Rice University logo Bioengineering, George R. Brown School of Engineering
Top blue bar image Bioengineering

Tomasz Tkaczyk wins Paul F. Forman
Engineering Excellence Award

OSA award recognizes technical achievements in optical engineering 

By Shawn Hutchins 

Tomasz TkaczykTomasz Tkaczyk has been selected for the 2011 Paul F. Forman Engineering Excellence Award by the Optical Society (OSA) for his robust cost-effective optical-imaging platform technologies that instantaneously provide multi-dimensional biological data. The systems have broad use in basic research and in point-of-care diagnostics in various clinical settings worldwide. 

OSA will present the award to Tkaczyk during a ceremony at Frontiers in Optics (FiO), the organization’s annual meeting, in San Jose, CA on October 17, 2011. His inventions will also be featured in Optics & Photonics News, the society’s monthly magazine. 

Tkaczyk, an assistant professor in bioengineering and in electrical and computer engineering at Rice University, combines technologies in optics, opto-mechanics, electronics and software, and biochemical materials to develop devices that produce quality images and quantitative data at various lengths of scale. 

Since 2007, Tkaczyk has worked as lead investigator over the development of a dual-functioning endoscope capable of imaging wide areas of tissue at low magnification to pinpoint suspicious cancer lesions. Then with the help of contrast agents, the medical instrument’s miniature high-resolution component, which is smaller than a penny, exposes abnormal cellular and subcellular features. 

More recently, he coupled the endoscope with the Image Mapping Spectrometry (IMS) technology developed in his lab at Rice’s BioScience Research Collaborative. As the endoscope provides multiple filed-of-view imagery, the IMS technology extends beyond white-light visual examinations to show morphologic and molecular signatures of cancer in real time.

The IMS, which is a specialized compact digital camera that incorporates mirror and prism-lens arrays, reveals a biological specimens’ chemical and physical composition in a single snapshot and without the use of scanning. Cellular dynamics and architectures are revealed in a spectrum of color that spans 10 to 100 visual channels. This volume of information is then assembled by a laptop computer to instantaneously produce a 3-D data cube. 

Tests have proven the IMS’ potential as a fundamental research tool for microscopy; however, the biophotonics-based technology has use in a variety of industries, such as security, oil exploration, quality control and research. Details about the new system and its applications appeared in the Optics Express (June 2009, July 2010 and August 2011) and Journal of Biomedical Optics in May 2011.

The IMS technology was featured in OSA’s “Hot topics” and “Papers of the Year” in 2010, and the company Tkaczyk co-founded to commercialize the technology, Rebellion Photonics, was featured in Fortune and selected as winner of the Goradia Innovation Prize by the Houston Technology Center and more than $150,000 in cash prizes at top international business plan competitions.  

Tkaczyk is author of 30 peer-reviewed publications and a new textbook, Field Guide to Microscopy. Other awards he recently received include: a John S. Dunn Research Foundation award to adapt endoscopic technologies and build a high-resolution endoscope that images the intricate workings of the inner ear in vivo (2009), and a Becton-Dickinson Professional Achievement Award by the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (2010).   

Since its founding in 1916, OSA has worked to advance the common interests of investigators of optical problems and designers and of users of optical apparatus of all kinds. This has included providing educational resources to the scientists, engineers and business leaders who work in the field by promoting the science of light and advancing the technologies made possible by optics and photonics. For more information, visit www.osa.org.