My role as an I-CUREUS participant was to develop a custom built Raman microscope. Our application to biological samples with thicknesses of a few microns causes major problems for expensive commercial systems. The system we constructed has achieved a better application specific performance, at a fraction of the cost.

The task of building a custom Raman microscope is a perfect example of combining the skills acquired from my degree in Engineering Physics. The physics of the interaction of light with basic optical components, and Raman scattering with the sample allows us to extract important biological features with high temporal resolution. The engineering aspect is using the components available to construct a robust system, within a given budget.

The problem we are addressing is the inherent response of tumours to radiation. Two people with the same tumor can have completely different responses to treatment, due to the radioresistant or radiosensitive nature of the tumour. There is currently no way to predict a patients response to treatment. We hope this technique can characterize the expected response to radiation so treatment plans can be customized to each patient, increasing positive outcomes.

This experience has taught me to think outside the box when solving problems, and to persevere when things don’t work out as planned. I’ve gained a lot of knowledge in optics, data acquisition and analysis, interfacing hardware and software, as well as dealing with vendors and support contacts to help solve problems. These skills are invaluable across any discipline or work environment. I would highly recommend an opportunity like this to future students. Gaining experience like this, in an undergraduate environment benefits you as a student, as a person and will help guide you into a professional setting.

Dean Shepherdson