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No Shortage of Grand Challenges and New Frontiers

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Karen A. Newman, Group Publisher,

It’s a bit of an understatement, but there is no shortage of urgent health care issues these days. Watching the nightly news, we are bombarded with crises and dilemmas from across the globe. How do we begin to decide where to put the time, energy and money into finding solutions?

Fortunately, a lot of people and organizations are focusing on single issues of great importance, from Alzheimer’s to cancer, MRSA to Ebola, and mother and child health care. Efforts range from marshaling public and private funds to crowdsourcing ideas, and dedicated teachers are bringing the challenge to the classroom, where real-world solutions are engineered as a matter of course.

At OSA’s Frontiers in Optics last month in Tucson, Rice University’s Dr. Rebecca Richards-Kortum gave a plenary talk taking aim at the mortality rate for mothers and newborn babies in low-resource settings. “This really represents one of the very important frontiers where cost-effective technologies can make very dramatic contributions to improve outcomes for people,” she said.

In a one-on-one interview with Photonics Media managing editor Laura Marshall, Richards-Kortum talked about her work as a researcher and professor. She directs the Rice 360° program, which gets undergrads involved in designing low-cost health technologies for low-resource communities and increasing access to lifesaving technologies. You can see the entire interview at

Ebola is another hot topic these days, and USAid, an international development agency, last month announced its Grand Challenge to fight the frightening and deadly virus. The initial focus of the undertaking is to improve the tools and protective gear used by health care workers. Details on the challenge, presented on an open-innovation platform hosted by design firm IDEO, can be found at

Long-term solutions present another frontier. Just over the hill, on the highway to really high-speed imaging, lies the promise of seeing more and doing more in biology and medicine. In our cover story, “Imaging at the Speed of Life,” contributing editor Hank Hogan describes some of the roadblocks to ultrafast imaging and what researchers are doing to clear the path. Read the full article, beginning on page 20.

Also in this issue:

• “Laser Combiner Enables Scanning Fluorescence Endoscopy,” by Dan Callen and Matthias Schulze of Coherent Inc., on page 28.

• “Multispectral Sensor Boosts Molecular Diagnostics,” by Dr. Eric Chandler and Dr. Fiona Chan of Pixelteq, on page 33.

• “UV-VIS Spectroscopy in the Clinic – What’s Stopping It?” by Gary Boas, contributing editor, on page 36.

Enjoy the issue.

Nov 2014
EditorialBiophotonicsimaginglasersSensors & DetectorsspectroscopyAmericashealth careMRSAebolamaternal healthchild healthRebecca Richards-Kortuminfant mortalitychildbirthRice 360USAIDideoLaura Marshallultrafast imagingKaren A. Newman

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