Poster award for Marco Lai at SPIE Medical Imaging

During the SPIE Medical Imaging conference 2020, Marco Lai wins the Honorable mention award for his poster on “Automated classification of brain tissue: comparison between hyperspectral imaging and diffuse reflectance spectroscopy”.

As one of the leading international conferences on medical imaging, the SPIE Medical Imaging conference takes place every year during the second week of February. The conference attracts over 1200 leading researchers in medical imaging from all over the word, which present their work in image processing, computer-aided diagnosis, image-guided procedures, radiology and digital pathology, with an increased focus on fast emerging areas like deep learning, AI, and machine learning. The conference annually hosts the Best Student Poster presentation contests, with certificates awarded, and this year Marco won the Honorable mention award for his work on endoscopic hyperspectral imaging.

Working full-time at Philips Research, the work of Marco focuses on the development of a novel endoscopic navigation technique for endo-nasal skull-base surgery. This new AR endoscopic navigation system aims to improve and facilitate minimally invasive neurosurgical procedures by combining CT and MR images with endoscopic images. In this way, this technological approach could be a valuable aid for improving surgical tool navigation and accuracy, as well as reducing procedure times and risk for the patient.

Marco Says: “Besides the main track of the PhD, I am also exploring other imaging technologies that enable real-time tissue classification during surgery; this is the reason why I worked also on hyperspectral imaging (HSI). The work I presented at the SPIE conference is a feasibility study on the integration of HSI on an endoscope for neurosurgery, which may allow in the future the real-time classification of brain and tumorous tissue.”

Austrian ORF Long Night of Museums

On the 5th of October, the Austrian ORF Long Night of Museums, took place. At this public event, museums in Vienna are opening for the night and visitors are able to visit participating museums with one single ticket. Besides the normal exhibitions, there are several events taking place over the night. The SPIE/OSA Student Chapter of the Medical University of Vienna participated with a 3D printed demonstrator device. Fabian assisted with explanations and introductions to Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) and different projects at the Center for Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, including the endoscope development in the framework of the FBI-project.

All visitors were interested in the principle and the application of the OCT. Answering engaging questions and raising interest in biomedical imaging all members of the SPIE/OSA Student Chapter welcomed around 1,500 visitors. Besides observing a printing 3D printer, the visitors experienced the OCT on samples like bone, muscle, fruits or leaves. Additionally to the knowledge about OCT and its application, the visitors got the OCT sample depth scans as a printout.

All in all, it was an outstanding event and advertisement for the exciting research field of Optical Coherence Tomography and its applications.

Click the video below for some impressions.


Last month Maksim and Igor participated in outreach to the public within the Open Door event at EPFL. The focus was to explain to the public why studying lipid membrane and water is important. After all, the membrane is the shield of every living cell and water is the major content. And what better way to explain than starting with Marshmallows. In their first experiment, they showed what happens to Marshmallows when you put them in vacuum – Marshmallows grow! This is because there are many small air bubbles that expand in the absence of atmospheric pressure. Kids loved it! Especially the eating part.

In their second experiment, they demonstrated a simple laser light scattering through different samples. While simple water showed no specific scattering pattern, emulsions like milk, salad dressing, or yogurt showed characteristic speckle pattern. With this simplified demonstration setup, they were able to explain the principle of how they do science in the laboratory

Lastly, an interesting experiment of liquid water freezing upon pouring out in a glass bowl. This water contained no minerals, which are usually the nucleation centers for freezing. Therefore, they could cool this water to -10 degrees Celsius without freezing. Once the water was poured in the glass bowl, the impact and impurities on the bowl surface served as nucleation centers, so the water turned into ice immediately. This outreach to public was very fruitful and successful. Close to 40 000 people attended the EPFL Open Door event.

FBI Meeting in Lausanne

From the 1st to the 4th of April, EPFL was hosting the fourth annual meeting of the FBI project and an entrepreneurship workshop in Lausanne. Already the weekend before the meeting, most ESRs (aka. Agents) gathered together to explore the surroundings. Igor and Maksim lead us to the peak of the mountain Rochers de Naye (2200m). The views from the rack railway while climbing the mountains were stunning. The weather was at its best and allowed for some sliding in the snow. On the way back to Lausanne we enjoyed a stroll on the promenade in Montreux and boat trip on the Lake Geneva.

The first two days of the meeting were dedicated for an entrepreneurship workshop. On the first of these days, we learned the basics and some tools for starting up a project and we formed teams around ideas, which we submitted a few weeks before. On the second day, we experimented with a few different tools to shape our start-up, the idea and our pitch. We finished the workshop with a pitch competition presenting our ideas in a very spontaneous and challenging setting, which was a great learning experience.

