Last Updated - 20/12/2017

Biophotonics Group - April 2017
Catalyst: Leader award win

4 December 2017


Warm congratulations to Fang (Rachel) Ou on being selected as a winner of the July 2017 Catalyst: Leader award to attend the 10th HOPE Meeting, 11–15 March 2018, Yokohama, Japan.

Under the auspices of the New Zealand-Japan Bilateral Programme between the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) and MBIE, the Royal Society Te Apārangi administers the nomination of up to 5 exceptional young researchers to attend the meeting in Japan. The award will cover the cost of her flights, accommodation, and meeting registration.

HOPE meetings give an opportunity for the participants to engage in interdisciplinary discussions with Nobel Laureates and other distinguished scientists pioneering the frontiers of knowledge.  It is expected that there will be about 100 doctoral students and young researchers in attendance from Australia, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Korea (R.O.K), Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam. 

Biophotonics Group - April 2017
Highly Commended for National Mentorship Award

30 November 2017


Dr Frédérique Vanholsbeeck was awarded Highly Commended by the Judges of the Miriam Dell Excellence in Science Mentoring Award from the Association for Women in the Sciences (AWIS) for her equity and mentoring work in Physics. 

She was the only female academic when appointed to the University of Auckland Department in 2005, and has subsequently championed and implemented processes to ensure unbiased hiring and mentoring of staff, selection of scholarship awardees and identification of colloquium speakers. As a result of the physics equity committee that she leads, the Department of Physics, University of Auckland, is the only recognised Pleiades Organisation in New Zealand (Bronze level), bestowed by the Inclusions, Diversity and Equity in Astronomy (IDEA) of the Astronomical Society of Australia.  She was nominated for the award by PhD candidate Fang (Rachel) Ou.

Biophotonics Group - April 2017
Congratulations Dr Braeuer!

4 October 2017


Bastian was one of the 55 PhD graduands from the Faculty of Science (three in Physics) celebrating the end of their studies at the Spring Graduation.   He is also one of the first students to complete their PhD degree from the Dodd-Walls Centre cohort. Bastian worked on improving light sources and dispersion measurements in optical coherence tomography (OCT). 


Bastian published two peer reviewed papers during his PhD and has a further two under review.   He also opened the path for new research in the Biophotonics Group currently being pursued by Dr Sylwia Kolenderska and student Matthew Brown.
The Biophotonics Group currently has a strong, diverse cohort of PhD candidates, several of whom will complete their studies in the near future.  We pride ourselves on recruiting high achieving students with diverse backgrounds from right across the globe.  

Biophotonics Group - April 2017
Around the world in 20 days

27 September 2017


September was an extremely busy month of conferences, workshops and meetings for Dr Vanholsbeeck. 

Firstly, Frederique attended the 2nd Canterbury Conference on Optical Coherence Tomography with emphasis on broadband optical sources in Kent, UK where she gave an invited talk on dispersion measurement in OCT and presented the work of Dr Sylwia Kolenderska on broadband spectrometer and Matthew Brown on assessing cartilage health. She also was a judge for the student presentations. More details here

She then flew to the OSA Frontiers in Optics Conference in Washington, USA to gave another invited talk on dispersion mapping for tissue differentiation in OCT.   

After that, she caught up with her Biophotonics Group in Auckland to celebrate the good news that two further papers are in review and plenty of new students a keen to join the group this coming summer.  This visit was designed to coincide with a meeting of the FoodSafe Industry Advisory Group where the latest research results were presented to our industry partners.
Finally, on the way back to Belgium, Frederique stopped in Adelaide, Australia where she presented the work on undergraduate pathways in physics at the 2017 Women in Mathematics conference. While there, she visited the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS) at the University of Adelaide, and the Groups of Professors Heike Ebendorff-Heidepriem and Robert McLaughlin, to seek potential collaboration opportunities for FoodSafe and in vivo biopsies in OCT.

