A Virtual Symposium hosted by the Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics | May 16-18, 2021

Special Topics: Advanced Interferometry • Light Technologies in The Brain •
Photonics and Pandemics

Virtual Agenda


Tuan Vo-DinhTuan Vo-Dinh

Director of the Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics,
R. Eugene and Susie E. Goodson Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Professor of Chemistry
Duke University

Dr. Vo-Dinh is R. Eugene and Susie E. Goodson Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Professor of Chemistry, and Director of the Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics at Duke University. His research interests involve the development of advanced technologies for the protection of the environment and the improvement of human health. His research activities are focused on nanophotonics, biophotonics, nano-biosensors, biochips, molecular spectroscopy, medical diagnostics and therapy, immunotherapeutics, bioenergy research, personalized medicine, and global health. Dr. Vo-Dinh has received seven R&D 100 Awards for Most Technologically Significant Advance in Research and Development for his pioneering research and inventions of innovative technologies. He has received the Gold Medal Award, Society for Applied Spectroscopy (1988); the Languedoc-Roussillon Award (France) (1989); the Scientist of the Year Award, ORNL (1992); the Thomas Jefferson Award, Martin Marietta Corporation (1992); two Awards for Excellence in Technology Transfer, Federal Laboratory Consortium (1995, 1986); the Inventor of the Year Award, Tennessee Inventors Association (1996); and the Lockheed Martin Technology Commercialization Award (1998), The Distinguished Inventors Award, UT-Battelle (2003), and the Distinguished Scientist of the Year Award, ORNL (2003). In 1997, Dr. Vo-Dinh was presented the prestigious Exceptional Services Award for distinguished contribution to a Healthy Citizenry from the U.S. Department of Energy. In 2011 Dr. Vo-Dinh received the Award for Spectrochemical Analysis from the American Chemical Society (ACS) Division of Analytical Chemistry. In 2019, Dr, Vo-Dinh was awarded the Sir George Stokes Award from the Royal Society of Chemistry (United Kingdom).

Welcome Remarks

Sally A. KornbluthSally A. Kornbluth

Duke University Provost
Jo Rae Wright Distinguished Professor
Duke University

Sally Kornbluth, Ph.D. was appointed Duke University Provost on July 1, 2014. Kornbluth served as Vice Dean for Basic Science at Duke University School of Medicine from 2006-2014. In this role, she served as a liaison between the Dean’s office and the Basic Science Department Chairs and faculty, including oversight of the biomedical graduate programs in the School of Medicine, implementation of programs to support the research mission of the basic science faculty, and oversight of new and existing core laboratories.

Kornbluth received a B.A. in Political Science from Williams College in 1982 and a B.S. in Genetics from Cambridge University, England in 1984 where she was a Herchel Smith Scholar at Emmanuel College. She received her Ph.D. from The Rockefeller University in 1989 in Molecular Oncology and went on to postdoctoral training at the University of California, San Diego. She joined the Duke faculty in 1994 and is currently the Jo Rae Wright University Professor.

Kornbluth’s research interests include the study of cell proliferation and programmed cell death, areas of central importance for understanding both carcinogenesis and degenerative disorders. She has published extensively in these areas, studying these problems in a variety of model organisms.

Ravi V. BellamkondaRavi V. Bellamkonda

Vinik Dean, Pratt School of Engineering
Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering
Duke University

Ravi V. Bellamkonda is the Vinik Dean of the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University. Prior to becoming dean, Bellamkonda served as the Wallace H. Coulter Professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University. He is committed to fostering transformative research and pedagogical innovation as well as programs that create an entrepreneurial mindset amongst faculty and students. A trained bioengineer and neuroscientist, Bellamkonda holds an undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering. His graduate training at Brown University was in biomaterials and medical science (with Patrick Aebischer), and his post-doctoral training at Massachusetts Institute of Technology focused on the molecular mechanisms of axon guidance and neural development (with Jerry Schneider and Sonal Jhaveri). His current research explores the interplay of biomaterials and the nervous system for neural interfaces, nerve repair and brain tumor therapy. From 2014 to 2016, Bellamkonda served as president of the American Institute for Biological and Medical Engineering (AIMBE), the leading policy and advocacy organization for biomedical engineers with representation from industry, academia and government. Bellamkonda’s numerous awards include the Clemson Award for Applied Research from the Society for Biomaterials, EUREKA award from National Cancer Institute (National Institutes of Health), CAREER award from the National Science Foundation and Best Professor Award from the Georgia Tech Biomedical Engineering student body.

Special Celebration

UNESCO International Day of Light Message

John DudleyJohn Dudley

Co-Chair, UNESCO Steering Committee-International Day of Light, Professor of Physics, University of Franche-Comté (France)

John Dudley PhD FOSA FEOS FIEEE FInstP FSPIE DSc h.c. HonFRSNZ received B.Sc and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Auckland, New Zealand in 1987 and 1992 respectively. In 1992 and 1993, he carried out postdoctoral research at the University of St Andrews in Scotland before taking a lecturing position in 1994 at the University of Auckland. In 2000, he was appointed Professor at the University of Franche-Comté in Besançon, France.  His research has been supported from diverse sources both nationally and internationally, including: the CNRS, the French National Research Agency (ANR), the Region of Franche-Comté, the European Commission, the European Office of Aerospace Research and Development, and the European Research Council. 

He has made particular contributions in the fields of ultrafast optics, supercontinuum generation and the science of rogue waves, and he has published over 500 contributions in journals & conference proceedings and delivered over 120 invited talks at major conferences.  His research has been extensively cited (14700 times Web of Science; 23000 times Google Scholar) and his h-index is 59/63/72 (Web of ScienceSCOPUSGoogle Scholar). He has acted as Chair or Co-Chair of many international conference events (including CLEO Europe, Photonics Global Conference etc) and has served in a number of editorial boards for major journals including as Associate and then Deputy Editor of Optics Express (OSA) and Editor in Chief of Optical & Quantum Electronics (Springer).  In addition to his research, he is committed to education and the public communication of science at the international level. He is an active member of a number of scientific societies and boards, and he served as the President of the European Physical Society for a two year term from April 2013-March 2015. In 2009, he initiated the International Year of Light & Light-based Technologies 2015 and chaired its Steering Committee until its successful final report and completion in 2016. He has participated in a number of high level panels and forums including events at UNESCO headquarters in Paris and the United Nations headquarters in New York, speaking at the Annual Meeting of the Public-Private Partnership Photonics 21 in Brussels, the World Science Forum, and others.  Since 2018, he has coordinated follow-up actions with UNESCO in the frame of the International Day of Light which is a permanent United Nations observance celebrating optical science and its applications. 

TThe International Day of Light is an annual observance of the United Nations to raise awareness of how light science and technology impacts on society and sustainable development.  Since its first celebration in 2018, thousands of International Day of Light events have reached millions worldwide in more than 70 countries.  This overview will describe the overall goals of the International Day of Light and some of the specific plans for 2021.

An Overview of the International Day of Light 2021

Symposium Keynote

Dr. Rainer WeissRainer Weiss

2017 Nobel Laureate in Physics, Professor of Physics, Emeritus Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, MA, USA

RAINER WEISS SB ’55; PhD ’62 (NAS) is a Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Previously Dr. Weiss served as an assistant physics professor at Tufts University and has been an adjunct professor at Louisiana State University since 2001. Dr. Weiss is known for his pioneering measurements of the spectrum of the cosmic microwave background radiation, his inventions of the monolithic silicon bolometer and the laser interferometer gravitational wave detector and his roles as a co-founder and an intellectual leader of both the COBE (microwave background) Project and the LIGO (gravitational-wave detection) Project. He has received numerous scientific and group achievement awards from NASA, an MIT excellence in teaching award, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, the National Space Club Science Award, the Medaille de l’ADION Observatoire de Nice, the Gruber Cosmology Prize, and the Einstein Prize of the American Physical Society. Dr. Weiss is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Physical Society, The American Academy of Arts and Sciences; and he is a member of the American Astronomical Society, the New York Academy of Sciences, and Sigma Xi. He received his B.S. and Ph.D. in physics from MIT. Dr. Weiss is a member of the NAS and has served on nine NRC committees from 1986 to 2007 including the Committee on NASA Astrophysics Performance Assessment; the Panel on Particle, Nuclear, and Gravitational-wave Astrophysics; and the Task Group on Space Astronomy and Astrophysics.

