Skip to main content

Taking a Deep Dive into the World of Biophotonics

Gavrielle presents her research in Ven
SPIE Student Member Gavrielle Untracht is pursuing her PhD at The University of Western Australia. She had the chance to participate in the 9th International Graduate Summer School in Biophotonics this past June on the island of Ven between Sweden and Denmark.

At the school, sponsored by SPIE, invited experts from around the globe gave extended presentations on topics like tissue optics, strategies for cancer treatment using lasers, and entrepreneurship in photonics. Attendees also had the opportunity to present their current research projects, results, or ideas. Gavrielle shares her experiences of the summer school with this community in the following guest blog post.

I recently returned from a week of great discussions and beautiful weather at the 9th Biophotonics Summer School on the Isle of Ven, Sweden. This experience, made possible (in part) by SPIE, was an invaluable opportunity for networking and a deep dive into the world of biophotonics that I would highly recommend to any student pursuing a career in biophotonics or optics in general. It was a great vacation from my regular PhD duties to do one of my favorite things – learn about optics!

SPIE Fellows Stefan Andersson-Engels, currently of the Irish Photonic Integration Center (IPIC), and Peter Andersen with DTU Health Tech, started the school in 2003 to fill a gap in photonics education since no comprehensive course in biophotonics was available. They invited experts in 10 topics to lecture a small group of students with the goal of facilitating education and in-depth discussions on topics relevant to the field. As (arguably) the birthplace of modern science, the Isle of Ven makes a perfect backdrop: Tycho Brahe had his observatory there in the 16th century! He’s notably the first astronomer to use empirical measurements to support his research.

During my PhD, I have spent time at two universities: The University of Western Australia and the University of Surrey. Still, I always find it challenging to find new technical courses in my field. The in-depth lectures at Summer School allowed me to bolster my technical background on many different topics ranging from the physics of supercontinuum laser sources to gas spectroscopy for nondestructive testing of food. The lecturers always made themselves available for additional details or more in-depth discussion on any of the topics they addressed. Even if some material isn’t new, there’s nothing like going back to the basics to help you work through any challenges in your research. Even discussing things you know, but with new people and in a new place can help you see things from a different perspective.

Some of the topics were very relevant to my research, such as lectures on OCT by Wolfgang Drexler of the Medical University of Vienna, although some of my favorite lectures focused on new topics that I might not have otherwise investigated. A good example is lectures on combining optics with x-rays by Brian Pogue of the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth. Thinking about these new topics allowed me to form a better picture of where my work fits in the field and how I could broaden my research horizons.

However, some of the best experiences I got at the Summer School were during mealtimes. (And not just because of the delicious food!) Given the small group size and geographical isolation, I had the opportunity to interact with everyone there, and mealtimes were some of the best opportunities for networking. Now I have other people to talk to when I go to a big conference like SPIE Photonics West!

One of the most valuable parts of the Summer School was having the opportunity to interact with lecturers in both an academic and non-academic way. It was great to be able to discuss my wild ideas with Kishan Dholakia from the University of St. Andrews over dinner, and I’ll never forget playing trivia with Wolfgang Drexler and Melissa Skala from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. These types of interactions help break down the barrier between students and lecturers and facilitate better discussion. Now, I’ll be less ‘star struck’ when I meet a professor whose papers I’ve been reading for years and will have the confidence to go up and talk to them. And who knows – maybe one of the lecturers will be my future boss! (Note: I will be looking for a post-doc in about two years *wink*)

Incidentally, Brian Pogue, is also the editor of the SPIE Journal for Biomedical Optics. Every two years JBO puts out a special issue for the Summer School which features tutorials written by some of the lecturers and research papers from summer school attendees. Keep an eye out for this year’s issue to see some of the things we’ve been talking about!

Summer School attendees listen to a lecture by Brian Pogue

Gavrielle (second from left) with fellow Summer School attendees


Popular posts from this blog

An International Inspiration: Attending the International Day of Light 2019 Celebration in Trieste

John Dudley and Perla Viera in Trieste Perla Marlene Viera González, an SPIE Early Career Professional Member working at the Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon, represented the SPIE Student and ECP Membership at the International Day of Light 2019 celebration in Trieste, 16 May. She shares with this community her experiences at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) and the impact of taking part in this annual day of recognizing light. The International Day of Light brings together culture and science.  — SPIE John Dudley, Steering Committee Chair of IDL This phrase was part of the message given by John Dudley during the introduction to the International Day of Light 2019 at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy. And it reflects the importance of bringing together the science, technology, culture, and art that involves light in this emblematic celebration. This year, the IDL celebration was about “Illuminating Education,”

#FacesofPhotonics: Applied Optics Master's Student Christiane Ebongue

REACHING NEW HEIGHTS: Ebongue smiles as she overcomes  her fear of heights  at the top of the Umeda Sky Building in Osaka, Japan Bonjour ! Meet Christiane Ebongue, graduate student at Delaware State University (DSU).  Christiane is working on a master's degree in applied optics with a goal of achieving a PhD in Physics. When she is not spending time in the lab  —   something she says she loves so much, she would even want to be there on her birthday!  —  she enjoys her role as president of her university's SPIE Student Chapter. Ebongue moved to the United States from Cameroon for college, although she only spoke French at the time. Learning to speak a new language while learning a new field of science was intimidating, she says, but this feat just speaks to how tenacious of a person Ebongue is. Another example of this steadfast dedication and passion lies in her photonics advocacy work. After defending her thesis in the morning, Ebongue hopped in her car and drove from