Professor Renjie Zhou, Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), has been awarded the Croucher Innovation Award 2019 in the amount of HK$5 million in research expenses by the Croucher Foundation for his outstanding research achievements in optical diffraction tomography and in support of his future research works.
There is a potential risk of exposure to radiation during X-ray Computed Tomography (X-ray CT), and it is not suitable for repeated use in a short period of time. The in vivo imaging technology for detection of eye diseases is yet to be developed. 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 Tomography Phase Microscopy (TPM) technology. With this award, Professor Zhou and his team will work on developing a new “Reflection-mode TPM for label-free in vivo imaging applications using light diffraction and coherence properties”, to make new breakthroughs and further applications in in vivo imaging technology.
The new TPM technique will be non-invasive so that medical practitioners will be able to conduct three-dimensional tissue scanning on patients without the need of contrast medium injection or suffering ionising radiation. The technique can maintain a high resolution to sub-micron level and 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 tumour formation and provide accurate and timely treatment. Given its non-invasive nature, Professor Zhou says that TPM based scanning can be performed frequently over time which will have an impact in many ways on long-term disease monitoring in the future. He pointed out that current medical scanners such as X-ray CT must be operated by professionals with proper protective devices. As for the TPM based scanner, it is almost 100% safe and the operation will be relatively simple.
This new TPM technology will provide high-resolution images, which is useful for medical diagnosis such as application in 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 and eye degeneration, and research study. Professor Zhou also plans to combine TPM technology with artificial intelligence-based image processing algorithms, which will assist doctors to more accurately infer the disease conditions and provide appropriate treatment. As more samples are collected, the more analytical the data will be.
Professor Zhou said, “I am very honored to receive this award and would like to share my joy with my research team, and express my appreciation for the guidance of many CUHK seniors. Receiving this award is recognition of our research at an early stage. With the research funds, our team can fully focus on cutting-edge research development that has a longer-term impact. We are also collaborating with world-leading research institutes, including the School of Medicine, Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to work together on developing medical instruments, contributing our professionalism to the medical sector.”
Brief Biography of Professor Renjie Zhou
Professor 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 of CUHK. He has focused his research on developing high sensitivity interferometric microscopy techniques for biomedical applications. Professor Zhou received his PhD degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA in 2014. His doctoral dissertation focused on developing wafer defect inspection instruments and solving 3D inverse scattering problems for cell imaging. After that, he worked as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at G. R. Harrison Spectroscopy Laboratory at MIT, where he worked on developing high-speed microscopic imaging techniques. Professor Zhou has over 30 papers published in well-known international journals, including Nature Photonics, Physical Review Letters and Laser & Photonics Reviews. He also served as a reviewer for around 30 international journals. In the past 10 years, Professor Zhou has received a number of research awards and fellowships including P. D. Coleman Outstanding Research Award from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA and Beckman Graduate Fellowship from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation.
The Croucher Innovation Awards
First presented in 2012, 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 Awards are 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 for research expenses of the award winner.