Professor Paola Borri


Paola Borri

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Division: School of Biosciences
Organisation: Cardiff University
Tags: Cardiff University, Fellowship: Leadership Fellowship, Researcher
Related theme: Healthcare technologies Physical Sciences


I did my undergraduate in Physics at the University of Florence (Italy) and received the Diploma and PhD degree in Physics in 1993 and 1997. From 1997 to 1999 I was Assistant Research Professor at the Technical University of Denmark. From 1999 to 2004 I worked as Senior Scientist (Marie Curie Fellow) at the Physics Department of Dortmund University (Germany) and received the Habilitation (Venia Legendi) in 2003. From September 2004 I moved to Cardiff University to start new research in Biophotonics. On August 1st 2007 I was promoted to Reader and on August 1st 2011 to a Personal Chair.

My Fellowship

Optical microscopy is an indispensable tool that is driving progress in cell biology, however most cellular constituents have no colour and are hard to distinguish under a light microscope unless they are stained. The aim of this research is the realization of a novel imaging modality to enable the observation of living cells and tissues under physiological conditions with unprecedented sensitivity and spatial resolution, without the need to stain them.

The microscopy technique being developed in this project is based on the interaction of light with matter in the coherent regime, and features a unique combination two process: Coherent Antistokes Raman Scattering (CARS) of biomolecules in living cells and Four-Wave Mixing (FWM) imaging of metallic nanoparticles (NPs).

In CARS the image contrast is obtained by detecting light which is scattered by vibrating bonds in unstained biomolecules. Although this scattering phenomenon produces a very weak signal, it can be coherently enhanced when two short laser pulses are used to excite the vibrations (generating CARS) so that the scattered light from all bonds of the same type constructively interfere. However, CARS still requires a high number of molecules to achieve sufficient signal for detection, and the existence of a background severely limits its sensitivity. Another problem is the spatial resolution limited by the optical diffraction.

In this research programme, the aim is to overcome these limitations by developing a background-free CARS detection combined with the light enhancement occurring in the nanoscale range near a metallic NPs, to achieve nanometric spatial resolution and high sensitivity. The ability to map the intrinsic chemical composition of nanoscale regions in living cells will have a major impact in solving important biomedical problems. More in general this technology will progress the field of optical ‘nanoscopy’, advance our understanding in physics and material sciences, and might be of relevance in medical applications to improve the diagnostic and treatment of diseases.