Biophotonics Group - April 2017
Switzerland in September

18 August 2017


This September Fang Ou will be heading to the 11th EXCITE Summer School on Biomedical Imaging, held at ETH Zürich, the University of Zürich, and the University Hospital Zürich in Switzerland. Cutting-edge techniques based on a wide range of image-formation mechanisms – including magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography, infrared and optical microscopy, electron microscopy and X-ray imaging – will be discussed focusing on multimodal and multiscale imaging methods and supporting technologies such as computer-aided image analysis and modeling. 
This is a prestigious and intense two-week course which is restricted to only 50 students globally and includes not only lectures but also practical sessions and industry visits.   Her participation is partially funded by a Dodd-Walls Centre travel grant.
En route to Switzerland, Fang will visit Dr Vanholsbeeck who is on sabbatical in Brussels, Belgium, and research colleagues in Paris, France.

Biophotonics Group - April 2017
Another publication from the FoodSafe team!

2 August 2017


The latest article from the FoodSafe team,  Absolute bacterial cell enumeration using flow cytometry, has been published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology (JAM).


This article is focused around the optimisation of the flow cytometry technique for performing absolute counts of different populations of bacteria in a sample.


The optimised technique is a useful reference method for the bacterial counting techniques that the FoodSafe programme is developing.

Check it out here: 

Biophotonics Group - April 2017
Snowed by Physics - NZIP 2017

14 July 2017


University of Auckland students Steven Turnbull, Joni White and Zak Whiting hit the New Zealand Institute of Physics Conference in Dunedin, New Zealand, during 10-12 July. All had successfully secured Dodd-Walls Centre travel grants to contribute towards the cost of their attendance.
Steven and Zak gave well received oral papers in the Education sessions – Steven on his study of gender differences in undergraduate physics, and Zak on his work with the Beambox audio-visual outreach project.   Joni presented her recent centrifugal microfluidics developments as part of the FoodSafe programme as a poster.
Their visit coincided with dramatically extreme weather that blanketed the city with snow and closed all roads in and out. Fortunately, the venue was well heated, the presentations interesting, and the warmth of the hospitality at the conference dinner at Larnach Castle was unaffected!

Conference season

30 June 2017


During May and June, members of the Biophotonics Group have been busy attending a number of international conferences to present work on both Foodsafe and optical coherence tomography.  Most recently, two oral papers and two posters featured at the European Conferences on Biomedical Optics, in Munich, Germany. This is the largest forum in Europe for medical and biomedical researchers who work with optics and photonics and was collocated with the world’s largest laser trade fair.   Dr Vanholsbeeck was also interviewed by the Optical Society of America (OSA), the leading professional society in optics and photonics.

In May, Dr Vanholsbeeck attended the Gender Summit 10 in science for the Asia Pacific region in Tokyo, Japan. This was an amazing opportunity to exchange ideas on how to make the science environment more diverse and equitable. 

Biophotonics Group - April 2017
2017 Velocity Innovation Challenge Winner

30 May 2017


A bright future looks assured for FoodSafe PhD candidate Fang Ou as more accolades roll in.   
Experts in the New Zealand entrepreneurial ecosystem judged Fang’s FoodSafe-based idea the Science Category winner in the 2017 Velocity Innovation Challenge. An impressive 348 ideas were entered.  

The Velocity Innovation Challenge, is run by Velocity, a highly successful entrepreneurial development programme based in the Business School of the University of Auckland.   The competition boasts a total prize pool worth $40,000, and is a perfect launch pad for students and staff from all disciplines to hone their ideas for transformation into a real business.  

Fang’s prize package was $1000 and access to expert advice from Return on Science committees of leaders successful in the start-up scene.  

Biophotonics Group - April 2017
Semester One 2017 Success

19 April 2017


We celebrate early success in 2017. 
So far, the Biophotonics Group has published 1 paper and submitted another 3.


We have also secured a number of oral presentations at international conferences. 

Welcome also to Magdalena Urbańska who is arriving from Poland on 20 April to start her PhD on OCT.

ABC’s conquered!

2 April 2017


Congratulations to Rachel Guo and other members of the FoodSafe team for publishing "A rapid and low-cost estimation of bacteria counts in solution using fluorescence spectroscopy" in Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry (ABC!).  


