Congratulations to Our 2014 Educational Award Recipients!
Norman Edmund Inspiration Award — $5,000 in Products University of Waterloo, Canada — Submitted by Shahid Haider
For research that inspires others on a daily basis, especially children, to pursue careers in science and technology by developing new devices to advance medical sciences and cure any illnesses that they may face in their lifetimes. Rather than using a finger prick to test and monitor glucose levels for type 1 diabetes, Haider’s medical device eases diabetes monitoring in children by using a non-contact handheld system that takes full field images of the eye’s aqueous humor to infer glucose concentrations. The extraordinary part of this project is the development of a simultaneous method for polarization state image capture, which is coupled with a high resolution detector. This will allow the images to be captured on a single detector in order to allow for a very compact design to fit the hands of a child. By eliminating any pain associated with diabetes testing, the research has the direct potential to improve the quality of life for those afflicted with diabetes, including reducing the risk of eye, kidney, and heart damage.
For developing a small and portable device for screening neurodevelopmental disorders in young children based on dynamic pupillary light reflex (PLR) and thus eliminating the use of physical restraints in conducting such a test. PLR is tested by analyzing the dynamic changes in pupil size in response to a short flash of light. This simple, fast and completely noninvasive test, reveals extremely rich neurological information about the brain. The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that at least 12% children are born with a neurodevelopmental disability. The current project, with the assistance from a team at the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, focuses on the urgent clinical need of an accurate and objective method for early screening of autism in very young children so that early therapy can be given to significantly improve patient outcomes. The ultimate goal of this devise is to make this technology more readily available for clinicians and researchers to fully explore its potential and benefit even more people.
For research into the advancement of micro-chips for detection of light scattering, which can contribute to the development of compact, portable flow cytometry systems designed for wide scale deployment in developing areas. Professor Motosuke’s micro-chip is manufactured by a micromachining process that requires less manufacturing. Flow cytometry systems currently available on the market, typically are larger in size and have high costs - this limits their use especially in less developed and developing countries. This project is to develop a small, disposable chip to be used in a portable, low-cost flow cytometry system, in the future. The ultimate goal of this research project is for doctors, in the developing countries or impoverished regions, to be able to utilize portable cytometry systems for patient visits. The micro-chips ultimately provide easier use for those who are minimally trained while providing high repeatability thus allowing for this important device to be used by more doctors and clinicians as part of routine medical care.
For stopping and storing light pulses, including information encoded on the laser beam, for up to one minute in an optical crystal. In this project, Halfmann and his team brings light pulses to a complete stop, also called freezing, and stores the pulses in an optical memory to retrieve them afterwards. The team is developing novel optical memories for future high-performance information technologies based on quantum mechanics. Quantum computers operate at huge processing speed and capacity thus exceeding the limits of electronic computing. Optical quantum computers will need the ability to “catch” a light pulse, store it for memory, and release it at will afterwards. This is possible through quantum optics and the goal of the project is to provide a robust, “all-solid-state” solution, such as memories and light sources based on robust optical crystals, to enable integration in computer architectures and operation under realistic conditions. The development of optical solid-state quantum memories with large efficiencies and long storage times will pave the way towards novel information technologies.
For tracking the propagation of nerve impulses in brain tissue by imaging the changes in optical birefringence of the brain tissue to study and treat neuropathies such as epilepsy and stroke. By imaging the changes in polarization of transmitted or back reflected light, the team expects to make a moving picture of the neuronal activation pattern. The development of a minimally invasive, high-resolution optical imaging technology to image neuronal activation patterns would constitute an advancement for research into neuronal network mapping and would provide a valuable new tool for neuroscience research. This new method of optical imaging does not require the administration of voltage-sensitive dyes, which have cytotoxic side-effects, or other perturbative indicators, so neuronal activation patters can be observed in the native state of the neural tissues. Additionally the spatial resolution can be at the level of a single neuron and the temporal resolution of the imaging can be fast enough to capture the propagation patters of nerve impulses. The team is currently conducting experiments to image the effects of induced epileptic seizures and the brain’s response to therapy in order to provide invaluable information in the quest for new treatments for this class of diseases.
