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IEM News Release

Celebrating the Age of Biophotonics – Illuminating the Future: Beckman Laser Institute Non-Profit Celebration


May 16, 2024 – IEM recently hosted our Illuminating the Future: Beckman Laser Institute Non-Profit Celebration. The celebration honored the sunsetting Beckman Laser Institute (BLI) Non-Profit’s substantial gift to IEM’s Biophotonics Technology Center (BTC). 

IEM would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to Chancellor Pradeep Khosla; Vice Chancellor of Research, Miroslav Krstic; and Dean of Jacobs School of Engineering, Albert Pisano, for speaking at this event and supporting the mission of BTC and IEM. Their talks highlighted how research in the biphotonic sector is critical to the future of healthcare and other research areas on campus. Support from outside organizations for biophotonic research continues to be critically important for IEM to achieve its aims, and the endowment from the BLI Non-profit will ensure that IEM continues to stay closely linked with the work conducted at UC Irvine, home to the BLI. Thank you to CEO and President of the Beckman Laser Institute Non-profit, Art Fine, who has provided generous, long-standing support to IEM’s BTC.


Left to Right: Chengbiao Wu, Ph.D; Veronica Gomez-Godinez, Ph.D; Lingyan Shi, Ph.D; Ang Li, doctoral student; Linda Shi, Ph.D; Andrew McCulloch, Ph.D 


The event featured a panel session from various researchers at the forefront of biophotonics research and an award session honoring our OPALS Champions, who have made significant contributions to IEM’s Outreach Program for Advancing Learning in STEM (OPALS).

The Beckman Laser Institute Non-Profit is a foundation co-founded by Dr. Michael Berns, which aims to discover and innovate optic and photonic technology for biomedical research for transformative healthcare. The institute has provided long generous support for IEM’s own Biophotonics Technology Center (BTC), which Dr. Berns directed until his passing in 2022. Now co-directed by Dr. Linda Shi and Dr. Chengbiao Wu, the BTC continues to carry on Dr. Berns’ legacy and the BLI’s mission through supporting faculty and researchers. One of the BTC’s most impactful programs, the Outreach Program for Advancing Learning in STEM (OPALS), provides internship opportunities for high school students to engage in cutting-edge research at UC San Diego through a rigorous 6-week program. The BLI Non-profit has also recently gifted a $2.3 million endowment to the BTC, matched by Chancellor Pradeep Khosla and IEM, enabling the continuation of Dr. Berns’ visionary research and the work of Cellular and Molecular Biophotonics Lab.

Dr. Berns served as a Distinguished Professor of biomedical engineering, surgery, and developmental and cell biology and was the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Chair in Laser Biomedicine. Dr. Berns was also inducted into the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE) among many other prestigious awards. Dr. Berns’ research aimed to utilize lasers and photonic technology in the context of biomedical applications. Upon establishing the BTC at UC San Diego, Dr. Berns continued to dedicate his life to transformative photonic research. The BTC’s mission is to study the interaction between light and cells and to use this knowledge to advance our understanding of cell structure and function at the nanoscale. The Cellular and Molecular Biophotonics Lab (CBL) is a vital part of this mission, comprising two labs located at UC Irvine and UC San Diego, connected by high-speed internet interfaces that enable remote collaboration and research.


Left to Right: Jaime Chen, M.D.; Linda Shi, Ph.D.; Antonio K. Liu, M.D.; Prissilla Xu-Liu, Pharm.D & Andrew McCulloch, Ph.D. 


Panelist Talks


Andrew McCulloch, Ph.D.
Shu Chien Chancellor’s Endowed Chair in Engineering and Medicine
Event Moderator

Dr. McCulloch opened the event by discussing how applying laser technologies in healthcare is making medical diagnosis more accurate and treatment more precise.


Chengbiao Wu, Ph.D.
Professor of Neuroscience
Co-Director, Biophotonics Technology Center

Dr. Wu conducts research in Neuroscience, Cell Biology, and Molecular Biology as a Professor in the Department of Neurosciences. His team’s research focuses on axonal function and degeneration in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease as well as peripheral sensory neuropathies.      


Veronica Gomez Godinez, Ph.D.
Associate Project Scientist 
Cellular Biophotonics Lab

Dr. Gomez has been working in biophotonics for 20 years, mentored by Dr. Berns at the beginning of her research endeavors. Dr. Berns showed that the laser could be used to knock out a known DNA sequence in early prophase, setting in motion the project in which Dr. Gomez showed that mitotic cells CAN undergo DNA synthesis in response to damage created in mitotic phases, contrary to the dogma that mitotic DNA damage repair happens at later phases. These findings impact our perspective on how we target specific cancers characterized by mutations in DNA damage response proteins.


Lingyan Shi, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Bioengineering & ECE
Member, Biophotonics Technology Center

Dr. Shi is developing and applying optical imaging and spectroscopic technologies for early-stage cancer and brain disease detection. The technologies will also be used for studying metabolic changes in development and aging processes, and for imaging drug delivery across the blood-brain barrier.  


Ang Li
Ph.D. Student
Professor Zhaowei Liu Laboratory

Ang Li is a 2nd year Ph. D. student in the UC San Diego Electrical and Computer Engineering department in Dr. Zhaowei Liu’s lab.  Her research interests are imaging techniques for medical diagnosis. Li was recently helping with IEM’s GEM-awarded research topics: “Development Of Metasurface-based QPI Module For Monitoring Sensory Fiber Degeneration” and “Improving The Image Quality Of Single-use Bronchoscopes With Deep-learning Algorithms”


Linda Shi, Ph.D.
Project Scientist
Co-Director, Biophotonics Technology Center

Dr. Shi is the Project Scientist and Lab Coordinator at the Berns Lab (Cellular Biophotonics Lab) and Co-Director of the BTC. Shi has long-standing and significant contributions to upholding Dr. Berns’ legacy at UC San Diego. Dr. Shi’s current research interests mainly focus on the cellular or subcellular responses to laser ablation and laser trapping through collaborations with different research labs at UC San Diego, UC Irvine, UC San Francisco, Scripps Institutes, and the Salk Institute.


Learn more about the BLI and the BTC.

Support the Beckman Laser Institute, Biophotonics Technology Center, and OPALS.


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