This international, multidisciplinary journal was established in 1862 and has an impressive impact factor of 3.125


Check out the full article here

Beambox 2017 MOTAT Science Fair
Beambox at 2017 MOTAT Science Street Fair

29 March 2017


Frederique, Neelam and summer student Zak Whiting presented the new Beambox to the public at the 2017 MOTAT Science Street Fair in Auckland.


Zak’s scholarship work had focused on adding composition capability to the Beambox. Each box transmitted an audio track, consisting of a single instrument part.


Thus, when the boxes are combined the layers of instruments built until the full ensemble was playing. He composed two pieces of music – a pop song and a rock song.
The day was a great success with over 2,200 people through the gates. 

Red Meat Sector Workshop
Meat Industry Workshop 2017

15 March 2017


Frederique, Cushla and Fang recently attended the AgResearch Meat Industry Workshop 2017 in Hamilton. This year's theme was 'Bringing it all together - Safety, Quality & Value.' Frederique presented an overview of the FoodSafe project in the processing and value session.


Several talks during the day focused on research currently occurring to characterise Shiga-Toxin producing E. coli serotypes on New Zealand farms and in meat products. We heard about efforts to add value to to low value meat cuts, processing to make meat products more safe and more appealing to those with swallowing disorders (dysphagia), and several other interesting initiatives within beef and lamb research.


The day was capped off by a pleasant barbecue in the sun, and yes vegetarians were catered for.

BiOS 2017
BiOS 2017 blitz

January 2017


Researchers and students from the University of Auckland Biophotonics Group traveled to SPIE Photonics West BiOS 2017 to present their latest work. 

BIOS, is the largest biophotonics, biomedical optics, and imaging conference in the world and is held annually in San Francisco, USA.

A total of three oral papers and three posters were presented covering most current research areas including optical coherence tomography, elastography and bacterial detection.  All students won travel grants from the Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies which enabled them to attend.

Dodd-Walls Centre Commercialisation Ideas Competition Win

November 2016


Fang Ou (Rachel) was one of two winners of the Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies Commercialisation Ideas Competition.

Fang presented her pitch to a panel of expert investors and was judged on the pitch as well as the novelty and commercial potential of the idea.


Through the competition, Fang learnt to see her research from a new and commercially oriented perspective, and about presenting and pitching ideas outside the usual academic circles. 

Gender Summit Europe

10 November 2016

Frederique attended the 9th Gender Summit, entitled "Gender-based research, innovation and development for sustainable economies and societal wellbeing", in Brussels, Belgium 8-9 November 2016.

The Gender Summit is a platform for evidence-based and consensus-focused dialogue between scientists, policy makers, gender scholars, and key stakeholder groups in science endeavours. The Gender Summit Europe 2016 coincided with important policy developments in Europe and globally that look towards science knowledge and technological innovation to create a better future for all.


Significant here are: the new EU Gender Action Plan and Horizon 2020; the UN Sustainable Development Goals; the African Union’s Africa 2063 and Continental Education Strategy Africa agenda; and the OECD vision for Inclusive Innovation and Creating Our Common Future through Science and Technology.  The Gender Summit opened up dialogue on how an understanding of sex/gender issues in research and innovation can also ensure sustainable and effective development. The programme featured over 65 international speakers.

Frederique went with University of Auckland colleague Associate Professor Virginia Braun, Associate Dean (Equity), who presented a poster on recent Faculty of Science gender equity initiatives. The first half day was held in the European Parliament (left).  Both found it inspirational to learn about all the initiatives that are taking place around the world to improve gender equity in STEM and technologies and are excited that some of these initiatives will make their way to New Zealand.

Highlights of the conference can be found here

New Return on Science project makes appointments

November 2016

Congratulations to Dr Frederique Vanholsbeeck who recently won Return on Science investment for a new project to speed up prototype device development in the FoodSafe programme. 


