Enrico Gratton: The 2021 SPIE Britton Chance Biomedical Optics Award
Enrico Gratton has been a groundbreaking contributor to the field of biomedical optics for his entire career, disseminating his work to researchers worldwide, training younger scientists, and interfacing successfully with industry. His key achievements include multi-frequency phase fluorometry; pulsed-source methods for frequency-domain fluorescence spectroscopy; generalized polarization to study cell membranes; spectral fluorescence lifetime measurements; photo-density waves; quantitative tissue oximetry with near-infrared spectroscopy; optical brain imaging; two-photon fluorescence correlation spectroscopy; frequency-domain optical mammography; particle counters at low densities; phasor analysis to study fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) efficiency and separate fluorescence lifetimes; raster image correlation spectroscopy (RICS); digital frequency-domain technique for fast fluorescence life-time imaging (FLIM); and deep-tissue FLIM.
Currently a professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Irvine, California, Gratton has influenced the wider research community at multiple levels. Under his guidance, more than 50 students have gained their PhDs and most currently occupy critical roles in academia and at various research institutions. A pioneering contributor at SPIE conferences, Gratton was one of the earliest active participants at the Fluorescence and Near Infrared Biomedical Instrumentation conference during the original inception of what would become SPIE Photonics West, when it was first held in Los Angeles at the LAX Marriott Hotel.
"Enrico is one of the most talented experimentalists in our field," says Suzanne Scarlata, the Whitcomb Chair of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and a former president of the Biophysical Society. "I met Enrico in the early 1980s at the University of Illinois when he was an assistant professor, and I was a graduate student with Gregorio Weber. Gregorio had enormous respect for Enrico and the two often met to discuss molecular spectroscopy and methods. At Illinois, Enrico helped develop and fine-tune phase-modulation methods, high-pressure fluorescence measurements, and initiated single molecule studies. He also developed software to fit and analyze spectroscopic data with the advent of modern computers. Importantly, he assisted in the training and development of many successful spectroscopists, such as David Piston and Catherine Royer. His lab is a major presence at the annual Biophysical Society meeting, and, every year, my colleagues and I look forward to seeing the innovative work that Enrico and his students present at these meetings."