Skip to Content

Affiliated Commission of

Scientific Associate of

ICO Awards

Hands-on activities at the ICTP Winter College

October 2016 Number 109

  Previous articles

Hands-on activities at the ICTP Winter College

The Winter College 2017 will include laboratory activities.

Set-up for thermal lens spectroscopy (Applied Optics Lab, IVIC).

The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), in collaboration with the International Commission for Optics (ICO), the Optical Society of America (OSA), the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE), the European Optical Society (EOS), Società Italiana di Ottica e Fotonica (SIOF), the International Society on Optics Within Life Sciences (OWLS), will organize a Winter College on Optics. This year the topic is dedicated to Applied Optical Techniques for Bio-imaging, which will be held at ICTP, Trieste, Italy, from 13–24 February 2017.

There are important scientific and pedagogical aspects for choosing these topics: advanced light microscopy has become one of the most useful tools in the life sciences and environmental research and it has been recently awarded through the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to E Betzig, S W Hell (an ICO prize awardee in 2000) and W E Moerner.

Thermal lens microscopy setup at the IPN (Instituto Politécnico Nacional, Mexico.

The course will start with the basics of optics of light microscopy, covering the various methods of imaging fluorescent samples, polarization microscopy and image processing, and concludes with some of the latest advances in light microscopy using super-resolution techniques. As a focus on this forthcoming college, in addition to lectures, the courses will also provide laboratory sections, scheduled every day in the afternoon, in which students will have hands-on activities. This is indeed a new focus for the college at the ICTP that will address fundamental and experimental aspects of advanced microscopy, spectroscopy and related techniques in combination with experimental sessions and a design of an experimental project by the participants who qualified for presenting their own scientific projects.


The ICO has been an active member of the Trieste System in Optics Sciences and Applications Advisory Group (TSOSA) since its inception in 2003. The TSOSA has recomended that the ICTP includes hands-on activities in the Winter College of Optics whenever possible. Thanks to the commitment of the directors of the Winter College 2017, a new structure will allow students to devote part time to activities in the lab, working on special set-ups prepared for hands-on training. This college structure is reminiscent of the first Laser and Fiber Optics Workshops held at ICTP under the lead of Prof. Abdus Salam.


The scope of the course is to promote new theoretical and experimental methods, concepts, instruments, measurement techniques and data analysis routines for both laboratory and industrial applications to train students and scientists, as well as to coordinate international activities and collaboration in this area. By focusing on both theory and applications, the workshop will also provide an interesting intersection of emerging techniques and experimental methods with theoretical advances in the field. The lectures will focus on a variety of topics related to biological applications, environmental research and material characterization.

Relevance to scientists in developing countries

With theoretical and experimental sessions, the interdisciplinary nature of the workshop will target a wide audience of professionals (including students, teachers, science and scientists) dealing with experimental and theoretical work related to the field of microscopy and spectroscopy applications in different fields of life sciences. It is expected that the school will stimulate collaborations among scientific communities for the generation of joint projects and other initiatives, which will enhance the availability of public-domain technical resources especially for research and education in developing countries.


   Students receiving instruction at the SPIE-ICTP     Anchor Research in Optics Program Laboratory.

The co-directors of the college are: Humberto Cabrera (Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research, Merida, Venezuela), Maria L Calvo (Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain), Alberto Diaspro (Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Genoa, Italy), Viktor Lysiuk (V Lashkariov Institute of Semiconductor Physics, Ukraine), Nicoletta Tosa (National Institute for Research and Development of Isotopic and Molecular Technologies, Cluj, Romania), with local organizers: Joseph Niemela, Dan Cojoc and Mitcho Danailov (Trieste, Italy).

The main topics will focus on: introduction to optical microscopy, confocal microscopy, phase contrast microscopy and super-resolution, bio-imaging processing and speckle interferometry, advanced fluorescence microscopy, fluorescence nanoscopy and label-free approaches in microscopy, mobile-phone-based fluorescent microscopy: sensing and diagnostics, STED microscopy, polarization microscopy: biomedical imaging and diagnostics, photothermal spectroscopy and microscopy: related techniques and applications, time-resolved and multispectral spectroscopy, biosensing by surface plasmon resonance, optical properties of thin films, optical lithography, applications of nanostructured porous materials for biomedicine, optical tweezers and applications.

Dr Humberto Cabrera working at the ICTP optics laboratory.

Following the recommendation of the TSOSA Committee, the Winter College will include hands-on activities. The director in charge is the Professor Humberto Cabrera and the selected experimental sessions are: photothermal microscopy, surface plasmon resonance method for precise detection of low-concentration solutions, optical tweezers: demonstration on manipulation of micro-size particles and discussion with students, multi-spectral spectroscopy analysis, lock-in photothermal shadowgraph method, experiments and computer lab processing, polarization microscopy, biomedical imaging and diagnostics, laser speckle bio-imaging, experiments and computer lab processing: portable mobile phone microscopes: demonstration with different prototypes, spectroscopy: determination of the optical properties in the visible range of thin films influence of the substrate and material, UV-Vis optical fiber assisted spectroscopy in thin films and solutions, hands-on sessions in the computer laboratory.

More information can be found at

We invite all young scientists interested in the topic to participate in this forthcoming college.

Humberto Cabrera,
Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas &
International Centre for Theoretical Physics.

Maria L Calvo, 

Universidad Complutense de Madrid.

 Next articles