The new project, entitled Optrode, has enabled the recruitment of Dr Julia Robertson (top) to perform microbiology tests and obtain robust data sets for use in calibration and to increase accuracy, and Joni White (bottom) to help design and test a microfluidics system for sample preparation.


Julia has just completed her PhD using antimicrobial surfaces to help prevent the spread of bacteria. This form of infection control is particularly relevant to hospitals, where bacteria are spread by contamination of surfaces and the resulting infections require antibiotic use, contributing to emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Her thesis focused on the mechanism of action of two antimicrobial polymers and characterising antimicrobial surfaces containing these polymers.

Joni, has just completed her second year of a BSc with emphasis on biochemistry, molecular biology and microbiology. She has also worked as an administrator for International Earth Sciences IESE Ltd. 


Welcome aboard! 

Asia Pacific Optical Sensors Conference 2016
Asia Pacific Optical Sensors Conference

15 October 2016


Frederique, Cushla and Fang recently attended the Asia Pacific Optical Sensors Conference (APOS) in Shanghai, China.

APOS is a central forum for an update and review of technical information covering a wide range of optical sensing fields from fundamental research to systems and applications. The conference is open to researchers and professionals from not only Asia-Pacific Rim area but also all regions of the world. 


Cushla presented a talk about using acridine orange for rapid estimation of bacteria counts and Fang presented a poster about her flow cytometry work.  The FoodSafe team found the research using optical sensors for industrial structure monitoring and glucose detection particularly inspiring.  

The conference dinner was also entertaining with a display of Chinese acrobatics.

MBIE programme funded
Another MBIE programme

September 2016


Congratulations are due to Frederique Vanholsbeeck and her collaborators on being awarded an MBIE Research Programme entitled "Capturing the true value of NZ meat: Objective measurement of meat quality in beef, lamb and venison".  The overall programme won $4,250,000 excl GST over a 5 year term, and the Auckland team will have a subcontract in the larger project which will develop a platform of sensor technologies that can measure the nutritional composition and structural properties of meat products at processing. 

Led by AgResearch, the programme has substantial subcontracts to the Dodd-Walls Centre, Auckland Bioengineering Institute and the Cawthron Institute.  Fred will apply OCT and spectroscopic fluorescence sensors to meat and will also play a key role in data analysis and integration.

Red Meat Sector Conference
The FoodSafe team go country

27 July 2016


Frederique, Cushla and Diana attended 6th Red Meat Sector Conference in Auckland.  This joint conference, by the Meat Industry Association and Beef + Lamb New Zealand, attracted over 200 delegates from Government agencies, sector representative organisations and private companies.
Attendees enjoyed stimulating talks from invited speakers covering aspects of the sector’s global economics, developing markets, trade policy and regulatory trends, innovation drive and marketing strategy.  Conference organisers also made sure there was plenty of time to explore professional networking opportunities.  

The event concluded with an impressive Gala Dinner prepared by high profile chef Michael Coughlin and light-hearted entertainment by kiwi icons the Topp Twins.

Todd Foundation
New Postdoctoral Fellow Appointment

July 2016


Welcome to Dr Sylwia Kolenderska, who will working for three months on the Marsden-funded “Shedding New Light on the Eye” project.  Her main areas of scientific interest are optics, especially optical imaging methods, as well as biophotonics and experiment-related programming.  
Sylwia completed her PhD studies at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, Poland, and included an internship at the Ecole Normale Superieur in Paris, France. She was also a very active member of SPIE and OSA Student Chapters at her alma mater, where, with her colleagues, she organised and took part in many student events aiming at popularization of optics among younger generations, such as SPIE's OPTO Meeting for Young Researchers 2013 and OSA's IONS-14.

Todd Foundation
2016 Todd Foundation Award Success

June 2016


FoodSafe doctoral scholar Fang Ou (Rachel) has won a 2016 Todd Foundation Award for Excellence (Universities) valued at $5000.
These awards support projects that have a wide franchise and encourage the development of new concepts, technology or research that will benefit New Zealand. 
The award is assigned through Universities New Zealand and on top of the written application, the shortlisted applicants are invited to Wellington for an interview. The interview selection panel comprised of 6 representatives, from Universities NZ, Todd Foundation, Victoria University and the science industry sector. In granting the awards, the Selection Committee looked at the professional and academic ability of the candidates, their character and qualities of leadership, as well as their capacity for innovation and ability to strive for excellence. 
Congratulations Rachel !! 