The first detection of gravitational waves was made in September 2015 with the measurement of the coalescence of two ~30 solar mass black holes at a distance of about 1 billion light years from Earth. The talk will provide a review of more recent measurements of black hole events as well as the first detection of the coalescence of two neutron stars and the beginning of multi-messenger astrophysics. The talk will end with a discussion of some prospects for the field.

“The beginnings of gravitational wave astronomy: current state and future”

FIP Pioneer Award Presentation

Dr. Rainer Weiss2021 Winner: Rainer Weiss

2017 Nobel Laureate in Physics, Professor of Physics, Emeritus Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, MA, USA

To recognize the dedicated contributions that researchers have made in the photonics community, the Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics (FIP) created the FIP Pioneer Award to honor these individuals.

Past Winners
  • 2020 – Donna Strickland
  • 2019 – Shuji Nakamura
  • 2018 – Steven Chu
  • 2017 – Eric Betzig
  • 2016 – W.E. Moerner
  • 2015 – Theodor W. Hänsch
  • 2014 – Roger Y. Tsien
  • 2013 – William D. Phillips
  • 2011 – Martin Chalfie
  • 2010 – Ahmed H. Zewail
  • 2008 – John L. Hall
  • 2006 – Charles Townes

Pioneer Award Presentation by FIP Director Tuan Vo-Dinh
and Message from
Awardee Dr. Ranier Weiss

Plenary LectureS

Dr. Edward S. BoydenEdward S. Boyden

Y. Eva Tan Professor in Neurotechnology at MIT,
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Departments of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Media Arts and Sciences, and Biological Engineering,
Co-Director, MIT Center for Neurobiological Engineering Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA

Ed Boyden is Y. Eva Tan Professor in Neurotechnology at MIT, an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the MIT McGovern Institute, and professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Media Arts and Sciences, and Biological Engineering at MIT. He leads the Synthetic Neurobiology Group, which develops tools for analyzing and repairing complex biological systems such as the brain, and applies them systematically to reveal ground truth principles of biological function as well as to repair these systems. He co-directs the MIT Center for Neurobiological Engineering, which aims to develop new tools to accelerate neuroscience progress, and is a faculty member of the MIT Center for Environmental Health Sciences, Computational & Systems Biology Initiative, and Koch Institute. Amongst other recognitions, he has received the Wilhelm Exner Medal (2020), the Croonian Medal (2019), the Lennart Nilsson Award (2019), the Warren Alpert Foundation Prize (2019), the Rumford Prize (2019), the Canada Gairdner International Award (2018), the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2016), the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award (2015), the Carnegie Prize in Mind and Brain Sciences (2015), the Jacob Heskel Gabbay Award (2013), the Grete Lundbeck Brain Prize (2013), the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award (2013), the NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award (three times, 2012, 2013, and 2017), and the Perl/UNC Neuroscience Prize (2011). He was also named to the World Economic Forum Young Scientist list (2013) and the Technology Review World’s “Top 35 Innovators under Age 35” list (2006), and is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences (2019), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2017), the National Academy of Inventors (2017), and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (2018). His group has hosted hundreds of visitors to learn how to use new biotechnologies, and he also regularly teaches at summer courses and workshops in neuroscience, and delivers lectures to the broader public (e.g., TED (2011), TED Summit (2016), World Economic Forum (2012, 2013, 2016)). Ed received his Ph.D. in neurosciences from Stanford University as a Hertz Fellow, working in the labs of Jennifer Raymond and Richard Tsien, where he discovered that the molecular mechanisms used to store a memory are determined by the content to be learned. In parallel to his PhD, as an independent side project, he co-invented optogenetic control of neurons, which is now used throughout neuroscience. Previously, he studied chemistry at the Texas Academy of Math and Science at the University of North Texas, starting college at age 14, where he worked in Paul Braterman’s group on origins of life chemistry. He went on to earn three degrees in electrical engineering and computer science, and physics, from MIT, graduating at age 19, while working on quantum computing in Neil Gershenfeld’s group. Long-term, he hopes that understanding how the brain generates the mind will help provide a deeper understanding of the human condition, and perhaps help humanity achieve a more enlightened state. 


Understanding and repairing complex biological systems, such as the brain, requires technologies for systematically observing and controlling these systems.  We are discovering new molecular principles that enable such technologies.  For example, we discovered that one can physically magnify biological specimens by synthesizing dense networks of swellable polymer throughout them, and then chemically processing the specimens to isotropically swell them.  This method, which we call expansion microscopy, enables ordinary microscopes to do nanoimaging – important for mapping the brain across scales.  Expansion of biomolecules away from each other also decrowds them, enabling previously invisible nanostructures to be labeled and seen.  As a second example, we discovered that microbial opsins, genetically expressed in neurons, could enable their electrical activities to be precisely controlled in response to light.  These molecules, now called optogenetic tools, enable causal assessment of how neurons contribute to behaviors and pathological states, and are yielding insights into new treatment strategies for brain diseases.  Finally, we are developing, using new strategies such as robotic directed evolution, fluorescent reporters that enable the precision measurement of signals such as voltage and calcium.  By fusing such reporters to self-assembling peptides, they can be stably clustered within cells at random points, distant enough to be resolved by a microscope, but close enough to spatially sample the relevant biology. Such clusters, which we call signaling reporter islands (SiRIs), permit many fluorescent reporters to be used within a single cell, to simultaneously reveal relationships between different signals.  We share all these tools freely, and aim to integrate the use of these tools so as to enable comprehensive understandings of neural circuits.

“Optical Tools for Analyzing and Controlling Biological Systems”

Valery TuchinValery V. Tuchin

Head of Optics and Biophotonics Chair
Saratov State University
National Research Tomsk State University
ITMO University, Institute of Precision Mechanics
and Control of the RAS, Russia

Valery V. Tuchin – Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Professor, Head of the Department of Optics and Biophotonics and Director of the Scientific Medical Center of the Saratov State University. He is also the Head of the laboratory for laser diagnostics of technical and living systems at the Institute of Precise Mechanics and Control of the RAS, the supervisor of the Interdisciplinary Laboratory of Biophotonics at the National Research Tomsk State University and the Femtomedicine Laboratory of the ITMO University.  His research interests include biophotonics, biomedical optics, tissue optics, laser medicine, tissue optical clearing, and nanobiophotonics. He is a member of SPIE, OSA and IEEE, Visiting Professor at HUST (Wuhan) and Tianjin Universities in China, and Adjunct Professor at the University of Limerick (Ireland) and the National University of Ireland (Galway).

Professor Tuchin was elected Fellow SPIE and OSA, he was awarded many titles and awards, including Honored Scientist of the Russian Federation, Honored Professor of SSU, Honored Professor of Finland (FiDiPro), SPIE in the field of optical education, Chime Bell of Hubei province (China), Joseph Goodman (OSA / SPIE) for Outstanding Monograph (2015), Michael Feld (OSA) for Pioneering Research in Biophotonics (2019), the Medal of the D.S. Rozhdestvensky Optical Society (2018) and the Alexander Mikhailovich Prokhorov medal of the Academy of Engineering Sciences named after A.M. Prokhorov (2021). He is the author of over 700 articles (Web of Science), 30 monographs and textbooks, has over 60 patents, his work has been cited over 30,000 times.


