Scheme: University Research Fellowship
Organisation: University of Dundee
Dates: Oct 2008-Sep 2011
Summary: My research examines how light can be used to manipulate microscopic particles using a technique called optical trapping. This is where tightly focussed laser light can be used to pick up and move about tiny particles, which can include airborne aerosol particles as well as cells in solution. My work is split between these two areas which broadly encompass the application of lasers in both environmental science and biology. The impact of the work is quite clear: we study processes which can help to elucidate a better understanding of how the atmosphere works and how cellular processes, such as cell adhesion work. This is achieved by improving our knowledge of the physics of how light and matter interact and using this knowledge to produce new techniques and tools to carry out applied work.
As an example we are currently carrying out a project to look at how ice aerosols are formed in the atmosphere. Ice aerosols, along with most atmospheric aerosols, play a huge role in global warming processes by acting to cool the Earth down. However the way in which such particles are formed and how they interact are often poorly understood. We aim to create a system whereby ice formation at teh single droplet level can be studied in a highly controlled and repeatable fashion. It is difficult to see how this could easily be achieved using other techniques.
As a second example we are also trying to make use of such techniques to study how cells bind to objects such as blood vessel walls. This cell adhesion process is key in a wide variety of physiological conditions, not least the spread of cancer throughout the body. Using optical tweezers techniques we are trying to make measurements of the forces involved in such binding processes and to use tweezers to locally probe cells to look at how different parts of cells respond to force.
As such my work is of great general interest and will have impact in a wide variety of disciplines of great topical interest.
Dates: Oct 2003-Sep 2008
Summary: This project summary is not available for publication.