About FOIL

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The Functional Optical Imaging Lab (FOIL) at Northwestern University is dedicated to develop novel optical, ultrasonic, and electrical imaging techniques for biomedical research and clinical applications.

The research work in FOIL is highly interdisciplinary. It involves knowledge and expertise from electronics, optics, lasers, ultrasound, imaging processing, programming, mechanics, physiology, anatomy, and clinical science. Hence, FOIL is setting up collaborations in a wide spectrum nationwide.



Where we are

We are located in Tech Institute EB11/EB13/EB15/EB17/EB57/EB59.

Open Positions

Postdocs: We have two post-doct position open. Please find more details here.

Ph.D. student: We usually admit 1 or 2 new Ph.D. students every year. The application to Northwestern BME is very competitive and only less than 10% of the applicants will receive offers. However, completing your Ph.D. study at Northwestern University is very rewarding from all aspects. If you are interested in our lab, please contact H. F. Zhang. More informaiton regarding the application procedure can be found from the BME website.

Undergraduate student: We are looking for undergraduate student to work on imge processing of super-resoltuion optical microscopy and metabolic retinal imaging. If you are a Northwestern University student interested in undergraduate research, or student from other schools interested in summer research, please contact H. F. Zhang directly.

Visiting scholar: FOIL welcomes visiting scholars to conduct jointly interested projects. Please contact H. F. Zhang for more information.

Latest News: Two postdoc fellowship positions avilable [details]. Looking for two new Ph.D. students [details]. Looking for a computer guru [details].

Lab News

May 2017

Siyu Chen received the Biomedical Engineering Annual Dissertation Award, which is given to one Ph.D. graduate every year.

Brian Soetinko received the Spring 2017 Amgen Scholars Alumni Travel Award and the Biomedical Engineering Annual Research Progress Award.

Janel Davis is invited to attend the 3rd Global Grand Challenges Summit in July 2017 in Washington DC. The Summit is sponsored by the US National Academy of Engineering (NAE), the UK Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE), and the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE).

Janel Davis joined the 2017 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

Congratulations everyone!

Collaborative work to develop new spectroscopic super-resolution imaging technology received $586k from NSF.

April 2017

Our paper entitled "Retinal oximetry in humans using visible-light optical coherence tomography" is among the top downloads from March 2017 by Biomedical Optics Express.

February 2017

Our PNAS paper reporting the observation of visible light excited "fluorescence blinking" from unmodified DNA for super-resolution imaging received one of six 2016 Cozzarelli Prize selected by the PNAS Office at the National Academy of Sciences. Congratulations everyone!


McCormick Research News highlights our work on transparent micro-ring resonator ultrasound detector. Open for collaboration.


January 2017

Dr. Biqin Dong received the "Picoquant Young Investigator Award" for his presentation entitled "Spectroscopic photon localization microscopy: breaking the resolution limit of single molecule localization microscopy" at the 2017 SPIE Photonic West (BIOS) conference. This is a collaborative work from the Zhang, Backman, and Sun labs. Congratulations and great job!

Collaborative work to develop retinal oxygen delivery models received $430k from NIH/NEI.

New collaboraion opportunities: to test our transparent, all-optical, ultra-wideband, mini ultrasound detector. Click the picture below for more information.

Our paper entitled "Optical detection of ultrasound in photoacoustic imaging" made the cover story of the 2017's first issue of IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering. Find the news here.

December 2016

Our paper entitled "Human retinal imaging using visible-light optical coherence tomography guided by scanning laser ophthalmoscopy" is the No. 1 among the Top Downloaded Articles on Ophthalmology Applications in 2016 from Biomedical Optics Express.

October 2016

Our work on optical coherence tomography and microfluidics sorting is featured by OCT News as Feature of the Week (10/13/2016).

September 2016

Collaborative research to study brain tumors using our new super-resolution imaging technoogy received $120k seed fund from Northwestern Innovative Initiatives Incubators (I3) interdisciplinary program.

FOIL welcomes new Ph.D. students Ki-hee Song and Lisa Beckmann. Welcome!

Our paper entitled "Imaging hemodynamic response after ischemic stroke in mouse cortex using visible-light optical coherence tomography " is among the top downloads from August 2016 by Biomedical Optics Express.