A description of tissue optics, concept of ‘tissue optical windows’ and method of optical clearing (OC) based on controllable and reversible modification of tissue or cell optical properties by their soaking with a biocompatible optical clearing agent (OCA) will be done [1-8]. Fundamentals and major mechanisms of OC allowing one to enhance optical imaging facilities and laser treatment efficiency of living tissues and cells will be presented. The enhancement of probing/treatment depth and image contrast for a number of human and animal tissues investigated by using different optical modalities, including diffuse reflectance spectroscopy, collimated transmittance, OCT, photoacoustic microscopy, linear and nonlinear fluorescence, SHG and Raman microscopies will be discussed. Experimental data on the diffusion and permeability coefficients of biocompatible FDA approved OCAs, such as glucose, glycerol, PEG, albumin, CT contrast agents (Iohexol and Iodixanol), and MRI contrast agents such as Gadobutrol in normal and pathological tissues (cancer and diabetes) will be presented. Perspectives of immersion optical clearing/contrasting technique aiming to enhance imaging of living tissues by using different imaging modalities working in the ultra-broad wavelength range from free electron beam excitation (Cherenkov light emission) to terahertz waves will be discussed.



[1] D. Zhu et al., Recent progress in tissue optical clearing, Laser Photonics Rev. 7(5), 732–757 (2013).

[2] E. A. Genina, et al., Optical clearing of biological tissues: prospects of application in medical diagnostics and phototherapy, J. Biomed. Photonics & Eng. 1(1), 22–58 (2015).

[3] V. V. Tuchin, Polarized light interaction with tissues, J. Biomed. Opt. 21(7), 071114-1-37 (2016).

[4] A.Yu. Sdobnov et al., Recent progress in tissue optical clearing for spectroscopic application, Spectroch. Acta Part A: Molec. & Biomol. Spectrosc. 197, 216–229 (2018).

[5] O.A. Smolyanskaya et al., Terahertz biophotonics as a tool for studies of dielectric and spectral properties of biological tissues and liquids, Progress in Quantum Electronics 62, Nov. 1-77 (2018).

[6] A. N. Bashkatov et al., Measurement of tissue optical properties in the context of tissue optical clearing, J. Biomed. Opt. 23(9), 091416 (2018).

[7] D. K. Tuchina and V. V. Tuchin, Optical and structural properties of biological tissues under diabetes mellitus, J. Biomed. Photonics & Eng. 4 (2) 020201-1-22 (2018).

[8] L. Oliveira and V. V. Tuchin, The optical clearing method: A new tool for Clinical Practice and Biomedical Engineering, Basel: Springer Nature Switzerland AG, 2019.

“Towards multimodal tissue imaging with optical clearing”

Invited Lectures

Elizabeth M.C. HillmanElizabeth M.C. Hillman

Herbert and Florence Irving Professor
Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute
Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Radiology
Columbia University, New York, NY, USA

I am a Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Radiology at Columbia University and a member of the new Columbia Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, as well as the Kavli Institute for Brain Science. I have been working in the fields of biomedical optics and in-vivo imaging for over 20 years. My lab specializes in both the development of novel in-vivo optical imaging and microscopy techniques, and applying these tools to perform functional brain imaging, particularly to explore brain function and the mechanistic relationship between neural activity and blood flow regulation in the brain. My major technological contributions have included the development of dynamic contrast methods for small animal imaging (DyCE), the application of in-vivo mesoscale ‘wide-field optical mapping’ (WFOM) to studying brain perfusion, neurovascular coupling and resting-state whole-brain neural activity, and the development of swept, confocally-aligned planar excitation (SCAPE) microscopy for high-speed 3D single-objective light-sheet imaging [1a-d, 0b, 0d]. We recently licensed SCAPE to Leica Microsystems for commercial development. We have applied SCAPE microscopy to imaging a wide range of living organisms, from beating zebrafish heats [0b] and crawling Drosophila larvae [1e] to neuronal calcium dynamics in awake, behaving mouse brains [1b,d] and odor receptors in the olfactory epithelim [0d]. SCAPE is also capable of rapid structural volumetric imaging in samples ranging from fresh human tissues and flat mount retinas to cleared and expanded tissues [0b]. Since we first published SCAPE in 2015 we have helped a wide range of groups to adopt the technique, supporting them to build their own systems, hosting visitors, bringing systems to courses and collaborating to optimize SCAPE for specific research applications. New developments include 2-photon and Meso-SCAPE. My lab also focuses on utilizing our in-vivo imaging techniques for a wide range of experimental studies in mouse models, looking at ‘real-time’ brain-wide neuronal activty and brain state [0a, 0c], and the relationship between neural activity and blood flow in the normal brain [0a, 3a,d] during early brain development [3c] and during progression of diseases such as brain cancer [0c, 3b], and stroke. Our methods permit longitudinal studies of brain function in awake, behaving animals, providing a valuable platform to map and understand how brain activity relates to behavior and pathophysiology, as well as responses to therapeutic interventions. 



Although point-scanning microscopes have revolutionized biomedical research over the past 3 decades, they are fundamentally limited in their ability to acquire 3D data at high speeds. Leveraging light sheet illumination in a single-objective geometry we developed SCAPE microscopy as a gentle yet ultra high-speed method for 3D imaging of intact and living samples. In addition to developing a wide range of different SCAPE systems, we have demonstrated the power of high-speed 3D microscopy to capture the dynamics of life in a wide range of samples including crawling Drosophila larvae and C. elegans worms, the mouse olfactory epithelium and in-vivo brain. We have also developed platforms for high-throughput imaging of intact and cleared tissues, as well as a clinical Medi-SCAPE platform for in-situ histopathology. I will describe our latest technological developments and results.


“Fast 3D microscopy to capture the dynamics of life”

Carl PetersenCarl Petersen

Professor, Laboratory of Sensory Processing
Brain Mind Institute, Faculty of Life Science
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)
Lausanne, Switzerland

Carl Petersen studied physics as a bachelor student in Oxford (1989-1992). During his PhD studies under the supervision of Prof. Sir Michael Berridge in Cambridge (1992-1996), he investigated cellular and molecular mechanisms of calcium signalling. In his first postdoctoral period (1996-1998), he joined the laboratory of Prof. Roger Nicoll at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) to investigate synaptic transmission and plasticity in the hippocampus. During a second postdoctoral period, in the laboratory of Prof. Bert Sakmann at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg (1999-2003), he began working on the primary somatosensory barrel cortex, investigating cortical circuits and sensory processing. Carl Petersen joined the Brain Mind Institute of the Faculty of Life Sciences at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in 2003, setting up the Laboratory of Sensory Processing to investigate the functional operation of neuronal circuits in awake mice during quantified behavior. In 2019, Carl Petersen became the Director of the EPFL Brain Mind Institute, with the goal to promote quantitative multidisciplinary research into neural structure, function, dysfunction, computation and therapy through technological advances.


Optical imaging of fluorescent sensors of neuronal activity is providing remarkable insights into the functional organisation of the mouse brain. Wide-field imaging of voltage- and calcium-sensitive fluorescent indicators allows measurement of the spatiotemporal dynamics of neocortical activity across brain areas in head-restrained mice performing simple learned tasks. Genetically-encoded sensors offer the possibility to image genetically-defined classes of neurons longitudinally over days including across learning. Multiphoton imaging of such genetically-encoded calcium sensors in transgenic mice provide cellular and subcellular resolution. Neuronal network activity during behavior can therefore be measured with increasing precision in mice. Further combined with optogenetic actuators to control neuronal activity, we begin to be able to explore causal mechanisms of sensory perception, motor control and reward-based learning.

