Engineering & Applied Sciences


Xerox fellow Jordan Rabinowitz, at right, is helping PhD student Robert Draham demonstrate the use of integrated Raman angular-scattering microscopy as a way to assess the chemical changes in individual cells.

Xerox fellows contribute to research on novel use of laser beams

PhD students Ashley Cannaday and Robert Draham couldn’t be happier that Xerox fellows Nancy Aguilera and Jordan Rabinowitz have joined Professor Andrew Berger’s lab this summer.
Cannaday and Draham are doing their thesis research on demonstrating a novel use of laser beams -- called integrated Raman angular scattering microscopy -- to:

1. Measure the changing sizes of organelles (such as mitochondria) within individual cells undergoing transformation, based on the elastic scattering of reflected light (Cannaday’s project).
2. Assess the chemical changes in individual cells using the same laser beams by measuring inelastic scattering (Draham’s project).

Both Aguilera and Rabinowitz, who are rising juniors in optical engineering, are helping accelerate the pace of this research.

“Nancy has been taking a ton of measurements for me this summer,” Cannaday said. “It’s been really great to have her here 9 to 5 every day. I know I can ask her to take data for me, and I know she’s going to do it perfectly. It’s been fantastic.”

With Rabinowitz working alongside him, added Draham, he no longer has to “walk continuously back and forth” between a computer and the microscopes he’s using to make adjustments. “It’s been a great experience having another person to help out.”

This is the first research experience for both Aguilera and Rabinowitz.

“I love it, seeing how the knowledge you learn in the classroom is applied,” Rabinowitz said. He regards his summer in the lab as a helpful “stepping stone” in his goal of going to graduate school. Aguilera said she appreciates the opportunity to “do something I’ve never done before. Now I have a clearer idea that I have the option of going into research.”

The research is taking a technology that has been shown to work with groups of cells, and seeing if it can be applied to analyze both chemical composition and organelle size in individual cells, said Berger, an associate professor of optics. The system would be able to repeatedly measure single cells as they change over time. Applications could include studying photo-dynamically treated cancer cells, platelets, and immune cells after exposure to an antigen.

Berger has mentored two other Xerox fellows over the years. “I very much believe in the undergraduate education mission,” Berger said. The Xerox program makes it easier for him to fulfill that mission. “These are students who have gone through a selection process, separate from me having to find them,” he said. “They’ve already passed a bar.”

 PhD student Ashley Cannaday, at left, says it has been “fantastic” to have Xerox fellow Nancy Aguilera, at right, working in the lab with her this summer.