Vibrational Spectroscopy for Fun and Profit
Vibrational modes of molecules and materials can inform us about chemical species and their environments. On their own, motion in these modes can give us surprising insights into the behavior of materials on microscopic timescales and length scales. When combined with spatial information through imaging, vibrational spectra provide a rich and unbiased overview of chemical dynamics in complex environments such as those presented by cells and tissues. Having developed highly efficient excitation and detection schemes for coherent Raman scattering, we acquire full Raman spectra on sub-millisecond timescales, facilitating high-resolution imaging. Our group uses vibrational spectroscopy and allied methods to understand dynamics and transport in amorphous systems (liquids and glass), and as feedback in engineering them. In our imaging work, we exploit Raman spectroscopy to guide us in investigating refractive problems in cell and organismal biology and explore its use as a practical tool for medical diagnostics. Because the tools and signal readouts are complex, we strive to simplify both and to produce instrumentation and analysis methodologies that can be employed even by casual users. We believe that the democratization of spectroscopic coherent Raman imaging will serve as a non-trivial accelerant for biological inquiry and selected areas of medical diagnostics.