“Multiscale optical imaging of the mouse brain in action”

Jess McIverJess McIver

Assistant Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, Canada

Dr. Jess McIver (she/her) is an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at the University of British Columbia. She earned her PhD from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2015, and then went on to a postdoc with the LIGO Laboratory at Caltech. She has worked with the LIGO Scientific Collaboration since 2007 on characterization of the LIGO detectors and astrophysical data analysis, and contributed to the first detection of gravitational waves and subsequent discoveries.

In less than five years, the field of gravitational wave astronomy has grown from a groundbreaking first discovery to revealing new populations of stellar remnants through distant cosmic collisions. LIGO-Virgo has now reported 50 known compact object mergers, including the first discovery of an intermediate mass black hole. I’ll summarize recent results from LIGO-Virgo and their implications, discuss the instrumentation of the Advanced LIGO detectors, and give an overview of future prospects and technological challenges for the field.

“Detecting gravitational waves with Advanced LIGO”

Ira Thorpe -- ASD 660 Staff Photos (Astrophysics Science Division, Code 660/NASA/GSFC)

(James) Ira Thorpe 

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, Maryland, USA

(James) Ira Thorpe was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico and spent his childhood exploring the mountains by foot, bicycle, and ski. He graduated from the Santa Fe Preparatory School in 1997 and enrolled at Bucknell University in Mechanical Engineering. Ira graduated from Bucknell in 2001 with degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Physics and moved to the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC to study Physics at the University of Maryland. While at UMD, Ira was selected for a fellowship at NASA where he began research with the nascent Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) project in the area of laser frequency stabilization. That experience was enough to catch the LISA and gravitational wave fever and move Ira to transfer to the University of Florida to pursue a Ph.D. developing technologies for LISA metrology. Ira arrived in Gainesville after a brief hiatus in Patagonia with the National Outdoor Leadership School where he spent three months backpacking and kayaking in the Chilean wilderness. After completing his Ph.D. at UF in 2006, Ira returned to NASA as a postdoctoral fellow to work on LISA. In 2009, Ira converted to a civil servant, and he has been working on LISA and gravitational waves ever since. In addition to expertise in LISA metrology, Ira has developed skills in mission design, instrument simulation, and gravitational wave data analysis. He served as NASA’s representative to ESA’s LISA Pathfinder mission from 2013-2017 and actively participated in science operations of both the European and NASA payloads. He currently serves as the NASA Study Scientist for the joint ESA-NASA LISA mission. Ira lives in the Maryland suburbs with his wife and three children.

Ripples in the fabric of spacetime known as gravitational waves are now routinely observed using terrestrial interferometers of impressive size and exquisite precision. In addition to yielding important new insights into the workings of our universe and some of its most elusive inhabitants, these instruments push the boundaries of metrology technology.  But despite the power of these instruments, and the inevitable increase in performance of their descendants, the universe is filled with gravitational waves that they can never detect. To observe gravitational waves in the millihertz band, with wavelengths of millions of kilometers, we must leave the planet and build an interferometer on a truly colossal scale.  The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) is a joint effort of the European Space Agency and NASA to implement a space-based observatory for millihertz gravitational waves.  Consisting of a three spacecraft in a triangular constellation 2.5 million kilometers on a side, the LISA instrument is large enough for the Sun to fit inside it. I will provide an overview of the LISA science objectives, its measurement concept, and the technology required to realize its goals. I will highlight in particular the successes and lessons learned from previous space missions including LISA Pathfinder and the Laser Ranging Instrument of the GRACE-FO mission. I will conclude with a summary of the current status of the LISA mission and a vision for what might be possible in the distant future.

“Picometers over Gigameters: The effort to build an interferometer the size of our Sun”

Na JiaNa Ji

Associate Professor, Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute
Department of Physics, Department of Molecular Cell Biology
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, California, USA

I have been a faculty member at the Molecular and Cell Biology (MCB) Department at UC Berkeley since 2016. Prior to UC Berkeley, I was a group leader at Janelia Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). My research centers on developing novel imaging methods and applying them to understand neural circuits. To understand neural circuits, we need to monitor the activity of neurons distributed millimeters in area and depth but with sub-micron spatial and millisecond temporal resolution. Since 2011, my laboratory has used concepts in astronomy and optics, such as adaptive optics and wavefront engineering, to develop next-generation microscopy methods for imaging the brain at higher resolution, greater depth, and faster speed. We have achieved synapse-level spatial resolution throughout the entire depth of primary visual cortex, optimized microendoscopes for imaging deeply buried nuclei, developed video-rate (30 Hz) volumetric imaging and kilohertz frame-rate voltage imaging methods. We apply these methods to understanding neural circuits in early visual pathway, using mouse as our model system. We actively work on disseminating our imaging methods, so that the entire neurobiological community can benefit from our work. Throughout my career, I have worked and thrived at the interfaces of sciences. I enjoy speaking the languages of different scientific disciplines and have witnessed repeatedly how interdisciplinary research has transformed chemistry, physics, and biology. I have collaborated extensively with researchers from other institutions (e.g., HHMI, Purdue University, NIDA, UC Davis, Max Planck Florida Institute, Champalimaud, Albert Einstein College of Medicine) and produced peer-reviewed publications for all collaborative projects.


To understand computation in the brain, one needs to understand the input-output relationships for neural circuits and the anatomical and functional relationships of individual neurons therein. Optical microscopy has emerged as an ideal tool in this quest, as it is capable of recording the activity of neurons distributed over millimeter dimensions with sub-micron spatial resolution. I will describe how we use concepts in astronomy and optics to develop next-generation microscopy methods for imaging the brain at higher resolution, greater depth, and faster speed. By shaping the wavefront of the light, we have achieved synapse-level spatial resolution through the entire depth of the primary visual cortex, optimized microendoscopes for imaging deeply buried nuclei, and developed video-rate volumetric and kilohertz functional imaging methods. We apply these methods to understanding neural circuits, using the mouse brain as our model system. 

“Imaging the brain at high spatiotemporal resolution”

Christian Joachim KählerChristian Joachim Kähler

Professor, Institute for Fluid Mechanics and Aerodynamics
Bundeswehr University
Munich, Germany

Christian J. Kähler received his Physics Diplom Degree from the Technical University Clausthal in 1997, his PhD in Physics from the Georg August University of Goettingen in 2004 and his Habilitation from the Technical University in Brunswick in 2008. From 1996 to 2001 Dr. Kaehler worked at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Goettingen, during which he had research stays at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in 1996 and at Caltech in 1998. From 2001 to 2008 he was the head of the research group on Flow Control and Measuring Techniques at the Technical University Brunswick. He then became Professor for Fluid Dynamics and was appointed director of the Institute of Fluid Mechanics and Aerodynamics of the University at der Bundeswehr Munich in 2008. In 2012, he was offered an Einstein professorship for Aerodynamics at the Technical University Berlin (declined) and in 2017 the Technical University Darmstadt offered him to become head of the chair of Fluid Mechanics (declined). 2021, he has received the Rohde Prize, endowed with 10000 euros, for his groundbreaking research work. His research covers a broad range of topics involving the development of optical measurement techniques on the micro and macro scale in order to further investigate complex phenomenon in microfluidics and turbulent flows at subsonic, transonic, and supersonic conditions. In recent months, his research on SARS-CoV-2 infection has generated a great deal of national and international media attention, and Prof. Kähler has become a much sought-after advisor to policy makers. He is an associate editor of Experiments in Fluids (Springer Nature), an editorial advisory board member of Flow, Turbulence and Combustion (Springer Nature) and editorial board member of Theoretical & Applied Mechanics Letters (Elsevier). He was chairman of the International Conference on Experimental Fluid Mechanics 2018 and organizer of the International Symposium on Particle Image Velocimetry in 2019. He has given many keynote and named lectures and more than 100 invited lectures. He has authored and co-authored over 100 archival publications and 200 conference papers. Furthermore, he co-authored the 3rd edition of the Springer book on Particle Image Velocimetry, which has been cited nearly 8000 times.

