Customer Interview with Dr. Sangeeta Murugkar

Associate Professor, Medical Physics

Carleton University

A long-standing customer of Tornado, Dr. Murugkar is an Associate Professor in the Medical Physics Group in the Department of Physics at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. She takes a multi-disciplinary approach to her research and has established many successful collaborations with scientists across the globe. 

Sangeeta has a PhD in Physics from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and Post-doctoral experience in Engineering Physics at McMaster University. Her undergraduate degree in Physics from the University of Bombay (Mumbai), India was followed by a MSc degree in Physics from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur.

In this interview we catch up with Sangeeta to find out about her recent work and how molecular imaging and spectroscopy help her achieve her goals.

 

Since starting at Carleton University, your work has primarily focused on developing new optical tools for the rapid detection and treatment of various diseases. Can you give us a summary of your activities? Which projects are you involved in at the moment?

My lab’s focus is on developing optical molecular imaging and spectroscopy tools for biomedical applications, that facilitate quantitative and rapid analysis. The research is naturally interdisciplinary with collaborations involving cancer biologists, pathologists, surgeons, medical physicists and biochemists.

We have constructed bench-top platforms for performing Raman spectroscopy and multimodal coherent Raman imaging. These permit rapid label-free analysis of biological samples using linear and nonlinear light-matter interactions. Using these techniques, we are interested in identifying diseased cells and tissue and for quantifying the response of cells when exposed to oxidative stress such as that caused by ionizing radiation. The ultimate goal is to translate the bench-top techniques to portable / hand-held optical probes that can be used in a point-of-care setting.

 

What are the core spectroscopy techniques and applications used for your research? How has Tornado’s Raman spectrometer facilitated your research?

We have demonstrated the application of Raman spectroscopy and machine learning for identification of ovarian cancer cells and for discriminating between ovarian cancer cells that are chemo-resistant or chemo-sensitive. We have recently developed a novel Raman micro-spectroscopy flow-cell technique to collect Raman spectra of lysed blood. A Tornado HyperFlux spectrometer was used to collect the Raman spectra. This technique facilitates high throughput collection of a large data set. The high signal to noise ratio of the Raman spectra enables accurate and non-destructive Raman analysis of small quantities of blood samples.

 

What are the most important performance aspects of these instruments that make your research successful?

The development of a Raman micro-spectroscopy flow-cell technique for blood represents the first integration of Raman microscopic source sampling with Tornado’s proprietary High- Throughput Virtual Slit (HTVS) technology. The latter has helped to improve the system performance by factors of 10x to 30x and thereby facilitated rapid sampling with no photo-degradation of the blood sample.

 

To what extent do you use your Tornado analyzer? How has the instrument impacted your research?

We are exploring further applications of the Raman spectroscopy flow-cell technique using the Tornado spectrometer. This offers the potential for developing new disease diagnostics based on Raman spectroscopy of blood and blood components.

Your most recent work looks at the development of a flow cell-based Raman spectroscopy technique to overcome photodegradation in human blood. What is it about Raman spectroscopy that you find fascinating?

Raman spectroscopy is a simple technique that is cost-effective and easy to implement using off-the-shelf, optical components.  It is fascinating that such a simple technique is so powerful in enabling non-destructive identification of biochemical samples.

 

How do you keep yourself updated? What are some of the websites or journals that you subscribe to or read regularly?

I subscribe to optics.org and Physics World medical physics newsletters. I also regularly read articles published in OSA and SPIE journals.

 

Spectrometer used by Dr. Murugkar

Sangeeta and her team at CBRG (Carleton Biophotonics Research Group) rely heavily on Tornado’s HyperFlux spectrometer for their application. To learn more about the PRO Plus, contact our sales team at sales@tornado-spectral.com 

Sangeeta’s latest publication entitled, Development of a flow cell based Raman spectroscopy technique to overcome photodegradation in human blood, can be viewed here: https://www.osapublishing.org/BOE/abstract.cfm?uri=BOE-10-5-2275