Prof. Renjie Zhou, Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering was awarded the “Croucher Innovation Award 2019” in the amount of HK$5 million by the Croucher Foundation, for his outstanding research achievements in optical diffraction tomography.
With this award, Professor Zhou and his team will work on developing a new "Reflection-mode tomography Phase Microscopy (TPM)" technique, using light diffraction and coherence properties, to make new breakthroughs in in vivo imaging. The new imaging technique will be non-invasive through which medical practitioners will be able to conduct three-dimensional scanning on patients without the need of contrast medium injection or exposure to radiation. Not only can it achieve a high resolution down to sub-micron level, the team is also expecting to achieve real-time tracking of tiny living cells and tissues, which in turn can help medical professionals to make better diagnosis at an early stage to prevent tumor formation.
Given it is non-invasive nature, Prof. Zhou said TPM based scanning can be performed frequently over time which will be impactful in many ways, such as long-term disease monitoring. He also pointed out that TPM technology can be applied to high-resolution fundus imaging, based on which subtle eye diseases can be detected. As the retina is connected to the brain nerves, the high-resolution three-dimensional scanning can potentially reveal the connections between photosensitive cells and the optic nerve, which may also enable early detection of Alzheimer's disease.
Prof. Zhou also plans to combine TPM technology with AI-based image processing algorithms, which will assist doctors to more accurately infer the disease conditions. Professor Zhou went on to say that current medical scanners, such as X-ray CT, has strong radiations, which must be operated by professionals and proper protective devices. As for TPM based scanner, it is almost 100% safe, and the operation will be relatively simple.
Since joining CUHK in 2017, Professor Zhou has been working closely with medical doctors at Prince of Wales Hospital and Eye Hospital on the medical applications of his TPM technology. Regarding the Croucher award, Professor Zhou said, "I am very honored to receive this award. I would like to share my joy with my research team and also appreciate the guidance of many CUHK seniors. With this five-year award, our teach can 100% focus on cutting-edge research development that has a longer-term impact. We are also collaborating with world-leading research institutes, including the Stanford University School of Medicine and the M.I.T, to work together on developing medical instruments".
Brief Biography of Prof. Renjie Zhou
Prof. Renjie Zhou joined CUHK in 2017 and is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Director of the Laser Metrology and Biomedicine Laboratory. His current research focuses on developing high sensitivity interferometric microscopy techniques for biomedical applications. Prof. Zhou received his Ph.D. degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2014. His doctoral dissertation focused on wafer defect inspection instruments and solving 3D inverse scattering problems for cell imaging. From 2014-2017, he worked as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at G. R. Harrison Spectroscopy Laboratory at M.I.T, where he developed several high-speed microscopic imaging techniques. Prof. Zhou has more than 30 papers published in the top journals in his field, including Nature Photonics, Physical Review Letters, Laser & Photonics Reviews, etc. He also served as a reviewer for around 30 international journals. In the past 10 years, Prof. Zhou has received a number of research awards and fellowships from SPIE (the International Society for Optics and Photonics), the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, etc.
The Croucher Innovation Awards
The Croucher Innovation Awards aim to identify a small number of exceptionally talented scientists working at an internationally competitive level and to offer substantial support to these ‘rising stars’ at a formative stage in their careers. The scheme is designed to enable recipients to pursue their own scientific, intellectual and professional inclinations, to advance their expertise, to engage in bold new work, and to contribute to the development of education and research in Hong Kong. Each award carries a value of up to HK$5 million over 5 years.