Art of Research

Communication is an essential part of carrying out scientific research; if we don’t find effective ways to tell other people about the discoveries we have made, or the technology we’ve developed, then we are almost certainly wasting our time (and quite possibly other people’s money!). So, we try to communicate our results in all kinds of ways – we write journal papers, present talks and posters at conferences and discuss things less formally within our academic networks. We also try to engage with the public whenever we can, but for most of us this inevitably makes up a small fraction of our total communication bandwidth.  Even when we are trying to share our work more widely, it’s not always clear how we should go about this. Often, our discoveries are often so specialist that the new advance can’t be fully appreciated unless you already have a pretty good understanding of the ‘state of the art’. So the search is always on for new and interesting ways to share our sense of excitement about what it is that we do.

With that in mind, it was great to see that Khushi Vyas, a PhD student at Imperial College that I had (and still have) a hand in supervising, has won a prize in Imperial’s ‘Art of Science’ competition. Her entry was an image of breast cancer tissue, taken using an endomicroscope that Khushi had built, modified from a design which I originally developed (which you can read all about here). These images were taken on tissue which has been removed from the breast as part of a treatment programme, but the hope for the future is the endomicroscope would be used directly on the patient, helping to guide a surgeon as he or she removes a tumour. Khushi had applied some image processing to make some of the key features of the images – cells, cell nuclei and so on – stand out, and which had the nice side effect of producing a beautiful picture which caught the eye of the voting public. She has also recently published a paper on this work in the Journal of Biomedical Optics, you can read that here.

 

Starting Out

I’m a newly appointed lecturer in applied optics (physics) at the School of Physical Sciences at the University of Kent. In my research I develop ways of using light in biology and medicine, to help us understand, diagnose and treat disease. I’ll be using this blog to keep anyone who is interested updated on my work, and the work of the research team that I will be building over the next few years. This isn’t aimed exclusively at academics, everything should be understandable regardless of your background, but if anything isn’t clear or you want to know more, please get in touch. I also occasionally write a blog on biophotonics, where I discuss some of the latest developments in the field, you can read that here.

Before moving to Kent I was a postdoc for five years at Imperial College London. I worked in a multi-disciplinary group called the Hamlyn Centre for Robotic Surgery. It meant that I was rubbing shoulders with engineers, computer scientists, chemists and clinicians, as well as the odd physicist.  Working there taught me one thing above all else – that the problems of the real world don’t respect academic boundaries. If we want to try to solve some of them then we need to pool our expertise and resources and – the hardest part – try to understand each other’s language and culture. So, with that in mind, I’m always keen to meet people outside of optics and physics, whether you be a biologist, a medical professional, a patient or anyone else who might be interested, to talk about what it is that I do, what it is that you, and how we might be able to work together.