Research Fellows Directory
Dr Matthew Foreman
Imperial College London
Through constant innovation in instrumentation and experimental techniques, advances in the life sciences have driven an increasingly higher quality of life through rapid diagnostics, drug development and improved healthcare. To develop yet deeper understanding of the function and dynamics of biological systems, however, requires the ability to not only monitor single bio-molecules, but also to analyse their properties and behaviour in a rigorous quantitative fashion. My research looks at developing novel techniques and experimental tools, leveraging electromagnetic waves that propagate along the surface of metals, so-called surface plasmons, to provide an analytic and quantitative platform for both biosensing and quantitative dynamical biological studies.
The core focus of my research investigates “plasmon speckle” which is a granular wave pattern arising from the interference of many surface plasmons. Such speckle patterns are formed at metal interfaces due to inherent roughness or bound nanoparticles. Through the cumulative effect of multiple interfering plasmons, plasmon speckle possesses an extreme sensitivity to the local environment and scattering configuration. Biosensing, that is to say, the detection of specific biomolecules, such as proteins or pathogens, can be achieved by measuring step-like changes in the plasmon speckle, and has immediate potential applications in food safety and environmental monitoring. Moreover, biological processes, such as lipid transport or molecular reactions, can give rise to temporal fluctuations in the speckle pattern, which strongly depend on the molecular properties and interaction kinetics, providing a unique route to studying these systems. Techniques for tracking individual particles and conformational changes are also being pursued. In this way, the new tools being developed add to a biologist’s toolkit to aid in fundamental biological studies, which in turn drive advances in pharmaceuticals and healthcare.