Interaction of light with tissues: A hyper-spectral approach

Project opportunity

This Earmarked Scholarship project is aligned with a recently awarded Category 1 research grant. It offers you the opportunity to work with leading researchers and contribute to large projects of national significance.

One of the main challenges in biophotonics is to understand how light interacts with biological tissues; understanding the mechanisms of this interaction will enable the introduction of new biomedical diagnostic and therapeutic modalities. UQ Photonics group invite applications for two full-time PhD scholarships in the area of light interaction in multi-layered, multi-component tissues. The successful candidate will work within a team of researchers investigating biomedical aspects of light-tissue interaction in the near and mid infrared (NIR, MIR) as well as terahertz (THz) parts of the spectrum.  

Optical techniques, such as ellipsometry and spectroscopy, have been very successful in characterisation of multi-layered materials, comprised of homogeneous or graded refractive index inorganic or organic layers. However, the understanding of optical response of heterogeneous multi-layered materials with irregular morphology such as biological tissues is still quite incomplete, arguably, because the light interacts with the tissue on a scale from nano to macro.  A slew of physical mechanisms governing the light-tissue interaction on the macro-, micro- and nano-scales, accounts for what we refer to as the multi-scale nature of the problem. The complexity of this interaction can be linked to the compounding effect of light scattering, in granular and irregular structures. 

This position will contribute to addressing the problem of multi-scale light-tissue interaction by using multiscale hyperspectral experimental interrogation of tissue in both the spectral and spatial sense. By using the extremely wide spectral range of electromagnetic radiation – between THz and NIR – we will investigate a range of scattering and absorption effects arising from the multiscale nature of biological tissue. Data from the hyperspectral experimental investigations will then be used to develop computational models of light-tissue interaction. The models will attempt to explain the interaction of light on the extremely wide spectral range of the electromagnetic radiation by investigating a range of scattering and absorption effects arising from the multi-scale nature of biological tissues. The models will also provide insight on how multi-component alteration in biological tissues during disease affect light-tissue interaction, and how this could translate to optical diagnostics of biological tissues.

We are seeking a talented and highly motivated PhD student to work on these challenging experimental and computational investigations. The primary tasks will include laboratory experiments on soft tissues (e.g., articular cartilage) using a combination of far field spectroscopy with the nano-scale resolution THz and mid-infrared scattering Scanning Near-field Optical Microscopy (s-SNOM), and/or computational modelling of photon transport and interaction in biological tissues using methods such as diffusion approximation, Monte Carlo simulation and finite element methods.  

The candidate should have background in Applied Mathematics, Medical/Applied Physics, Electrical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering or related fields. The successful applicant will enroll through the School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering (ITEE). 

Scholarship value

As a scholarship recipient, you'll receive: 

  • living stipend of $28,854 per annum tax free (2022 rate), indexed annually
  • tuition fees covered
  • single Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)


Professor Aleksandar Rakic

School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering


Preferred educational background

Your application will be assessed on a competitive basis.

We take into account your

  • previous academic record
  • publication record
  • honours and awards
  • employment history.

A working knowledge of spectroscopic techniques in near-infrared, or mid-infrared or terahertz ranges of the spectrum, scanning probe microscopy (e.g. AFM or SNOM), a mathematical background (analytical or numerical methods) required for modelling light-matter or light-tissue interaction, signal processing, data analysis or classification of spectroscopic data (with Intermediate-level programming in Python, C, MATLAB or similar) would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of applied mathematics, medical/applied physics, biomedical engineering or related fields and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of infrared spectroscopic techniques, AFM or SNOM, analytical or numerical methods, signal processing and data analysis is highly desirable.

Latest commencement date

If you are the successful candidate, you must commence by Research Quarter 2, 2022. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date.

If you are an international applicant, you may need to apply much earlier for visa requirements.

How to apply

You apply for this project as part of your PhD program application.

View application process