Li is a professor of biomedical engineering and of electrical and computer engineering at Johns Hopkins University. His plenary talk will describe nonlinear endomicroscopy technology and its use in label-free imaging of tissue histology in real time while inside the body.
Q. What inspired you to pursue a multidisciplinary Ph.D. in physics and biomedical optics?
Inspirational mentors and colleagues greatly influenced my career pursuits—but there was also an element of luck. The shutdown of some nuclear research facilities during my graduate studies at UPenn triggered my move away from nuclear physics. At that time, one of my favorite professors, Ralph Amado, chatted with me about alternative career prospects and shed some light on the emerging field of biomedical optics. He also introduced me to two pioneers in the field: Arjun Yodh and the late Britton Chance, with whom I got the opportunity to work with while completing my Ph.D. I was also very fortunate to have my postdoc training in James Fujimoto’s group at MIT.
Q. What are you looking forward to at the BIOMED meeting?
I have been part of this conference since 1996 and always enjoy learning about new developments and meeting new people. BIOMED is the perfect size for this: big enough to cover a wide selection of topics in the field, but small enough to meet and talk to almost any fellow attendee. In addition to the cozy scientific atmosphere, the warm weather in Miami is not a bad addition to the conference.
Q. What are some of the topics you will cover in your plenary talk?
There are so many exciting new developments in biomedical optics! I am honored and humbled to talk about new developments in label-free nonlinear endomicroscopy imaging from my lab. This technology miniaturizes a benchtop scanning multiphoton microscope down to a flexible, 2-mm diameter endomicroscope. Our work has involved new fiber optics capabilities, micro optics, MEMS technology, physics, as well as many engineering challenges.
Q. How will this technology affect public health in the near term? Long term?
Near term, the device’s small size will enable it to be integrated with existing medical instruments for guided biopsy and early disease detection. For the long term, the technology could allow for direct visualization of tissue histology in real time while inside the body at a resolution of standard histopathology, but without the need for tissue removal or staining. I see a potential use as a stand-alone technology or modality in a clinical setting.
Sarah Michaud is OPN’s associate editor.