The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is currently presenting humanity with major challenges. Containing the spread of the virus requires enormous financial, technical and social efforts, and it is impossible to predict how well humanity will cope with the problem. Since the infectious disease not only has an acute course, but can also cause long-lasting systemic damage to infected individuals, prevention of infection is most important. It is generally accepted that the transmission of viruses is largely via droplets and aerosol particles. Therefore, the question of how these aerosol particles are generated and released and how they spread through the room and cause infection is particularly important to answer. Next, there is the question of how to best protect against infection. The answer to this question depends on the areas for which protection is to be established, because different protective measures have to be taken in a pedestrian zone than in buses and trains or in offices, schools and restaurants. To address these two problems, the first part of the talk will present the formation of aerosol particles in the body, their ejection by breathing, speaking, singing and coughing, and their dispersion in space. In the second part, the effectiveness of different protective measures is analyzed experimentally using laser based measurement data. In particular, the effectiveness of different masks for individual protection, as well as the usefulness of room air cleaners and protective walls, is demonstrated quantitatively. A deeper understanding of the spread processes and the protection options is imperative to effectively limit the spread of the pandemic and thus the costs for the state, the economy and society. Whether society is finally ready to protect itself effectively depends on the insight of the population, but also on the way the measures are implemented politically. This will also be discussed during the lecture, because this pandemic can only be contained if science, technology, politics and the population pull together.

“From droplets to pandemic – how to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infections via droplets and aerosols”

Philip AnfinrudPhilip Anfinrud

Section Chief, Ultrafast Biophysical Chemistry Section
Laboratory of Chemical Physics
National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, Maryland, USA

Dr. Philip Anfinrud is currently the Section Chief in the Ultrafast Biophysical Chemistry Section at NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.  He finished his Ph.D at Iowa State University in 1987.  Later, he joined Harvard University as an Assistant Professor in 1990 then to Associate Professor in 1995. Dr. Anfinrud was a Visiting Scientist at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in 1997.  

Droplets emitted from one’s oral cavity while breathing, singing, speaking, coughing, or sneezing span a large range of sizes and velocities. If an individual is infected with a respiratory virus, others nearby can inhale some of these emitted particles and become infected. Emitted droplets contain mostly water, but rapidly dry out under ambient conditions to generate smaller particles. For example, a particle that is 96% water shrinks by a factor of 3 when dehydrated, and falls to the ground with a terminal velocity that is proportional to the square of its size. Therefore, particles large enough to fall to the ground before they dehydrate pose little risk to bystanders. On the other hand, particles small enough to dehydrate quickly and linger in the air, but large enough to contain at least one viable virion, pose a far greater risk to bystanders. Capturing emitted particles with an absorbent face covering significantly reduces the risk of airborne transmission of viruses, and is recommended by the CDC as the single most effective defense against transmission of a disease for which there is no herd immunity. 


One of the grand challenges in the 21st century is to understand how proteins function from a mechanistic point of view. Proteins are not static molecules, as often depicted by their crystal structure, but undergo conformational changes that can, for example, gate ligand transport or switch a protein’s target function on or off. The time scale for these changes can vary from the chemical time scale of femtoseconds to seconds. Hence, an understanding of protein function requires knowledge of structure changes over a broad range of time scales. The Anfinrud group has developed numerous time-resolved methods for studying proteins including femtosecond time-resolved optical and infrared spectroscopy, picosecond time-resolved Laue diffraction, and picosecond time-resolved Small- and Wide-angle X-ray Scattering (SAXS/WAXS). These methods required new innovations involving electronics, optics, nonlinear optics, ultrafast lasers, ultrafast pulse detection and characterization, motorized mechanical systems, as well as software development for instrument control and data analysis. Since 2007, the Anfinrud group has expanded substantially the time-resolved capabilities of the BioCARS ID-14B beamline at the Advanced Photon Source, Argonne, Ill, and have used this resource extensively in time-resolved X-ray studies of proteins.

“Visualization and characterization of fluid droplets emitted from the oral cavity with laser light scattering show how face coverings mitigate the risk of respiratory virus transmission”


Richard MooneyRichard D. Mooney

George Barth Geller Professor of Neurobiology
Duke University School of Medicine

Richard Mooney, Ph.D., has served as a George Barth Geller Professor of Research in Neurobiology since 2010. He joined Duke’s Department of Neurobiology in 1994. Dr. Mooney’s research examines the role of auditory experience in the development of brain and behavior, and the interplay between auditory and motor brain regions that enables vocal communication. He and his colleagues have identified how auditory experience alters the structure and function of nerve cells important to learned vocal communication, how these neurons are activated during expressive and receptive aspects of vocal communication, and the link between the auditory properties of these neurons and vocal perception. His group uses a wide variety of methods to this end, including in vivo multiphoton imaging and electrophysiological recordings of neurons in freely vocalizing animals, viral methods to manipulate gene expression in neurons, and acoustic analysis of vocalizations. Dr. Mooney has received the Moore Visiting Fellowship at Caltech, Wiersma Visiting Fellowship at Caltech, Dart Foundation Scholar’s Award, McKnight Investigator Award, Sloane Research Fellowship, Klingenstein Research Fellowship and the Helen Hay Whitney Fellowship. He was also honored to receive the Master Teaching Award, the Davison Teaching Award and the Langford Prize from Duke University. He was elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2020. Dr. Mooney earned a B.S. in Biology from Yale University and a Ph.D. in Neurobiology from the California Institute of Technology. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University, he was appointed to the faculty of the Department of Neurobiology in the Duke University School of Medicine.

Skilled movements are typically more variable during practice, promoting exploration, yet highly stereotyped during performance, favoring resource exploitation. How ensembles of neurons encode and dynamically regulate motor variability across practice and performance states remains unknown. I will discuss how my group has used a variety of optical methods to explore this issue in the male zebra finch, a small songbird that sings more variable songs when practicing alone and highly stereotyped songs when performing to a female. Miniature microscopes and GRIN lenses combined with genetically encoded calcium indicators enables us to image neural activity in the singing finch’s basal ganglia, a region important to skilled sequential movements in all vertebrates.  During vocal practice, this approach reveals that activity in ensembles of BG neurons are specific to song, premotor in nature, and highly variable relative to their cortical premotor afferents. In contrast, BG neuron activity is strongly suppressed by the neuromodulator noradrenaline when the male sings to a female.  Moreover, optogenetically suppressing these neurons during solo practice strongly reduces vocal variability, causally linking BG neuron activity to vocal variability. Unsupervised learning methods applied to joint neural and vocal datasets reveal a coding scheme whereby specific patterns of BG neuronal activity map onto distinct spectral variants of syllables during solo practice. Thus, BG ensembles encode and drive vocal exploration during practice, and the social context dependent noradrenergic regulation of BG neuron activity enables stereotyped and highly precise vocal performance.

“Imaging the neural dynamics underlying birdsong practice and performance”

Joseph IzattJoseph Izatt

Michael J. Fitzpatrick Distinguished Professor of Engineering
Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Duke University
Professor in Ophthalmology, Duke University School of Medicine

My research centers on the development and application of cutting-edge optical technologies for non-invasive, high-resolution imaging and sensing in living biological tissues. Our laboratory is recognized for foundational contributions to optical coherence-based approaches for in vivo sub-surface microscopic tissue imaging, particularly optical coherence tomography (OCT) which has become a standard of care in ophthalmology and other clinical specialties. The technologies we employ include adaptive-optic devices, femtosecond lasers, ultrabroadband fiber optic telecommunications equipment, robots and robotic manipulators, high performance computing, and 3D display technologies. Together with our collaborators, we have developed and deployed multiple hand-held and intrasurgical systems for real-time volumetric imaging of the human eye, visualized using virtual/augmented reality displays and coupled to image-guided robotic microsurgical procedures. Our research team includes a rich and diverse group of highly motivated and productive undergraduate, MS and PhD students, staff and associated faculty along with multiple collaborations with engineers, biologists, and physicians at Duke and elsewhere.

