Faculty mentors: Walfre Franco, Gary Tearney, Andy Yun. This research area is focused on developing novel photonic devices using principles, materials, and structures that are implantable, biodegradable, wearable, and that often mimic nature at scales from nano to macro levels. Such devices are primarily used for sensing, diagnostics, and therapeutic applications, solving the limitations of conventional optical devices and conventional approaches. Furthermore, novel lasers that are biocompatible and small enough to be inside a cell — cell laser — promise to open new avenues in the applications of light in biomedical research.
Project 1: Smart tethered capsule endoscopes. The current standard endoscopy has many limitations as it is invasive, costly and suffers tissue sampling error. To overcome these limitations, the Tearney lab has developed tethered capsule endomicroscopy [2-5], which involves swallowing a tethered capsule that acquires three-dimensional microscopic images of the entire esophageal wall as it traverses the luminal organ via peristalsis or is pulled up towards the mouth using the tether (photo). REU students will design, fabricate, and validate prototype capsules with integrated position sensing capabilities and develop imaging processing algorithms for real time diagnosis of esophageal disorders.
Project 2: Implantable wireless microscope. The Tearney Lab is currently developing an implantable microscope that could one day provide real-time images from inside the body via a wireless transmitter . The implantable microscope is self-contained, battery-powered, and wirelessly transmitting images, allowing physicians to see if cancer is developing, if a heart attack is imminent or if a transplanted organ is on the verge of being rejected. Students will have hand-on experience in the design, fabrication, and/or assembly of components into a working prototype, and in testing the device with biological tissues ex vivo.
Project 3: Implantable hydrogel optical waveguides. The Yun lab makes pioneering efforts in the field of biomaterial-based photonic devices, such as light-guiding hydrogels  and biocompatible waveguides [8-10], to create implanted optical devices for health monitoring and therapies. Students working on this topic will design, fabricate, and characterize novel polymer-based or hydrogel-based waveguides, and they will acquire knowledge on waveguide optics, biomaterials, nanofabrication, and their applications.
Project 4: Development of mobile phone-based imaging devices. In the Franco Lab in collaboration with the Hasan Lab, students will help to develop computer vision algorithms and optical methods for quantifying and analyzing variations in the optical environment of cutaneous tissues using a mobile phone camera platform primarily for evaluating the spatial and temporal features of cutaneous lesions . Additionally, the students will learn how to leverage optical hardware to probe tissues and improve image Implantable hydrogel fibers in Yun Lab quality and resolution while minimizing motion and lighting artifacts. The hardware and software developed will create simple-to-use low-cost technologies for diagnosis and evaluation of treatment response of common dermatologic lesions.
Project 5: Wearable optical sensors. Light emitting diodes and optical sensors can be integrated into flexible substrates for wearable patches for longitudinal measurement of tissue optical properties for tracking spectroscopic changes in tissue [12-15]. In the Franco lab in collaboration with Yun lab, students will learn about electronic circuit design, spectroscopy and wearable devices, and help to develop non-invasive probes for tracking changes in tissue, sub-millimeter dynamics of cutaneous lesions or oxygenation states. These sensors may ultimately be deployed in wound care settings and, in collaboration with biologists , free-diving seals.
Project 6: Biological cell lasers. The Yun lab is pioneering the field of bio- lasers. The group has demonstrated fluorescent-protein lasers, cell-dye lasers, all-biomaterial laser, and intracellular micro-lasers [17-24]. These works, which are supported by NSF grants, have received considerable public exposure through numerous news media and awards. These new lasers have potential for imaging, biological sensing, and cell tracking . Students will learn how to generate and detect laser light from micro-cavities, how cells uptake micro lasers, how the intracellular environment affects the output characteristics of the lasers, and the novel applications of cell lasers.