August 2016

Collaborative research to investigate the molecular pathway of retinal ischemia in diabetic retinopathy received $2.3M from NIH/NEI.

July 2016

Congratulations to Biqin and Luay for publishing "Super-Resolution Intrinsic Fluorescence Imaging of Chromatin Utilizing Native, Unmodified Nucleic Acids for Contrast" on Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Congratulations to Janel to be selected as a Northwestern BTP fellow sponsored by NIH.

June 2016

Congratulations to Biqin Dong and Ben Urban for publishing two critical papers on Nature Communications and Scientific Reports to report our newly developed super-resolution spectroscopic optical imaging technology.

April 2016

Collaborative work to develope visible-light optical coherence tomography for HIV-relatived applications received $50,000 from the Third Coast Center for AIDS Research.

February 2016

Brian Soetikno is awarded a five-year NIH F30 pre-doctoral fellowship grant. Good job!

Our work on visible-light optical coherence tomography is selected to receive the 2016 SPIE Translational Researsch Award.

Wenzhong Liu sucessfully defended his Ph.D. thesis. Congratulations!

Our paper entitled "Measuring oxygen saturation in retinal and choroidal circulations in rats using visible light optical coherence tomography angiography" is among the top downloaded OCT articles in the year of 2015 by Biomedical Optics Express.

November 2015

FOIL welcomes new members visiting Ph.D. student Magalie Bondu and new BME Ph.D. student Janel Davis.

October 2015

Collaborative research to improve clinical care of late-stage diabetic retinopathy using visible-light optical coherence tomography received $2M from NIH/NIDDK.

Our paper entitle "Human retinal imaging using visible-light optical coherence tomography guided by scanning laser ophthalmoscopy" is among the top downloaded articles in September 2015 by Biomedical Optics Express. It is the third straight month that FOIL papers are among the top downloaded articles

September 2015

Our paper entitled "Measuring oxygen saturation in retinal and choroidal circulations in rats using visible light optical coherence tomography angiography" is among the top downloaded articles in August 2015 by Biomedical Optics Express.

August 2015

Collaborative project to improve Biomedical Electronics education received $159k from NSF.

First human imaging using visible-light optical coherence tomography published [link].

Dr. Ji Yi started his independent career as an Assistant Professor at Boston University. Congratulations and thanks for all the contributions to FOIL in the past three years!

Our paper entitled "Measuring oxygen saturation in retinal and choroidal circulations in rats using visible light optical coherence tomography angiography" is among the top downloaded articles in July 2015 by Biomedical Optics Express.

July 2015

Collaborative research to develope deep-tissue, super-resolution optical imaging technology for neuroscience received $200k from the Chicago Biomedical Consortium with support from the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust.

Research work to develope label-free super-resolution optical imaging technology received $70k from the McCormick School of Engineering Catalyst Award.

May 2015

Brian Soetikno is awarded the 2015 SPIE Optics and Photonics Education Scholarship. Congratulations!

Ji Yi's paper reporting imaging retinal metabolic variations is accepted by Light: Science & Applications.

Dr. Lian Duan joined FOIL. Welcome!

February 2015

Brian Soetikno and Siyu Chen received Travel Grants to attend the 2015 ARVO Annual Conference. Congratulations!

NSF I-CORP award will support our effort to commercialize new OCT technologies developed in FOIL.

January 2015

Eric Yang is featured in McCormick Magazine 2014 Fall issue [pdf]. Here are a few niceer photos [1] [2].

August 2014

Wenzhong Liu is selected as a finalist to compete for the best student paper at the IEEE EMBC 2014.

June 2014

Eric Yan received $5,000 McCormick Summer Undergraduate Research Grant.

Christina Chan received $4,000 Biomedical Engineering Summer Undergraduate Research Grant.

Chintan Pathak is admitted by Feinberg School of Medicine and will start his MD study in 2015 here at Northwestern.

Dr. Hao Li received a one-year Research Seed Grant from the Illinois Society for Prevention of Blindness.

Congratulations to all, for the great achivements.

April 2014

Dr. Ji Yi received a three-year fellowship grant from Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International. Congratulations!

Collaborative research to develope optically-transparent, light-based ultrasonic detector for photoacoustic imaging received $645k from NSF.

