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Elizabeth Hillman honored with SPIE Biophotonics Technology Innovator Award

In a ceremony during the BiOS Hot Topics session at SPIE Photonics West, Dr. Elizabeth Hillman was awarded the SPIE 2018 Biophotonics Technology Innovator Award

28 January 2018

Dr. Elizabeth Hillman accepts her award from 2018 SPIE president Maryellen Giger

Dr. Elizabeth Hillman receives the Biophotonics Technology Innovator Award from 2018 SPIE President Maryellen Giger at the Photonics West BiOS Hot Topics session

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA, and CARDIFF, UK - Dr. Elizabeth Hillman, Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Radiology and Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Investigator at Columbia University, is the recipient of the 2018 Biophotonics Technology Innovator Award from SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics. The award recognizes her pioneering development of optical imaging techniques for in vivo imaging, as well as her innovative applications of those technologies. Among her contributions is the development of the revolutionary Swept Confocally-Aligned Planar Excitation (SCAPE) technique for high-speed, 3D in vivo microscopy, recently licensed to Leica Microsystems for commercial development.

Dr. Hillman, an SPIE Fellow, is particularly known for her development of disruptive optical imaging technologies, in parallel with her groundbreaking research into basic brain physiology. "Dr. Hillman is one of the most outstanding investigators in the fields of biophotonics and bioengineering," said Professor Vadim Backman, Northwestern University's Walter Dill Scott Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Program Leader, Cancer and Physical Sciences at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center. "Not only has she pioneered a number of breakthrough optical imaging techniques, but she has also made seminal contributions to the life sciences by her extremely smart and innovative use of these technologies. It is very difficult to gain recognition in imaging as well as biology at the same time; Dr. Hillman has accomplished this remarkable feat while generating paradigm-shifting results in both fields."  

Hillman is the Director of Columbia's Laboratory for Functional Optical Imaging. She has developed a diverse range of multi-scale, in vivo optical brain imaging and microscopy approaches, from early work on diffuse optical tomography to hyperspectral two-photon microscopy, wide-field optical mapping and most recently SCAPE microscopy. Hillman also developed dynamic contrast enhanced small animal molecular imaging (DyCE) - a technique now licensed to PerkinElmer and used in their range of small animal imaging systems. Hillman's scientific studies have focused on understanding the relationship between blood flow changes in the brain and underlying neuronal activity. Her recent findings have elucidated the role of endothelial cells in generating local brain blood flow increases, and revealed large-scale patterns of neural activity that depict brain wide networks of connectivity.

"It is great to receive this recognition for our imaging technology development, and for our efforts to disseminate these methods to accelerate biomedical research." says Hillman. She credits funding from the BRAIN Initiative for her ability to focus on, and accelerate the development of SCAPE. "Technological innovation is difficult to do in an academic setting, so funding that encourages innovation and intense collaboration makes a huge difference - as does having a wonderful team of students, staff and collaborators."  

The award was presented to Dr. Hillman during the BiOS Hot Topics event, part of SPIE Photonics West, on Saturday, 27 January. Hillman will also be presenting her research at SPIE Photonics West, giving two oral presentations. "High-speed optical imaging of brain-wide activity" will take place as part of the Neurotechnologies Plenary session on Sunday, 28 January. The invited presentation, "SCAPE microscopy for high-speed 3D imaging of living tissues", will be on Monday, 29 January, in a session on shaped beams for light sheet and structured illumination microscopy.  In addition, Hillman serves on two program committees for Photonics West, Biophysics, Biology and Biophotonics II: the Crossroads, and Optogenetics and Optical Manipulation.  

The SPIE Biophotonics Technology Innovator Award is presented annually for extraordinary achievements in biophotonics technology development that show strong promise or potential impact in biology, medicine, and biomedical optics. The award targets achievements that span disciplines and may include elements of basic research, technology development, and clinical translation.  

About SPIE SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, is an educational not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based science, engineering and technology. The Society serves nearly 264,000 constituents from approximately 166 countries, offering conferences and their published proceedings, continuing education, books, journals, and the SPIE Digital Library. In 2017, SPIE provided $4 million in support of education and outreach programs. www.spie.org  


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