Panel discussion: Challenges associated with photonic instrumentation needed for COVID-19 diagnosis, treatment and prevention

James Butler, Manager, Business Development Group, Hamamatsu Corporation
Laura Fabris, Associate Professor at Rutgers University
Austin Wu, Senior Project Engineer at BD Biosciences
Christopher Dorman, Senior Vice-President at Coherent

January 25, 2021

About this webinar

The many ways in which we enlist light to solve modern day challenges have grown dramatically in the years since the term photonics started to become commonly used in the 1980s. The current global pandemic is no exception as a wide range of photonic solutions are employed in the effort to detect, monitor, treat and ultimately defeat the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the disease it causes, COVID-19.


In this panel discussion, we bring together a broad sampling of experts in fields that employ optics and photonic instrumentation with the purpose of generating thought-provoking discourse on challenges and efforts to fight the disease. Many of these efforts relate to specific applications of photonics that are making a difference including real-time PCR and spectrometer based molecular detection, antibody and antigen testing, X-ray and CT imaging, digital pathology and broader research applications like flow cytometry, genotyping and next generation sequencing for vaccine development and population studies.

About the moderator

James Butler is the Manager of the Business Development Group at Hamamatsu Corporation. He has been involved with life science instrumentation of one form or another for almost thirty years and has always been drawn to the applications of photonics and light in research and diagnostic equipment. Beginning with roles in biotech and university research after his undergraduate degree in Physics, he subsequently earned his PhD in Biophysics from the University of Rochester. More recently James moved on to become a recovering scientist in sales and marketing roles at several startups and larger instrumentation companies including Nikon Instruments and Hamamatsu. At Hamamatsu he is proud to be a part of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

About the panelists

Laura Fabris studied Chemistry at the University of Padua and finished her Master studies with her Master thesis "Artificial Photosynthetic Reaction Centers: Paramagnetic Intermediates Detected by EPR Spectroscopy" in 2001, She received her doctoral degree in Chemical Sciences in April 2006 from the same university. The title of her dissertation was "Peptide Monolayers on Gold Nanoparticles and Surfaces".[2] From 2006 to 2009, she was then a postdoc at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In March 2009, she was also a visiting researcher at the National University of Singapore. In 2009, she became Asst. Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Rutgers University. From June to August 2011, she was a visiting Professor in the Air Force Research Laboratory. Since July 2016, she is an associate professor at Rutgers University.


Austin Wu is a Sr. Staff Engineer of the Special Order Research Products group at BD Biosciences. He has been heavily involved in driving high parameter flow cytometry the past 5 years and has over 14 years of experience in life sciences. In SORP he has leveraged the adoption of new technologies from the photonics industry and integrated these solutions for the life science research community. Austin is local product of the Bay Area, undergraduate degree in Systems Physiology, and a MS in Medical Device Product Management from San Jose State University.


Christopher Dorman is Senior Vice President and General Manager at Coherent Inc, a global leader in lasers, photonic components and tools. Based in the Glasgow facility, he joined Coherent in 2002 as a Product Line Manager and has held various Business Management positions. He has an MA in Physics from Oxford University and a PhD in Lasers and Quantum Physics from Imperial College, London. He is currently Chair of the UK Photonics Leadership Group, Chair of Photonics Scotland (formerly the Scottish Optoelectronics Organisation), is a visiting Professor to the University of Strathclyde and a Fellow of the Institute of Physics. He was awarded an OBE for services to Photonic and Laser Technology and Exports in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, 2019.