On the 3rd and 4th day of the meeting, the ESRs and work package leaders presented the progress in their respective projects and we were able to gather some valuable input from the other members. The meeting finished with a supervisory board meeting. The ESRs that did not participate in the board meeting were able to follow Igor and Maksim around the labs at EPFL for an interesting and inspiring tour.

I would like to thank Igor, Maksim and everyone else involved, for organising the event and hosting us in Lausanne. You did a great job as did everyone before you. Tahir, Benjamin and me are looking forward to return the favour to host everyone for the next meeting in Copenhagen at DTU and NKT Photonics from 20-22 Nov. 2019.

Promoting Biomedical Imaging at Secondary Schools

The final years of secondary school are some of the most challenging times for a student. Should I go to university? Should I do an internship? What should I specialize in?? To help with these critical decisions, Institutions provide several career workshops, Companies hold open days and Universities invite alumni to provide guidance. Having experience in both industry and academia, Zak visited the Bavarian International School, Phorms Campus München and St. George’s British International School to promote the future of biomedical imaging. Talking about the applications of Imaging modalities including Optical Coherence Tomography and Optoacoustics combined with sharing his experience of working as a Product development engineer in a large medical device firm, conducting experiments as part of his Master’s thesis or volunteering in Africa opened the floor to several questions posed by the students.

Zak promoting the FBI at schools

At the end of his presentations, Zak was surprised to receive so many questions. It’s great so see that there is so much interest in the field of biomedical imaging. At one school we ran out of question time, another school asked if they can organize a school trip to visit our photonics labs. On the 21st of February we are expected to give a lab tour of our research center in Munich to another group of students. Having set some time aside from his research to give back to the local community, Zak looks forward to organizing more outreach activities in the near future and continue promoting science in schools.


The third meeting of the FBI-ITN Project was hosted in Germany, by iThera Medical, Technical University of Munich and Helmholtz Zentrum. The four-day meeting was held between 18th to 21st of June.

The first two days of the meeting were evolved around discussions between the ESRs and the supervisors on their respective progress in their project. The ESRs presented their progress summaries and in-turn, received constructive feedback from both fellow ESRs and the supervisors. The ESRs also had the chance to review and refine their Career Development Plans (CDPs) as well as reiterate on the possible collaborations with other consortium as part of their secondments. There was a change in the members of the student board. New members were elected into the student board, and plans for the Mid-term Review in Copenhagen were scheduled.


On third day of the meeting, there was a workshop on Ethics. The workshop was conducted by Prof. Oliver Rauprich. Before the Ethics workshop, the ESRs were tasked to do research on the possible ethical issues around their projects. A one-page presentation regarding ethics was included in the ESRs’ progress reports. The ethics workshop was really engaging and enlightening. The ethics of the research within the FBI-ITN projects were examined to everyone’s understanding. The ESRs had the opportunity to learn about the science of ethics and conducting fair and legal research. On behalf of the ESRs, I would like to thank Prof. Oliver Rauprich once again for his time and dedication all through the workshop.


On the final day of the meeting, the ESRs, and supervisors visited the European Patent Office (EPO), in Munich. The visit to the EPO gave a detailed insight into information about applying and searching for patents. The legal issues and economic impact of patents were also discussed.


Concluding, the meeting was very educative, and fun. Meeting with other members of the network is always a pleasure. Speedy recovery to Mikael who could not make it to Munich. Congratulations to Igor on his published research paper in Science. Thank you, Igor, for setting the bar so high. I would also like to thank our lovely hosts, Zak, Parastoo, Antonia, Christian and all the “behind-the-scenes” people for making the visit to Munich feasible, comforting and fun.

Hoping to see you all in Copenhagen!

Bringing science closer to children

Science is gaining an essential role in everyday life. But when to start to get people in contact with science? The answer is: childhood. The KinderUni in Vienna is an opportunity for 7 to 12 years old children to explore the university and its life. The motto: We turn the university upside down!

Jeremias and Fabian participated within the student chapter at the Center for Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering to show experiments and principles in the field of optics and imaging. How is milk in water a model for cataract? How do we use mirrors and pinholes to align an optical setup? What does a spectrometer do? Why are we fooled by optical illusions? These and even more questions were answered within 5 different stations we set up for the visit of 30 children at our center.

Fabian and Jeremias in the lab with the setup for the hands-on experiments holding the certificate.