Cutting edge optical biomedical imaging technologies adaptively control optical wavefronts and exploit spatial and temporal coherence to obtain wavelength-scale measurements of structure and function inside living biological tissues, while leveraging optical communications bandwidths to enable real-time 3D imaging. We have developed implementations of these technologies for multiple applications including super-resolved non-invasive retinal imaging, flexible hand-held interactive clinical diagnostic imaging, and real-time intrasurgical visualization and operative guidance. These advances allow for continuous volumetric microstructural imaging in living patients, and extend the benefits of the latest imaging technologies to previously inaccessible patient populations. Using these tools, we have demonstrated live imaging of individual retinal receptor cells both with and without adaptive optics, including the first demonstrations of retinal cone cell imaging in infants and children. We have pioneered the integration of optical coherence tomography into ophthalmic microsurgery, including surgical microscope-integrated image acquisition, real-time augmented reality visualization, and image-guided tele-operative and cooperative robotic manipulation of surgical tools with micrometer-scale precision. Several of these technologies have accomplished the transition from basic research, to clinical trials, to wide-scale adoption and commercial success, and thus serve as useful examples of the accumulating impact and continuing importance of innovation in biomedical optics and biophotonics.

“Advances in OCT for Interactive Clinical Imaging and Image-Guided Robotic Microsurgery”

Yiyang Gong

Yiyang Gong

Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering,
Assistant Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering,
Duke University and Assistant Professor in Neurobiology
Due University School of Medicine

Dr. Gong obtained his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology. He then obtained his M.S. and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University, working with Prof. Jelsena Vuckovic on plasmonic and photonic crystal optical devices. He worked with Prof. Mark Schnitzer at Stanford University as a postdoc in Biology, developing genetically encoded voltage sensors that are advancing the current generation of neuroscience experiments. His current work focuses on imaging neural activity with a combination of engineered protein sensors, optical microscopes, and computational algorithms. His work has been supported by the Beckman Young Investigator Award, the BRAIN initiative, the Brain Research Foundation, NIH New Innovator Award, Sloan Fellowship, and Vallee Young Investigator Award.

We developed a light-field microscope using patterned illumination. The patterned illumination helped extract resolution beyond the traditional light-field resolution throughout a small volume of acquisition. We imaged multiple test samples ranging from standards to live animals, and found improved contrast for small features. We also demonstrate a novel neuron segmentation technique, SUNS. The algorithm identifies neurons in calcium imaging movies with slightly higher accuracy than peer algorithms, but with approximately an order of magnitude faster speed. The algorithm combines modern deep learning and signal processing algorithms. We also developed an online version of the algorithm that can process imaging videos on a frame-by-frame basis with access to only a small number of recent frames.

“Advanced light-field imaging and deep learning processing of neural activity”

Lindsey GlickfeldLindsey Glickfeld

Associate Professor of Neurobiology
Duke University School of Medicine

Lindsey Glickfeld is an Associate Professor in the Department of Neurobiology at Duke University. She received her undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences from Stanford University and her PhD in Neurosciences from UCSD. Her thesis work with Massimo Scanziani investigated the role of inhibitory circuits in shaping the output of the hippocampus. As a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School, she worked with Clay Reid using optical approaches to interrogate circuits in the visual system and with John Maunsell applying behavioral approaches to study visual perception in mice. Since Lindsey started her own lab at Duke in 2013, she has been honored with the Director’s New Innovator Award and fellowships from the Whitehall Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Pew Biomedical Trusts. Lindsey is best known for her work investigating the function of the higher visual areas of mouse cortex and her use of robust behavioral paradigms to investigate the link between neuronal activity and perception.


One of the most important functions of the brain is to allow us to use our sensory experience to make decisions and guide our actions. Yet, for even the simplest decisions, this process often requires information to be transmitted across dozens of synapses across multiple brain areas. A major goal of my lab is to understand how sensory information is transformed across these nodes and how it is used to guide decision making. In this seminar, I will describe how we use optical tools to rapidly change activity in specific brain regions in order to dissect their role in perceptual decision making. We identify two specific cortical pathways that are important for perception, and a third that carries similar sensory information but is not used for sensory integration in these behaviors. These data bring us a step closer to understanding the neural processes that link sensation and action.

“Diverse contributions of mouse visual areas to perceptual decision making”

Junjie YaoJunjie Yao

Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Duke University 

Dr. Junjie Yao is currently Assistant Professor at the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University, and a faculty member of Duke Center for In Vivo Microscopy, Duke Cancer Institute, Duke Institute of Brain Sciences, and Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics. Dr. Yao received his B.S. (2006) and M.S. (2008) degrees in Biomedical Engineering from Tsinghua University (Beijing, China), and his Ph.D. degree in Biomedical Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis in 2013 under the mentoring of Dr. Lihong V. Wang. Dr. Yao is the receipt of the 2019 IEEE Photonic Society Young Investigator Award, and 2021 National Jewish Fund Faculty Fellowship. He serves on the editorial board in Scientific Reports, Quantitative Imaging in Medicine and Surgery, Journal of Photoacoustics and Near-infrared and Laser Engineering. Dr. Yao has published more than 100 articles in peer-reviewed journals such as Nature Biotechnology, Nature Methods, Nature Medicine, Nature Biomedical Engineering, Nature Photonics, Nature Communication, PNAS, Optica, and PRL. Dr. Yao’s research interest is in photoacoustic tomography (PAT) technologies in life sciences, especially in high-speed functional brain imaging and early-stage cancer detection. Dr. Yao has received research funds from various agencies including NIH, AHA, and CZI. More information about Dr. Yao’s research at http://photoacoustics.pratt.duke.edu/


Photoacoustic microscopy (PAM) has become a popular tool in small-animal brain imaging, with its microvessel-level resolution and intrinsic sensitivity to hemodynamic and neuronal functions. However, previous PAM techniques variously lacked a high imaging speed, high spatial resolution, and/or large field of view, impeding the study of highly dynamic physiologic and pathophysiologic processes over a large region of interest. Here we report a high-speed PAM system with an ultra-wide field of view, enabled by an innovative water-immersible polygon scanner and Raman-shifter-based pulsed laser. The new PAM has achieved a cross-sectional frame rate of as high as 2400 Hz over a 12-mm scanning range, which is more than 4000 times faster than our previous system. Such a high scanning speed and field of view are well suited for imaging the dynamic brain functions. Using this system, we have imaged epinephrine-induced vasoconstriction in the whole mouse brain and microvascular reperfusion after ischemic stroke in vivo. We have also studied the brain’s hemodynamic responses to cardiac arrest and the potential adverse impact of epinephrine to the brain functions during this process. We expect that the high-speed PAM system will become a powerful tool for small animal brain imaging where the dynamic responses over a large field of view are of particular interest.

“Ultra-high-speed Photoacoustic Imaging of Brain Functions”

Marc SommerMarc A. Sommer

W. H. Gardner, Jr. Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University and Associate Professor of Neurobiology, Duke University School of Medicine

Dr. Marc Sommer received his BS in Biology and Electrical Engineering, and his MS in Electrical Engineering, from Stanford University in 1990. He conducted his PhD research on systems neuroscience in the laboratory of Dr. Peter Schiller at MIT, followed by postdoctoral studies on circuit analysis of the primate brain with Dr. Robert Wurtz at the NIH. From 2004-2010 Dr. Sommer started his independent laboratory in the Neuroscience Department at the University of Pittsburgh. He then moved to Duke University in 2010, joining the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, with secondary appointments in the Departments of Neurobiology and Psychology & Neuroscience. Dr. Sommer’s laboratory merges basic research on the primate brain with tool refinements, using the visual system and eye movements as his primary testbed and focusing on the functions of perceptual and motor networks. In addition to his refinements of viral vector methods in collaboration with postdoctoral fellow Dr. Martin Bohlen and PhD student Hala El-Nahal, he investigates the neural effects of transcranial magnetic stimulation as a means for rational, biologically-driven design of therapeutic protocols. 


