Posts Tagged ‘laserfest’

Biophotonics Merge Medicine and Lasers

Friday, July 30th, 2010
Bio- photo- whatics?  Can this be the career for you?

Bio- photo- whatics? Can this be the career for you?

Last March, we wrote about LaserFest, the year-long celebration of the laser’s 50th birthday. The celebration is still going strong, and so are new applications for lasers.

So, what career opportunities are there for someone studying lasers? According to the Laserfest website , the future is indeed bright for these powerful light sources. Besides powering extremely efficient computer and communications systems and providing alternative energy sources, medical applications for lasers are widespread, and growing. Laserfest notes that within the next five to ten years, doctors may be able to improve cancer diagnoses via lasers that illuminate cellular activity. In addition, lasers are expected to aid in the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease by measuring a protein called beta amyloid (associated with the disease) with a pulsed, blue laser aimed directly at the eye.

Technically known as Biophotonics, this field that merges medicine and lasers is defined as “the study of the interaction of light with biological material — where ‘light’ includes all forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon.” Simply put, biophotonics enable doctors to noninvasively image and analyze living tissue — everything from diagnostics to surgeries (such as Laser Eye Surgery). In fact, according to The Center for Biophotonics, Science and Technology (CBST), Biophotonics is widely regarded as the key science upon which the next generation of clinical tools and biomedical research instruments will be based.

The CBST is a great place to learn more about the field. Created in 2002 as part of a National Science Foundation project and located at the University of California Davis, the CBST is building an extensive network of schools, industrial partners and Biophotonics research centers to help prepare for the field’s rapidly developing advances. Here, you can learn about specific educational programs at community colleges and four-year colleges throughout the U.S., as well as learn more about the science of Biophotonics.

What would a typical Laser and Photonics curriculum look like? Check out the program at Central Carolina Community College, which we heard about in this week’s Episode. The CCCC program, which offers a specialized Biophotonics curriculum track, is designed to use the majority of its instruction time in lab environments to help students put classroom theory into action. And what makes for a successful experience? According to the CCCC, successful Photonics students enjoy problem-solving, working with their hands, and learning how things work. An interest in math and science is also valuable.

Finally, if you’d like to listen to stories about how lasers are being used in medicine and science (told with a British accent), tune in to Naked Scientists Podcasts. There, you’ll find news and interviews about everything from laser “tweezers” being used to pick up bacteria to laser cancer treatments and a laser technique that’s speeding DNA sequencing.

Lasers Celebrate Their 50th Birthday

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010
Green 532nm 10mW refracted from a 5 carat diamond.-  © Photograph by Marco Nero

Green 532nm 10mW refracted from a 5 carat diamond.- © Photograph by Marco Nero

Lasers Turn 50 and the Celebration Lasts All Year!

There’s no question that laser technology is important to industry and to our workforce. Lasers are widely used throughout medicine and surgery. Lasers are integral to our telecommunications infrastructure. Lasers are helping to create the jobs of the future.

But, let’s face it: Lasers are also fun. As Laser and Photonics Engineering student Todd Devine confessed, “I’ve always liked lasers, ever since I was little.”

If you, too, have always been intrigued by the power and precision of these multi-colored light beams, you’ll want to check out LaserFest, the year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the laser. As their website announces, “From DVD players to eye surgery, the laser is one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century — one that has revolutionized the way we live.”

Think you know all about lasers? Take this quick quiz:

Question: What does “laser” stand for?
Answer: Light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation

Question: When did lasers first become part of our “everyday” lives?
Answer: In 1974, when the bar code was first used in retail stores

Question: What is the estimated dollar value of lasers to our economy?
Answer: The devices and services that rely on lasers are thought to play a role in more than $3 trillion worth of commerce annually.

And a multiple choice question:
Lasers have recently been used to a) Clean several famous works of art; b) Shoot down mosquitoes in mid-flight; c) Identify a bank robber and analyze rocks on Mars; d) All of the above.

Answer: d) All of the above.

In fact, the reason that lasers are so valuable to our lives isn’t just because of their power. A real selling point of laser technology is the fact that the photons in light beams move with extreme focus and precision, making lasers ideal for sending messages over long distances or for accurately reading the messages contained in DVDs, bar codes, or even biological cells.

So, the next time you pop a copy of “Star Wars” in your DVD player consider this: Without lasers, you wouldn’t be watching that DVD. And without his laser beam, Darth Vader would be powerless.