Katarina Svanberg: Combining optics and oncology

An interview from SPIE Optics + Photonics 2017.

08 September 2017

Katarina Svanberg's contributions to the fields of tissue spectroscopy and photodynamic therapy have brought her recognition throughout the world, and her research collaborations cover five continents. Her groundbreaking work on laser-induced tissue fluorescence have made "optical biopsy" a reality for many types of cancer.

Svanberg is a professor and chief consultant of oncology at Lund University Hospital (Sweden) and also active at South China Normal University.

In this SPIE interview, Svanberg notes that her goal has been to try to find where optics and photonics can help with challenges in medicine. She points out that even though many techniques have been developed, researchers are still trying to find complementary techniques, both for diagnostics and for therapy.

Svanberg is a Fellow of SPIE, and served on its Board of Directors from 2005-2007, as well as serving on various SPIE committees. An editorial board member for the Journal of Biomedical Optics, she has co-authored more than 40 original scientific SPIE conference papers, and given invited talks at over 90 international conferences and over 30 universities. She is a recipient of the Prize for Interdisciplinary Science, Royal Society of Science, Uppsala University; the SKAPA Innovation Prize in the Memory of Alfred Nobel; and the Innovator Award from the Society for Industrial Development, Sweden.

This year, Svanberg received the SPIE Gold Medal, the highest honor the Society bestows. The award recognizes her contributions to biophotonics, in particular clinical work exploring and verifying the efficacy of phototherapy and in vivo diagnosis in treating cancer patients.

The award also acknowledges Svanberg's dedication to building scientific and medical infrastructure in Africa and inspiring young people across the world. She has trained medical personnel in the poorest regions of Africa in biomedical optical techniques. Her support for scientists in developing countries is apparent from her active and encouraging participation in programs at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) such as the Winter School for Optics.

Svanberg was also instrumental in founding the highly regarded Ven Summer School in Sweden. This biennial school draws top faculty and students in biomedical optics from around the world for a concentrated high level interchange.

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