IEEE I&M Workshop 2016

18 April 2016


Lincoln, New Zealand


Frederique and Cushla attended the IEEE Instrument and Measurement workshop held at Lincoln University. Cushla presented a 10-minute talk outlining the Food Safe project. About 35 people attended the workshop and presentations covered a wide range of topics, including mobile NMR devices, measuring pasture quality using stand-off laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy, using near infrared spectroscopy to measure the ripeness of fruit and using jet injection to measure the ripeness of kiwifruit. The small crowd and informal nature of the workshop allowed for a good amount of discussion of each presented paper, and Frederique and Cushla both came away with ideas to try within the Food Safe project. 

AgResearch Meat Industry Workshop 2016

15 March 2016


Hamilton, New Zealand


Dr Cushla McGoverin attended the AgResearch Meat Industry Workshop 2016 recently held at the Ruakura Campus Club in Hamilton. This workshop was attended by industry representatives, regulators and researchers. A wide range of beef and lamb research was presented including quality perception for beef hot pot, the effect of cooking on meat proteins, high pressure processing and thresholds to bacterial spoilage of meat. This mix of people and topics made for an interesting day of networking and discussion.


Photo courtesy of AgResearch

Senior Scholar Award

March 2016


Congratulations to Fang Ou (Rachel) on winning a Senior Scholar Award in the Faculty of Science, University of Auckland.


These prestigious awards are granted to students who achieved the highest overall grades in their degree programme, in Fang’s case a BTech.


The award, worth $500, will be formally recorded on Fang’s official academic transcript and announced at her Graduation ceremony this year.

SPIE BiOS 2016 

13-18 February 2016


Dr Frédérique Vanholsbeeck and Dr Cushla McGoverin recently attended BiOS in San Francisco, USA.


This symposium consists of a series of conferences that cover a wide range of fields within biophotonics, nanophotonics and biomedical optics.


Cushla presented a talk, Near-real time monitoring of live to dead bacterial cell ratios within the Biophysics, Biology and Biophotonics the Crossroads conference.


A lot of exciting things are happening within the biophotonics sphere and several research ideas have been inspired by the talks and posters of this conference.

Research featured as a Highlight of 2015 in Journal of Optics

January 2016


A recent paper authored by Bastian Bräuer, Norman Lippok, Stuart G Murdoch and Frédérique Vanholsbeeck has been selected by the editors of Journal of Optics for inclusion in the exclusive ‘Highlights of 2015’ collection.


The article: Simple and versatile long range swept source for optical coherence tomography applicationswas selected on the basis of referee endorsement, novelty, scientific impact and broadness of appeal.

Physics-based solutions for Africa

23-28 November 2015


Dr Frédérique Vanholsbeeck travelled to Yaounde, Cameroon where she gave an invited talk at the 4th Conference of the Cameroon Physical Society special workshop celebrating the International Year of Light in Africa.


Her presentation, FoodSafe: Towards near real time detection of bacteria for the food industry, was well received and she also judged the postgraduate student poster competition.


Many student projects investigated low cost solutions to practical problems. In this context, the research performed the FoodSafe team was particularly relevant to Cameroon.


Dr Vanholsbeeck also talked to the student chapter that the Cameroon Physical Society students lead.

Beambox Interactive Playground

December 2015


Beambox is an interactive playground bringing the worlds of science and digital art together to celebrate the International Year of Light 2015. This light-themed, multimedia installation, set up in Auckland’s Aotea Square as part of the Summer in the Square programme, offers the public a fun opportunity to see, hear and experience the electromagnetic spectrum. The playground involves seven large colourful cubes that can be moved around on a fixed grid. Each of the cubes represents a region of the electromagnetic spectrum and is able to interact with the other cubes through visible light communication producing both light and sound. Dr Frederique Vanholsbeeck and Professional Teaching Fellow Anna Yang of the University of Auckland Physics Department have supervised the science behind the project after being awarded $20,000 from the Government’s “Unlocking Curious Minds” initiative. The outreach project is a collaboration with Auckland Live, Auckland University of Technology and Colab and is supported by the Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies, Heavy Engineering Research Association,, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Steel and Tubes and Resene.

