Here are some research projects that are of interest to our laboratory. We are always looking for highly motivated students with an interest in biomedical optics. These are mostly unfunded projects, but all have the potential to lead to viable proposals for future funding. If you are interested in pursuing thesis research in or close to any of these areas, search our publications for further details, and then send email to arrange a meeting for further discussions.
We are interested in graduate students who can conduct MS or Ph.D. level research programs in these areas. However, we are also interested in undergraduate students who can work on a smaller part of one of these problems, or help current graduate students on existing projects found on our research page. If you see something that looks interesting, contact Chuck or the graduate student listed on the project.
* Lung Imaging with OCT and MicroEIT: Our group has collaborated with Prof. Gouldstone in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, in his imaging of the pleural alveoli using Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) through a transparent indenter tip. Our work has focused on predicting and correcting errors introduced by strong refraction at the tissue-air interface. Even with these corrections, OCT is unlikely t become a clinical tool in diagnosis of lung disease because it is limited to the first few layers of alveoli and is thus invasive, and perhaps not representative of the larger lung volume. Electrical Impedance Tomography (EIT) is capable of penetrating the whole lung, but with resolution too coarse to see individual alveoli. With a better understanding of the EIT images, it could become a very useful clinical tool. A combination of OCT and microEIT could lead to enhanced understanding of EIT at the micro-scale, and make the whole-lung images more useful.
* Imaging of Collagen: This project is a collaboration with Prof. Ruberti in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. Our interest currently is in using second-harmonic generation (SHG) to produce microscopic images in which the alignment of collagen fibrils can be determined. Research involves collecting and processing forward and backward SHG images, potentially exploiting polarization effects, and developing algorithms for determining the orientation from these images.
* Spectroscopy of Melanin Fluorescence: We have discovered a stepwise three-photon-excited fluorescence process in melanin that can be excited with CW laser light. Currently, we are conducting research on imaging the emitted light. We also have a capability to measure the spectrum of the emission, and doing so may provide insights into the fundamental science, as well as the ability to discriminate between different types of melanin in normal and cancerous skin.
* Three-Dimensional Imaging with Quadrature Microscope: This project will redesign the optical path of the Optical Quadrature Microscope, and develop techniques for tracking particles in three dimensions. Optical Quadrature Microscopy allows "computational focusing" in which a single image is collected, and computational techniques are used to change the focus to different planes. Thus, tracking in three dimensions is possible without the need for multiple images focused at different planes. There is sufficient material here for a proposal for future funding.
* Adaptive Optics in Confocal Microscopy: The depth of penetration of confocal microscopes is limited in part by the optical aberrations and scattering caused by light propagating through a random medium on the way to and from the region being imaged. There is potential for improvement by the use of adaptive optics techniques borrowed from astronomy. One of the challenges in this area is development of techniques to generate the "guidestar." Another is understanding the propagation of light in skin. There is work to be done on computational models to simulate full-aperture confocal microscopes and different levels of detail in the skin. There are also measurements to be made using the Optical Quadrature Microscope, to develop better models of the skin itself.
* Line-scanning Raman Micro-spectroscopy: We are beginning a demonstration project on high-speed Raman micro-spectroscopy, in collaboration with Prof. Diem in Chemistry. The goal here is to enhance the speed of this technique by using a line scanner, similar to our line scanning confocal microscope. Potential projects include optical design, computational modeling, experimentation, and development of applications. There is potential here for a proposal for a funded project.