Dr Christopher Rowlands
Imperial College London

Dr Chris Rowlands started his academic career in 2001 at Imperial College, in the Chemistry department. After discovering that he couldn't sketch a hexagon well enough to be any good at synthetic chemistry, he decided to concentrate on physical chemistry, if only because it required remembering the names of fewer chemists. This proved a good career move, and he went on to study for a PhD in the physics and chemistry of chalcogenide glasses at Cambridge University, in the group of Prof. Stephen Elliott. It was there that he learned about glass synthesis, Raman microscopy, analytical chemistry techniques of all kinds, algorithm design, and several new swearwords for use when attempting to get the laser working again.

After leaving Cambridge in 2010, he spent a year at the University of Nottingham, studying the use of Raman microscopy in diagnosing cancer in the group of Dr Ioan Notingher, before receiving a three-year Wellcome Trust MIT Postdoctoral Research Fellowship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in the group of Prof. Peter So. There he discovered the delights (and curses) of multiphoton microscopy, fluorescence lifetime microscopy, super-resolution imaging, light-sheet microscopy and many more fluorescence microscopy techniques. Five years, several papers, two snowpocalypses and multiple swearwords later, his visa ran out, so he came back to the UK to continue his fellowship back in Cambridge, as a guest in the laboratory of Prof. Clemens Kaminski. While nominally developing new super-resolution techniques, a suspiciously high fraction of his time was actually spent drinking tea and trying to sneak naughty acronyms into serious scientific journals.

The tea and naughty acronyms were clearly a good career move, because in 2017 he was invited to join the Bioengineering Faculty at Imperial College as a lecturer. His current research is focussed on the development of optical instrumentation, particularly for use in biological applications. Projects being actively developed in the lab include Structured Illumination microscopes, Temporal Focusing systems, optically-generated ultrasound, ultrafast imaging of microbubbles, real-time fly tracking microscopes for neurobiology, diffuse optical tomography systems, and the world's only hyperspectral oblique-plane microscope.


Sometimes developments are made because of need, but other times they are made purely because of personal interest. This story starts out as the latter: "How can we project arbitrary interference patterns using only one moving part?" but over time it evolved into a high-speed, efficient and flexible means of performing Structured Illumination Microscopy (SIM). During this talk we will discuss how this puzzle came about, the solution we created (the Synthetic Wide-field Interfering Foci Technique, or SWIFT), its performance (in terms of speed, efficiency, pattern fidelity, flexibility and so on) and finish off by demonstrating some real applications of the system, specifically performing rapid 2D and 3D SIM imaging.

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