For research into building a system to trap ultrafine particles, optically (~several nm) and cooling the trapped particles down to ground state of light trapping, by applying a cavity cooling method into the system. This system can implement the quantum phenomena at a mesoscopic level through a highly precise operation. Such a system creates a condensed light that will be useful for use in a spectrometer with a non-classical motion state of captured particles. Recently, So and the research team have built an efficient optical-trap for ultrafine particles and for the first time implemented a new method that allows the reading of the phase change of scattered rays, with an intensity change of interference signal of the scattered rays and detected rays that occur from the optically trapped particles. This detection method will provide a better position resolution, along the optical axis, compared to the back focal interferometry method, which detects a motion of optically trapped particles using the conventional quadrant photodiode and can also have a wider bandwidth with a use of avalanche photodiode as a photodetector.
For developing laser radar for monitoring the atmospheric fauna with a particular interest in in-situ investigation of the billions of insect species. The investigation includes researching the pollinator biodiversity in agriculture, flux measurements of forestry pests and disease transmitting parasites for humans and livestock. The research project is currently counting 10,000 individuals per hour, per cubic meter, at distances up to 10 kilometers. Information gathered includes frequency, body, and wing size, but aims to determine species, genders and age groups. Additionally the team is developing optics for determining the wing membrane thickness with nanometer precision, called remote microscopy. These measures and data, especially the details, will be used to identify the influence of pollution and special fertilizers on different species and help to detect the potential of diseases transmitted by insects an even earlier stage. The long-term objective is the development of a portable tool to make these data accessible wherever needed.
For developing lightweight, mid-infrared, sensors to measure trace concentrations of methane using the cavity ring-down spectroscopy technique. These sensors can operate without flow cells and will be deployed on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) allowing for improved and more cost effective methane sensing to better detect and mitigate leakage. Recent years have seen a dramatic increase of natural gas usage allowing for lower domestic energy costs, less dependence on foreign oil, and a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. However, there is growing concern over methane leakage from the extraction and distribution infrastructure, since one leaked methane molecule provides greater than 20x the radiative forcing of one carbon dioxide molecule. Yalin and his team are addressing this challenge by modifying the sensor operation and spectroscopy to measure open ambient air-paths without widely used flow-cells and vacuum systems without sacrificing accuracy or precision. By using UAVs, these sensors will efficiently locate and quantify methane leaks, in real-time, from oil wells and pipelines playing a critical economic and environmental role.
For developing a high-resolution fluorescence imaging system used to observe the progressive changes of cancer cells while interacting with multi-functional nano-particles to demonstrate drug delivery mechanism. The method of simultaneously imaging and treating cancer using nano size particles proves to be advantageous over traditional chemotherapy. However, due to the high surface area to volume ratio of nanoparticles, the quenching effect induced by the surface defect and organic ligands has significantly reduced the optical output efficiency. Nanoparticles with functionalized surface may allow selective imaging and develop targeted therapies, which will lead to a high demand for modifying the nanoparticle’s emission spectrum for multiple cell identification. The pursuit of better targeted drug delivery systems for cancer has remained a key focus area of research. The nanoparticle developed by this project, which has enhanced emission intensity with tunable emission spectrum, can be encapsulated in cancer drugs which can be served as targeted drug deliveries for therapeutic applications and simultaneously allow visual identification of the cancer cells. Its emergence is likely to have a significant impact on the drug-delivery sector and many potential applications in clinical medicine.
For analyzing the polarization pattern of landscapes and of objects that are attractive to tse-tse flies in Africa in order to develop traps which are critical in controlling the spread of disease transmitted by insects. The current research is focusing on the control of tse-tse flies transmitting sleep-sickness in Africa using polarization vision as an attractive cue. Since tse-tse flies detect contrasting objects against the landscape to eventually land on, this research focuses on analyzing the landscape and attractive objects, such as herbivore animals, in terms of their polarization pattern and use this information to develop novel traps and targets exploiting this dimension of light and the polarization vision of flies. Not only will this new approach improve capture rates, but will significantly contribute to the control of the transmission of a major parasitic disease.