NSF CAREER Award for SPIE Member Mini Das will target advanced microscopy techniques

07 July 2017

SPIE Member Mini Das, assistant professor of physics at University of Houston (USA), has received a five year, $620,000 CAREER award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop and test methods for fast, low-radiation, high-resolution x-ray microscopy.

photo of Mini DasDas says the work aims to close the gap between conventional microscopy and a next-generation version. X-ray microscopy now requires lengthy exposure and high radiation doses, but Das is proposing collecting fewer x-ray photons while finding ways to increase the amount of information that can be collected from the light particles.

Das' project has three components: developing new detecting methods, new algorithms, and new instrumentation and design. An interdisciplinary group - involving graduate and undergraduate students from physics, engineering, computer science and biology - will be involved.

"This is a big problem," says Das, who directs the Imaging Physics Lab at UH. "We need to reach across disciplines to study it."

The work will involve both computational analysis and lab experimentation to enable the practical use of tomographic x-ray microscopes on biological samples as the group tests its theories through modeling and optical benchtop testing. The NSF award will address the significant need for nondestructive and quantitative microscopy in many biological investigations.

In addition to the work on advanced imaging methods, Das is also actively engaged in research areas related to image science and psychophysics.  Das chaired a workshop on virtual clinical trials for breast imaging at SPIE Medical Imaging earlier this year and is on the program committee for a conference on the physics of medical imaging at SPIE Medical Imaging 2018, to be held in Houston next February. (Abstracts for SPIE Medical Imaging 2018 are due 7 August 2017.)

Das, who has a PhD from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, received a highly competitive $1 million Breakthrough Award last year from the Breast Cancer Research Program, administered by the US Department of Defense. That award supports her research to solve the problem of low tissue contrast in breast cancer imaging, using a new imaging method to detect x-ray refraction.

NSF CAREER awards are granted to highly promising junior faculty members who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through "outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research."

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