Optogenetic techniques have transformed neuroscience research and may provide new inroads to the treatment of brain disorders. The techniques have been challenging to apply in the primate brain, however, yielding inconsistent results between and within labs. Primarily this is a problem with the delivery of opsin genes using viral vectors. Unlike in rodents and other small lab animals, transgenic lines are not available in non-human primates, and exogenous genes must be introduced with vectors, typically AAVs. The innate and adaptive immune responses in primates provide a sophisticated barrier to the reliable use of these vectors. Our goal is to enhance, map, and validate the transduction provided by two promising retrograde vectors, rAAV2-retro and NeuRet, in the macaque brain. The approach is threefold: (1) suppress the innate and adaptive immune responses to yield high and reliable transduction efficacy; (2) histologically confirm the projectome of each vector, i.e. the projections through which they transport retrogradely; and (3) confirm with physiological methods that the expressed opsins are functional for controlling projection neurons. The end result will be improved methods for cell-specific targeting and control of circuits in the primate brain, allowing for the optogenetics revolution to translate more effectively into primate brain research and human therapies.

Challenges and progress in using viral techniques for primate optogenetics”

Martin FischerMartin Fischer

Associate Research Professor of Chemistry
Associate Research Professor of Physics
Duke University 


Prof. Fischer received his Ph.D. in Physics from The University of Texas at Austin in 2001, studying how cold atoms interact with light traps. After graduation, he joined Bells Labs/Agere Systems where he worked on high-speed transmission through optical fiber networks. In 2003, he returned to academics at The University of Pennsylvania to perform research on laser microscopy in skin and gas MRI in lungs. In 2005, he moved to Duke University where he is now exploring novel optical techniques for molecular three-dimensional imaging in highly complex materials in the areas of biomedicine, materials science, and cultural heritage science. He also directs the newly established Advanced Light Imaging and Spectroscopy facility (ALIS), which aims to provide cutting-edge optical imaging technology that is beyond the reach of commercial instruments.

Mandates for mask use in public during the recent COVID-19 pandemic, worsened by global shortage of commercial supplies, have led to widespread use of homemade masks and mask alternatives. It is assumed that wearing such masks reduces the likelihood for an infected person to spread the disease, but many of these mask designs have not been tested in practice. We have demonstrated a simple optical measurement method to evaluate the efficacy of masks to reduce the transmission of respiratory droplets during regular speech. In proof-of-principle studies, we compared a variety of commonly available mask types and observed that some mask types approach the performance of standard surgical masks, while some mask alternatives offered very little protection. Our measurement setup is inexpensive and can be built and operated by non-experts, allowing for rapid evaluation of mask performance during speech, sneezing, or coughing. I will present our measurement setup and results, some context, and some implications.

“Development of a low-cost measurement of facemask efficacy for reducing droplet emission during speech”

Samira MusahSamira Musah

Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Duke University and Assistant Professor in Medicine
Division of Nephrology, Duke University School of Medicine

Dr. Samira Musah is a stem cell biologist and a medical bioengineer. Her work has focused on the development of novel methods to direct the differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells and engineering of microphysiological systems, including organs-on-chips and bioactive materials. She was recruited to Duke University with a joint appointment in the Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Medicine. She is also a Duke MEDx Investigator and an Affiliated Faculty of the Regeneration Next Initiative. Research in her laboratory aims to understand the roles of molecular and biophysical cues in human organ development and how these processes can be harnessed to understand disease mechanisms and develop new therapeutic strategies. Her lab develops differentiation methods by identifying and optimizing multiple factors within the stem cell niche to guide organ-specific lineage commitment. To engineer in vitro models of human tissues and organs, her team integrates their stem cell differentiation strategies with microfluidic systems, hydrogel synthesis, biofunctionalization, and 3D bioprinting technologies. Dr. Musah is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards including the Whitehead Scholarship in Biomedical Research, Baxter’s Young Investigator Award (top tier), Keystone Symposia Fellowship, Dean’s Postdoctoral Fellowship at Harvard Medical School, Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Transition Award, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research Award, and was named a Rising Star in Biomedical Engineering at MIT.


The Musah Lab aim to understand how molecular and biophysical cues can function either synergistically or independently to guide organ development and function, and how these processes can be therapeutically harnessed to treat human disease. Research in our laboratory covers a range of interests, from fundamental studies of stem cell and tissue differentiation to engineered devices for clinical diagnostics and therapeutics. A major effort in our lab is focused on understanding the roles of molecular and biophysical cues in human organ development and how these processes can be applied to understand disease mechanisms and develop new therapeutic strategies. We develop differentiation methods by the identification and optimization of multiple, synergistic factors within the stem cell niche to guide organ-specific cell lineage specification. To engineer in vitro models of human tissues and organs, we integrate our stem cell differentiation strategies with microfluidic systems engineering, hydrogel synthesis, biofunctionalization, and three-dimensional (3D) bioprinting technologies to build dynamic circuits with living cells. Our interdisciplinary team of scientists, engineers, and clinicians use ideas and approaches spanning stem cell and developmental biology, biophysics, microengineering, chemistry, medicine, genome engineering, and computational/mathematical modeling of complex biological problems.

“Microfluidic devices for stem cell engineering and human disease modeling”

Sonia GregoSonia Grego

Associate Research Professor
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Duke University 

Sonia Grego, Associate Research Professor at Duke Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, is Associate Director of the Center for Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Infectious Diseases. She conducts applied research in the area of technologies for life science. Her expertise includes sensors, biological and chemical detection, wastewater treatment, systems integration and miniaturization, wearable and lab-on-a-chip. She has been leading the field testing and performance assessment of advanced sanitation technologies in global settings since 2015 and she is passionate about leveraging wastewater for individual and community health monitoring. Grego received the MS degree in Physics from the University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy in 1995 and the PhD in Physics from the University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark in 1999. She was a postdoctoral fellow in Biophysics at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark in 1999 and at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 2000-2001.


Digital health technology tools remotely and frequently acquire health and disease-related data from individuals through smartphone, wearables and sensors to achieve early warning of flare-ups, early intervention and improved clinical outcomes. We are developing a novel digital health tool that provides an automated way to track daily bowel movements. The fundamental advantage of our smart toilet platform toward its widespread adoption is that it accomplishes analysis of feces after the toilet has been flushed and outside the purview of the user. Stool physical characteristics (frequency, form and color, visible blood presence) contribute to the diagnosis and management of many digestive conditions and also reflect dietary and medication intakes. Patient self-report of these stool characteristics is limited by subjective and the burden of tracking over time for chronic conditions. A goal of the Smart Toilet system is to demonstrate inline analysis of stool characteristics to passively obtain objective, longitudinal data on bowel movement. Multiple optical sensing modalities are integrated in the toilet plumbing environment to capture data that processed through machine learning techniques will achieve accurate and real-time tracking of gut health and disease.

“A Smart Toilet with Artificial Intelligence as a novel tool for digital health”

Willie PadillaWillie Padilla

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Duke University 

Willie Padilla is a Full Professor in the Department of ECE at Duke University with Physics MS and PhD degrees from the University of California San Diego. He was a Director’s Postdoctoral Fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory. In 2007 he received a Young Investigator Award from the Office of Naval Research, and Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2011. In 2012 he was elected a Fellow of the Optical Society of America, and Kavli Frontiers of Science Fellow in 2013. Dr. Padilla was elevated to Senior Member of the SPIE in 2018, and is a Fellow of the American Physical Society. Professor Padilla is a Web of Science Highly Cited Researcher in the field of Physics in 2018 and 2019, has more than 200 peer-reviewed journal articles, two book chapters, and seven issued patents. He heads a group working in the area of artificially structured systems including metamaterials with a focus on machine learning, computational imaging, spectroscopy and energy.