Were we able to explain optics and other connections to children in a way that they learn something and are curious about more things? For Fabian and Jeremias it was important to practice their explanations and experiments beforehand, to have a feeling of speed, depth and wording.
It was a pleasure to see all the children listening to the things we explained and the enthusiasm at the hands-on experiments. Most exciting was seeing the children building up their own connection, as one girl put it: “a cataract, it’s like when laser travels through milk, less light reaches the other side”.
As soon as the children completed a station, they received a certificate with stickers. Looking at the children standing proudly with their certificate and the handouts at the end of the day in the large seminar room was satisfaction enough for us. For us it is clear, that we are participating again at the KinderUni 2019: Maybe with more children, maybe with more complex experiments. Fabian and Jeremias are thankful for the opportunity.

Certificate for the children. The 5 stickers represent the accomplishment of the 5 different stations.

Collecting experiences at Carl Zeiss Meditec

It was mid of March and it had just snowed the week before when I arrived in a small german town called Oberkochen. It is nicely located within a valley surrounded by hills filled with trees and little river emerging from the rocks just some walking minutes to the south of the neighborhood. As I have studied in Jena, which is the birthplace of the company Zeiss, I do notice a certain ressemblance and one may imagine that the young Carl Zeiss maybe hiked through the small village of Oberkochen during his journeyman years before starting his little optical workshop in 1846 which later became one of the largest optical device manufacturer in the world.

The southern Zeiss Campus with the white main building of the CZ Meditec AG and the blue buildings in the background of the CZ Semiconductor Technology and CZ Microscopy business divisions.

So it certainly was the beginning of an interesting period within my PhD as I was visiting our industrial partner, the Carl Zeiss Meditec AG, at their headquarters for roughly three months. During this time I had the opportunity to work in the Department of Advanced Development to develop a first prototype of our newest approach to image 5-ALA induced protoporphyrin IX for neurosurgical guidance. Even though, I had already arrived with a plan in my mind, I was gratefull for the team spirit and support I was given by the staff. It helped me to fine-tune my system and stay focussed to achieve the best possible measurments. I also enjoyed to get in contact with other students working on their bachelor and master thesis and it sometimes felt like being in university-kind of environment. However, I was also able to follow the daily life in the medical device industry where not only scientific and technical but also clinical, regulatory and producibility aspects decide over the development of an idea or prototype to a product. It is this interdisciplinary approach and balancing of the requirements and needs between project leaders, developers, product and regulatory managers which I found fascinating and taught me that it is one step to publish a new scientific method, but it is a series of step till this may be part of a final product.

Interestingly, the young Carl Zeiss also visited Vienna in 1843 to work in the Mecca of mechanical engineering that the city was known for at the time and attend courses in mechanics. As I am finishing writing this post, sitting in my office back in Vienna, I do feel humble to have unconsciously followed his footsteps.

In this sense, I thank everyone involved for my interesting secondment in Oberkochen.

FBI meeting in Eindhoven

From the 20th to the 23rd of February, Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) and Philips Research hosted the second meeting of the FBI project in Eindhoven. In the first three days of the event, the ESRs had the opportunity to attend two different workshops: one focused on improving their own skills in scientific writing, and the other one to get a flavour of entrepreneurship. During the last day the ESRs presented the progress in their own work.

During the workshop on scientific writing of Tuesday and Wednesday, Nathalie Le Bot and Rosy Favicchio,  editors at Nature, explained what are the strategies and techniques that will help us improving our scientific writing skills, giving us a first-hand insight into the publishing process at top-tier journals. This was a unique opportunity to interact with experienced Nature journal editors, who offered a mix of expert instruction and hands-on support, tips on making the most of our manuscript preparation and, also, providing practical solutions to common science communication problems.

The entrepreneurship workshop, held by professor Jes Broeg from the Technical University of Denmark, offered us a broad overview of  the importance of extending research ideas into a business model. He did offer a wide variety of practical examples, such as Google and Facebook and he shared his own experience as entrepreneur, from his first discoveries as a PhD student to the funding of his own start-up. During the afternoon, the ESRs tested what they learned with a pitch competition. Divided in three teams, they had to propose their own service/product in front of a jury representing a future customer or investor.

On Friday morning, the ESRs shared their own progress in a brief presentation.  A follow up discussion allowed the ESRs to receive inputs and suggestions on their work opening for future collaborations among the several organizations involved in the FBI project. During the afternoon, the ESRs enjoyed a visit to the clean room of TU/e. Two experts guided them in the lab, showing the equipment they use and explaining the several processes involved in the microfabrication.

Me, Roger and Rastko, as ESRs organizing the event, would really thank all the FBI members for participating in this meeting. For us, it has been a pleasure hosting the meeting in our city and overall we hope this gave you some inputs in pursuing your own projects.