OSA Fellow Barry Masters recounts his ICO-sponsored visit to several world-class educational and research institutions in Shanghai.
A graduate student of Chen’s group works on the laser tweezers Raman microscope.
Twenty years ago, The International Commission for Optics (ICO) initiated a Traveling Lecturer Program to promote lectures on modern optics by scientists of international reputation with superb lecturing skills. Although the program is aimed at developing nations, it is not restricted to them. In September 2007, I had the honor and the opportunity to travel to Shanghai as an ICO traveling lecturer. I visited the department of optical science and engineering in the School of Information Science and Engineering at Fudan University and the Key Laboratory for Quantum Optics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which is part of the Shanghai Institute for Optics and Fine Mechanics (SIOM).
Founded in 1905, Fudan University is now one of the top three universities in China. Its name connotes heavenly light that shines day after day. The University is organized into 17 schools with 66 departments, and it confers both undergraduate and graduate degrees. The full-time degree candidates number 25,000; another 11,000 are enrolled in continuing or online education.
With more than 1,700 students from other countries, Fudan ranks second in China in the number of foreign students it hosts. The faculty includes 1,400 full and associate professors and more than 2,300 full-time teachers and researchers.
The campus is beautiful, with many gardens and trees that provide a peaceful retreat from the metropolis of Shanghai. I enjoyed my stay in a hotel for visiting scholars, where I was able to talk with many visitors from China and other countries.
Liejia Qian, professor and chair of the department of optical science and engineering at Fudan University, served as my kind and informative host. The department of optical science and engineering was established in 2000, and follows more than 50 years of research and teaching of optics. Today, optics research in Fudan University is ranked number one in China.
During my time at Fudan, Qian introduced me to several professors, and I attended a class (taught in Chinese) on atomic and molecular spectroscopy. Fudan’s bio-optics department is strong, with cutting-edge equipment such as a multi-photon microscope. There are many types of laser sources available that provide different pulse widths, from nanosecond to femtosecond, and a range of wavelengths, from the ultraviolet to the mid-infrared.
There are currently five major research directions at the department of optical science and engineering at Fudan University: femtosecond laser physics and its nonlinear interaction with materials; highly integrated photon chip and nanoscale photonic materials and devices; magneto-optics, magneto-optic hybrid storage and physical optics; optical properties of condensed matter and spectroscopy; and fabrication and characterization of novel optoelectronic materials. I presented a series of lectures on confocal microscopy and nonlinear femtosecond microscopy of in vivo biological tissues.
The Institutes of Biomedical Sciences
I also visited the Institutes of Biomedical Sciences, which are located in one of the major teaching hospitals of Fudan. There, I met my host Xunbin Wei, who directs the shared instrumentation facility at the hospital. Typically, he teaches his class on optical imaging and microscopy to a wide range of graduate and medical students. On the day of my visit, we agreed that I would take over teaching his class on optics.
I introduced myself and began two hours of lectures with extensive questions and discussions. I covered the principles and applications of confocal microscopy and two-photon excitation microscopy. This was a wonderful opportunity for me to interact with the students and also to visit modern instrumentation facilities. Most of the shared instrumentation is in the area of cell and molecular biology, and the facility is critical to the research efforts of many researchers in the hospital.
The Shanghai Institute for Optics and Fine Mechanics
I was also invited by Kun Chen to spend the day at SIOM, which is part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Established in 1964, SIOM has a research staff that consists of nearly 1,000 people; about 500 are researchers and technicians, including more than 200 professors and senior engineers. Approximately 250 graduate students also conduct their research at SIOM. The major areas of research at the Institute include high-power laser techniques, strong-field physics and high intensity optics, information optics, quantum optics, laser and optoelectronic devices, and optical materials.
The Institute offers vigorous programs in international academic exchanges and cooperative research. More than 2,000 scholars, scientists and entrepreneurs from over 50 countries have visited SIOM, including many Nobel laureates and heads of state.
Kun Chen works in the area of biomedical photonics. His group applies optical techniques to the diagnosis of diseases. His biomedical photonics laboratory is part of the Key Laboratory for Quantum Optics of the Chinese Academy of the Sciences, whose main research directions include laser cooling of gas atoms, quantum optics and biophotonics, Bose-Einstein condensation, and cold atomic clock experiments.
Chen’s group is devoted to the research and development of novel imaging and spectroscopic techniques and their applications to diagnosing and treating cancers. Their research interests range from using Raman spectroscopy to detect colorectal cancers to the optical properties of nanoparticle clusters. One major recent focus has been the study of Raman spectroscopy of single living colorectal cancer cells with laser tweezers.
During my visit to SIOM, I presented a lecture on nonlinear optical microscopy that covered its theory, instrumentation and applications in ophthalmology and dermatology. The lecture was followed by a vibrant discussion period. In the evening, I was treated to a wonderful banquet at which I had the opportunity to discuss cross-cultural concepts of science education as well as aspects of responsible conduct of research with my wonderful Chinese hosts. All in all, it was an enriching personal, scientific and cultural experience.
Barry R. Masters is an OSA Fellow and SPIE Fellow in the department of biological engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass., U.S.A.