FiO (Frontiers in Optics) loves bio

A highlight of last week’s Frontiers in Optics (FiO) 2013, the annual meeting of The Optical Society (OSA), was the keynote session on the White House Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, a proposed $100 million project that aims to transform our understanding of the brain. Chaired by Chris Xu (Cornell University), the session featured a talk by Columbia University’s Darcy Peterka, a researcher in the lab of Rafael Yuste—who helped conceive the BRAIN Initiative and whose focus is a project called the Brain Activity Map (Yuste himself was scheduled to speak, but an injury kept him grounded.) Presentations by other leading scientists demonstrated how biophotonics can facilitate neuroscience, and Prem Kumar of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) gave a funding agent’s perspective. Participants recognized challenges of the initiative, some related to optics (light scattering) and some not (scaling up to study the human brain).

During the plenary session, biomedical optics pioneer Robert R. Alfano, Distinguished Professor of Science and Engineering at City College, City University of New York, was honored with the American Physical Society’s Arthur Schawlow prize. Alfano told BioOptics World that the Schawlow prize, “the most prestigious and highest honor a laser physicist can [receive],” mainly honors his discovery of the white-light supercontinuum laser and several Cr 4 +/Cr3+ tunable lasers—research, he said, that was built upon knowledge gained and advice received as a young scientist from giants like Nico Bloembergen, Alex Lempicki, Esther Conwell, Joseph Birman, and Paul Kelly. In relation to the award, Alfano says he feels particularly fortunate for three things: 1.) to have been free to pursue laser and optics research throughout his career, first at General Telephone and Electronics (now Verizon) and still today at City College of New York; 2.) being in the USA; and 3.) the help of so many smart and hard-working students. Alfano is a member of the board of advisors for the upcoming Strategies in Biophotonics.

Each year, Frontiers in Optics (FiO) reports R&D advances across multiple disciplines—and biomedical optics figures promiently.

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