Rachel Ou’s first oral presentation at an international conference (Sydney)

6-9 December 2015


SPIE Micro+Nano Materials, Devices, and Applications


Frederique, Cushla, Rachel Guo, and Fang Ou (Rachel) attended the SPIE Micro+Nano Materials, Devices, and Applications conference held at the University of Sydney. At this conference the FoodSafe group presented a poster (“Assessment of bacterial concentrations using an all-fibre fluorometer”) and a talk (“Rapid assessment of live to dead cell ratios”). This was Fang’s third conference talk in 2015 and her first talk at an international conference. Fang previously spoke at the 17th New Zealand Institute of Physics National Conference, NZIP'2015 and Conference on Optics, Atoms and Laser Applications (KOALA). The conference covered a wide range of topics including microfluidics, optical coherence tomography, and fluorescence spectroscopy. The plenary talks outlined research in silicon photonics, silk biomaterials, 3D fabrication and photonics in astronomy and were particularly interesting and well presented. In addition, the group toured Prof. John Canning’s laboratory; John Canning has extensive expertise in photonics, optics and sensing, and experience commercialising university research.

Acridine orange in Adelaide

November 30-December 3 2015


Australian and New Zealand Conference on Optics and Photonics, Adelaide, Australia, November 30-December 3 2015.


At the beginning of December 2015 Rachel Guo and Dr Cushla McGoverin attended the Australian and New Zealand Conference on Optics and Photonics at the University of Adelaide. Here Rachel presented a poster outlining her work using acridine orange to stain bacteria. The conference programme was filled with interesting and FoodSafe relevant presentations, particularly the talks discussing the various mechanisms for using fibres in sensing. During the conference Cushla and Rachel toured the fibre making facilities available at the University of Adelaide and had several valuable discussions about potential methods of fibre-based bacterial detection.

Royal Society of New Zealand success

November 2015


Dr Frederique Vanholsbeeck from the University of Auckland’s Biophotonics Group has received Marsden funding ($800,000 excl. GST, paid out over 3 years) to develop new differentiation tools in OCT, which will greatly improve image contrast. By combining sophisticated data analysis techniques with a new optical laser, Dr Vanholsbeeck’s multinational team will monitor chromatic dispersion and tissue stiffness.


The Marsden fund supports excellence in science, engineering, maths, social sciences and the humanities in New Zealand by providing grants for investigator-initiated research. In the highly competitive 2015 funding round, 92 research projects were allocated a total of $53.54 million (excl.GST) corresponding to a success rate of only 7.7%.

'FoodSafe' in the newspaper

November 2014


Following the announcement of the MBIE funding, 'Foodsafe: real time bacterial count' was featured in a New Zealand Herald article: 

"Meat is New Zealand's second most lucrative overseas market, with red meat exports alone worth $2.76 billion in the six months to March 31.

Food safety is crucial to this multi-billion dollar industry, and University of Auckland physicist Dr Frederique Vanholsbeeck is in the process of developing a special device which eliminates the three-day wait for bacterial level results in a meat sample"...

Visit to China

November 2014


Thanks to a New Zealand-China Scientist Exchange Programme, Frederique spent 3 weeks (25th October 2014 until 18th November 2014) at the XJTU Bioinspired Engineering and Biomechanics Center (BEBC) and is now an affiliated member.


During her stay she worked on fluid flow modelling, smartphone base optical devices and food safety in relation with her latest MBIE grant Foodsafe.

'FoodSafe' funded by MBIE

September 2014


Hard work has paid off!

We will be funded for 5 years to develop a real time optical plate count device in collaboration with Veritide Ltd.


Project name: Foodsafe


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