Deep neural networks (DNNs) are empirically derived systems that have transformed traditional research methods, and are driving scientific discovery. Research in electromagnetic metamaterials has benefited from the data driven approach; especially in cases where conventional methods have failed. I will present recent advances, key limitations, and future directions of DNNs applied to metamaterials research, and highlight inverse methods useful for metamaterial design problems.

“Deep learning the next 20 years of electromagnetic metamaterials”

session chairs

Joseph IzattJoseph Izatt

Michael J. Fitzpatrick Distinguished Professor of Engineering
Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Duke University
Professor in Ophthalmology, Duke University School of Medicine

My research centers on the development and application of cutting-edge optical technologies for non-invasive, high-resolution imaging and sensing in living biological tissues. Our laboratory is recognized for foundational contributions to optical coherence-based approaches for in vivo sub-surface microscopic tissue imaging, particularly optical coherence tomography (OCT) which has become a standard of care in ophthalmology and other clinical specialties. The technologies we employ include adaptive-optic devices, femtosecond lasers, ultrabroadband fiber optic telecommunications equipment, robots and robotic manipulators, high performance computing, and 3D display technologies. Together with our collaborators, we have developed and deployed multiple hand-held and intrasurgical systems for real-time volumetric imaging of the human eye, visualized using virtual/augmented reality displays and coupled to image-guided robotic microsurgical procedures. Our research team includes a rich and diverse group of highly motivated and productive undergraduate, MS and PhD students, staff and associated faculty along with multiple collaborations with engineers, biologists, and physicians at Duke and elsewhere.

Session 1
“Photonics and The Brain”

Nan JokerstNan Jokerst

J.A. Jones Distinguished Professor
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Community Engagement
Pratt School of Engineering, Executive Director, Shared Materials Intrumentation Facility, Duke University

Nan Jokerst (she/her/hers) is the J. A. Jones Distinguished Professor of ECE, Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Community Engagement in the Pratt School of Engineering, and Executive Director of the Shared Materials Instrumentation Facility at Duke University. Dr. Jokerst earned a PhD in EE from the University of Southern California, and has 250+ papers and seven patents in chip-scale integrated systems, sensors, integrated photonics, and metamaterials. Dr. Jokerst received the IEEE Education Society/Hewlett Packard Harriet B. Rigas Medal for teaching (2002) and the IEEE Millennium Medal for research (2000). She is a Fellow of the IEEE and a Fellow of the OSA, and a NSF Presidential Young Investigator. She served on the National Academies Board on Global Science and Technologies, and on the IEEE Photonics Board of Governors as an elected member, VP Conferences, and VP Technical Affairs. She was the elected Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary, and Treasurer of the Atlanta IEEE Section, and served on the IEEE Proceedings Editorial Board. She also served OSA as the Chair of the Engineering Council and an Associate Editor of Optica.

Session 2
“Advances in Interferometry”

Christine Payne

Christine K. Payne
Yoh Family Associate Professor
Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science
Duke University

Prof. Christine Payne is the Yoh Family Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke University. Her research focuses on understanding how cells interact with nanomaterials. Her lab uses advanced fluorescence microscopy approaches to image this interaction and lab automation to increase throughput and reproducibility. Dr. Payne has received many honors including an NIH Director’s New Innovator Award in 2009 and a DARPA Young Faculty Award in 2011. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (2020-).  She earned a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Chicago (1998) and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley (2003). Prof. Payne spent 2003-2006 as an NIH NRSA Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University. She joined the faculty of the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Georgia Tech in 2007 and moved to Duke University in 2018. 

Session 3
“Photonics and the Brain”

Warren WarrenWarren S. Warren

James B. Duke Professor of Chemistry
Professor of Radiology, Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Duke University

Warren S. Warren is currently at Duke University, where he is the James B. Duke Professor of Physics, Chemistry, Radiology, and Biomedical Engineering.  He also leads the Physical and Materials Science editor group at Science Advances, the open-access version of Science.   Warren’s research interests and 350 papers reflect advances in very fundamental physics or technology, generally using magnetic resonance or nonlinear optics, with applications in extremely complex systems such as clinical imaging and art conservation.

Session 4
“Photonics and Pandemics”

Volker BlumVolker Blum

Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, Associate Professor of Chemistry
Duke University

Volker Blum is an Associate Professor in the Thomas Lord Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and of Chemistry at Duke University, Durham, NC. He obtained his doctoral degree from University of Erlangen, Germany in 2001 and then pursued post-doctoral research at National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO, from 2002-2004. From 2004-2013, he was a scientist and group leader at the Fritz Haber Institute in Berlin, Germany. His current research focuses on computational predictions and understanding of new materials related to energy and electronics, as well as molecular structure and spectroscopies. He is passionate about developing and improving computational methods and scientific software that advance understanding of materials and molecules, including in the all-electron electronic structure simulation package FHI-aims, in the broader “ELSI” software infrastructure and in the CECAM “Electronic Structure Library”.

Session 5
“Advanced Photonics”

Poster Session

1.  Depth sensitive Raman spectroscopy for skin wounds in rodents

2.  Fiber-based planar antennas for biosensing and diagnostics

3.  Dual-modality gold nanostar bioimaging nanoprobe for sensitive brain cancer detection

4.  Bound States in the Continuum Modes for THz Biosensing

5.  Miniaturized Optical BioSensor for Point-of-Care Total Protein Measurement

6.  Shifted excitation Raman difference spectroscopy (SERDS) – From diode laser to portable sensor systems for outdoor experiments

7.  Functional Outcomes Following Laser Interstitial Thermal Therapy (LITT) versus Resection in the Treatment of Lesions In or Near the Primary Motor Cortex

8.  Dry-state SERS for the “in-situ” identification of historical textile dyes

9.  Mechanism and sensitivity of Fano resonance tuning in high-contrast gratings

10. Biosensing Of Tacrolimus In Blood Samples With A Drug Receptor Fused To A GFP 

11. THz Imaging with All Dielectric Metamaterial Absorbers and Super Resolution

12. Nanophotonic protein-metal complexes toward adaptive materials

13. Fiberoptics SERS Sensors using Plasmonic Gold Nanostar Probes for Detection of Molecular Biotargets

14. Quantitative lateral flow assays based on optical control of antibody kinetics for detection of  high-molecular-weight antigens in complex samples

15. Imaging of vital organs such as kidney  using microcapsules

16. Time to Steroid Independence after LITT vs Medical Management for Treatment of Biopsy-Proven Radiation Necrosis Secondary to SRS for Brain Metastasis

17. Information-Efficient Localization Microscopy via Off-Center Illumination

18. Plasmonic Nanocavity for Chemical Sensing

19.  Applications of Nonlinear Optical Spectra and Imaging in Cultural Artifacts Science

20. Silicon Nanowires for Low-Loss Plasmonics and Harmonic Generation

21. Expanding Access to Care for Population-Scale Disease Screening: Development of Low-Cost and Portable OCT Technologies

22. Plasmonic Gold Nanostars: Synthesis and Application

23. Plasmonic SERS Substrates for Diagnostic Applications

24. Detection of Plant miRNA using Plasmonic Biosensors with Shifted Excitation Raman Difference Spectroscopy 

25. Deep Image Prior for Undersampling High-speed Photoacoustic Microscopy

26. Microbubble Enhanced Photoacoustic and Ultrasound Tomography

27. Deep Learning Reconstruction of Undersampled Photoacoustic Images

28. Real-Time 3D Tracking and Imaging Microscopy