Eric Y. Yang (BME class of 2015) joined FOIL. Welcome!

January 2014

Christina Chan (BME class of 2015) joined FOIL. Welcome!

Kevin Zhang received multiple MD/Ph.D. (MSTP) offers with full financial aid. Congratulations!

August 2013

Wenzhong Liu is selected as one of 42 pre-doctoral students from around the country to receive the prestigious International Student Research Fellowship from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). According to HHMI, "this fellowship recognizes your exceptional academic and personal achievements and reflects HHMI’s confidence in your great potential to become a leader in academic science." Congratulations! Job well done. McCormick News

June 2013

Dr. Ji Yi received a one-year Research Seed Grant from the Illinois Society for Prevention of Blindness for his project "Non-invasively quantifying retinal oxygen saturation by visible-light optical coherence tomography." Congratulations!

April 2013

Kevin Zhang received the Overall Oral Presentation Award in the 2013 Chicago Area Undergraduate Research Symposium.

FOIL welcoms new member Dr. Ben Urban.

March 2013

Steffi Perkins will soon start her Ph.D. study on medical imaging at Stanford University. Congratulations. We are sorry to see her go.

SPIE Newsroom "Combining light and sound for retinal imaging"

Northwestern University News "Developing new ways to treat macular degeneration"

News from McCormick "Consortium to develop new ways to treat macular degeneration"

October 2012

David Qiu and Kevin Zhang were selected as "Fifty For The Future" by the Illinois Technology Foundation.

Kevin Zhang received Northwestern Undergraduate Research Grant.

Collaborative research to develope drugs for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) received $10.2 Million NIH award.

Hao F. Zhang received $20,000 from Northwestern Murphy Society to enhance BME333: Modern Optical Microscopy and Imaging.

June 2012

Dr. Qing Wei received a one-year Research Seed Grant from the Illinois Society for Prevention of Blindness for his project "High-definition choroidal vascular imaging." Congratulations.

March 2012

New FOIL website is up and running. Thanks Allen for the great work.

February 2012

FOIL welcomes new Ph.D. student Siyu Daniel Chen.

September 2011

Wenzhong Liu joined FOIL as a new Ph.D. student.

August 2011

Collaborative work on stimulated Raman imaging is awarded a 3-year NSF grant.

Tan Liu defended his Ph.D. thesis and Santhosh Yegnaraman defended his M.S. thesis.

March 2011

Collaborative work on developing multimodal retinal imaging technology for early detection of diabetic retinopathy is awarded a NIH R01 grant.

February 2011

Hao F. Zhang is awarded the NSF CAREER award.

December 2010

FOIL relocated to Northwestern University, Evanston IL.

Dan successfully defended his thesis and received Master degree. Congratulations!

October 2010

Collaborative work on studying geno- & pheno-type correlation in diabetic retinopathy is awarded a NIH Challenge Grant (RC4).

May 2010

Karanvir Kaleka received the Outstanding Student Award by the College of Engineering. Congratulations!

April 2010

Dr. Fengli Gao joined FOIL.

April 2010

Tan Liu received the Grand Prize for being the 1st place in the College of Engineering graduate student poster competition. Congratulations!

March 2010

Our 3D retinal image is highlighted by OSA Virtual Journal of Biomedical Optics.

March 2010

Our retinal imaging work is highlighted by OCTNews.org as "Feature Of the Week 3/14/10".

Feb. 2010

Our work on the photoacoustic imaging of retina is published by Optics Express.

Jan. 2010

Our work on the integration of fiber-optic confocal microscopy and optical-resolution photoacoustic microscopy is published by Optics Express.

Dec. 2009

Post-doc Dr. Zhixing Xie joined Department of Radiology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor as a faculty member. Congratulations and good luck.

August 2009

Dr. Qing Wei joined FOIL. Welcome.

May 2009

A few media coverages of FOIL. UWM, The Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Business Journal of Milwaukee, and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel..

September 2008

Tan Liu and Jing Wang joined FOIL. Welcome.

April 2008

Daniel Zirbel joined FOIL. Welcome.

January 2008

Dr. Zhixing Xie joined FOIL. Welcome.

August 2007

FOIL created.