technology to carry communications into the future is moving from fundamental science to manufacturable technology.

While much of the world's communication occurs over fiber-optic networks, information can even travel through space. A team from the German Aerospace Center and ViaLight Communications GmbH,  Florian Moll, Christian Fuchs, and Joachim Horwath, reported in the SPIE Newsroom last month about the successful transfer of large data sets across a laser link between a jet and a ground station.

This week, the industry marked an important milestone toward next-generation communication on the announcement of a $110 million funding award in the USA for a consortium to establish a new Integrated Photonics Institute for Manufacturing Innovation (IP-IMI) in New York State. The IP-IMI is intended to advance the state of the art in the design, manufacture, testing, assembly, and packaging of complex photonic integrated circuits that combine a variety of photonic and electronic components to achieve functionality.

Other People’s Choice finalists who depicted light in communication in their photography are:
"Light-based Technology," by Romado Javillonar, Marikina City, Philippines, 22 June 2013. The internet allows us to communicate with our loved. Light-based technology has impacted the entire world intellectually, morally, and emotionally. 
"The Reflection of Light in Life," by Jiraporn Saenjae, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand. Saenjae captured this photo near the restaurant A Cup of Love in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, 21 September 2014.

10 July 2015

‘People’s Choice’ highlights: Light therapy


Light is critical to our circadian rhythms, the physiological cycles based on patterns of light and dark that repeat every 24 hours. Darkness during the evening helps signal to our bodies to produce melatonin and fall asleep. Morning light stimulates our neural signals for the brain to wake up.

Disturbing this internal clock can affect our performance and health. Light systems, timing light exposure with the circadian clock, can increase sleep efficiency, alertness, and well-being. Scientific findings have shown light can also reduce symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, and Alzheimer’s disease.

In the above photo, SPIE Member Jean-Luc Dorier demonstrates how light therapy glass can help reduce the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. Dorier is a research engineer at SICPA and formerly a research and development scientist at Thermo Fisher Scientific.

Dorier 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.

For more information about light therapy, see:

Other People’s Choice finalists who demonstrated light in health:

"Medical Operating," by David Martin Huamani Bedoya, Dos De Mayo Hospital, Lima, Peru, 30 January 2014. The handling of surgical tools requires the utmost sensitivity. Surgeons need the best LED lighting when they are operating. Above, Bedoya displays surgeons operating on a heart under LEDs. See Huamani Bedoya’s portfolio.
"The Good Light," by Gabriele Orlini, health center in the Ntita Village, Katanga, Democratic Republic of Congo, 5 June 2012. Orlini’s photo is a part of his photo series covering a project called 9 Moons (mAma), which focuses on the side effects of sexually assaulted women who are unwanted by their tribal societies. See Orlini’s portfolio.

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

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



"Shane Adaptive Optics (AO) Laser Guide Star/ShARCS," by Laurie Hatch (USA), taken at the Lick Observatory, Mt. Hamilton, California, USA, 10 September 2014. The Lick Observatory carries out high profile programs discovering exploding starts in the nearby universe and planets orbiting other stars. Adaptive optics is now considered almost indispensable for imaging distant objects.



"Observing the Sky," by Anze Osterman (Slovenia), Soca Valley, Slovenia, taken 29 August 2014. Photographers need light to make an image. Astrophotography requires long exposures, a cable release, and a rigid tripod. 


"Milky Way in Life," by Jadsada Saetiew (Thailand), taken in Phayao, Thailand, 16 June 2014. Like Osterman's photo, the human on the ground is shining a flashlight on an already illuminated night sky.


"Rocky Planet of Night Lights," by Tunç Tezel (Turkey), taken in Uludağ National Park, near Bursa, Turkey, with a fisheye lens 4 July 2013. Tezel's photo was taken from an elevation of 2539 meters and shows the lights of several towns and villages and the Milky Way.


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).