Research student Diana talks to us about her experience working in Aston's Institute of Photonics and the latest on her research into neurological diseases...Open Labs Certificate


Why did you decide to undertake your research at Aston University?

I decided to undertake my research at the Aston Institute of Photonics (AiPT) due to the institute's global reputation for conducting cutting-edge research in the field of optics and photonics.
During my time at Aston University, I was able to gain insights into the forefront of photonics research by observing the work of AiPT research groups. This experience allowed me to delve into the most current and significant topics in the field, such as optical communications technology, biophotonics, and applications of laser technologies in diverse areas, including agriculture and nanomaterials. The two months spent at Aston University greatly contributed to my understanding of the exciting possibilities in this field, making it the perfect choice for pursuing my research goals. The choice of Aston University for my PhD degree was driven by my desire to be exposed to the latest advancements in photonics and to collaborate with experts who are at the forefront of these developments. 


What topic is your research surrounding?

Brain diseases can cause communication problems between brain cells, leading to memory loss, difficulties in daily tasks, and disabilities. Scientists use special light-sensitive molecules to restore brain function. They attach these molecules to neurons using a drug delivery system. However, a big challenge is getting light to reach these molecules in the brain through the skin and skull.
Our team is working on a solution. We are developing a compact laser that emits a specific kind of light. This light can pass safely through the skin and skull without causing harm. It's strong enough to activate the light-sensitive molecules in the brain and stimulate neurons effectively. This non-invasive approach means we can treat brain diseases without surgery, avoiding the risks associated with brain operations.
By advancing this technology, we can provide better healthcare for people with dementia and other brain diseases, offering them a brighter future without invasive procedures.

Why did you decide to focus on neurological diseases, and why do you think it’s important to raise awareness?SPIE ECBO and CLEO conferences 2023, Munic

I chose to focus on neurological diseases because I have always been deeply fascinated by the enormous potential of laser technology in the medical field to improve the quality of life for patients and their families. Neurological diseases are one of the major global health problems, with more than 50 million people suffering from Alzheimer's and dementia. The impact of these diseases is measured not only in human suffering but also in the enormous economic burden they impose, exceeding a trillion pounds a year.

By focusing my efforts on developing non-invasive tools to treat these neurological disorders, I am committed to contributing to cutting-edge research and innovative treatments that can help millions of people around the world. 

What have been your biggest achievements whilst at Aston to date?

During my PhD study at Aston University, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to take part in various research grants and awards. What made this experience even more special was the tremendous support I received from my colleagues and friends at Aston University. Their encouragement and assistance played a crucial role in my academic journey. 

Some of the list of opportunities I have been able to get involved include:

  • Winner of the Best Elevator Pitch Award at the VI 'Photonics Meets Biology' Summer School and Workshop, Spetses, Greece, July 2022;

  • The first-place winner JBO/NEUROPHOTONICS 3-Minute Poster Competition at the Conference SPIE Photonics West, San Francisco, USA, January 2023;
  • Best Open Research Case Study, Open Research Award at Aston University 2023;
  • Winner of the PhD Poster Competition at the Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies Open Labs event;
  • Winner of the Aston Three Minute Thesis Competition 2023

I am incredibly grateful to the university for the great opportunity to participate in various events and student competitions. Their support has been significant in my academic and personal growth, and I sincerely appreciate the experience and knowledge gained through these valuable opportunities.


What significance has AIPT played in your research project?Open Research Award Aston University

The opportunity to collaborate with world-known experts in Photonics has been an invaluable experience for me. Learning from these masters, working in well-equipped labs, and engaging with a friendly and cohesive collective have contributed to a highly productive and inspiring research environment. Moreover, participating in diverse seminars has further expanded my knowledge in the field of optics and photonics, enhancing the depth and breadth of my scientific expertise.

What skills and knowledge did you gain at Aston which has helped you with your research?

I acquired a diverse set of skills and knowledge, ranging from critical thinking to oral communication and work presentation. Aston provided me with a comprehensive understanding of various research methodologies and approaches. I learned how to design and conduct research studies, make an effective literature review, collect and analyse data, and independently explore different approaches to advance my research.
Aston placed significant emphasis on my communication skills. Presenting research findings, participating in seminars, and conferences, and engaging in academic discussions allowed me to enhance my ability to articulate ideas clearly and concisely. I learned the importance of networking, connecting with other researchers, and collaborating on interdisciplinary research projects.