Dr. Francisco E. Robles and his lab focus on developing optical technologies and signal processing methods to improve biological imaging and enhance the ability to identify diseases.

Optical technologies have enabled key advances in biology and medicine due to their ability to assess many chemical and physical properties of cells and tissues with great flexibility. Dr. Robles and the Optical Imaging and Spectroscopy (OIS) Lab at Georgia Tech’s Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering seek to continue advancing optical technologies to better understand biological processes and the ability to identify disease.

Specifically, the OIS lab focuses on developing and applying label-free linear and nonlinear imaging and spectroscopic methods, along with advanced signal processing/computational methods, to gain access to novel forms of structural, functional, and molecular contrast. Their work has a variety of applications, including cancer detection, tumor margin assessment, hematology, and neuron functional imaging.

Dr. Robles’ lab developed a novel ultraviolet (UV) microscopy system that can be used as a blood cell analyzer to provide quick, absolute blood cell counts at the point of care. The deep UV microscopy system enables cell analysis without chemical reagents or any other exogenous labels that often interfere with image or sample quality and make procedures complex.

The lab’s innovative method allows for quick collection of molecular information from live cells without causing cell damage or alteration. The short wavelength and molecular specificity of UV light provides a high-resolution molecular image that enables highly specific cell phenotyping. Because the method is based on endogenous, label-free molecular imaging, it provides consistent and accurate diagnoses.

Importantly, the method is cost-effective, delivers timely results, and enables critical testing to be performed at the point of care and potentially at-home and/or in low-resource settings. The technology’s ability to collect more data could enable more personalized care that can ultimately aid in the understanding of disease and mechanisms and drug treatments.

“Because we’re doing molecular imaging, we can learn more about the cells,” said Dr. Robles. “There is a direct line to benefitting the patient in a really short time, from what is done in the lab to what can be delivered at the bedside or home. It’s simply an update to the ways we analyze the data to provide more useful information to the patient—and that’s really exciting.”

Research Goals 

  • Advancing deep UV microscopy system for point-of-care devices: Developing an innovative method that allows for the quick collection of molecular information from live cells without cell damage or alteration.
  • Developing quantitative oblique back-illumination microscopy (qOBM) for biomedicine: Advancing quantitative phase imaging, an important tool in biomedicine that yields insight into internal cellular structures, with significant implications for biomedical and clinical applications. 
  • Using molecular imaging optical coherence tomography (OCT) for cancer detection: Advancing spectroscopic OCT (SOCT), along with signal-processing methods, to improve the understanding of tumor development among other biomedical applications.


  • Developing label-free molecular imaging: Enabling cell analysis without chemical reagents or other exogenous labels that often interfere with image or sample quality and make procedures complex.
  • Expanding the reach of quantitative phase imaging: Developing qOBM to apply quantitative phase imaging to thick scattering samples, including human tissue, and provide a high level of cellular and subcellular detail without resorting to expensive and complex nonlinear methods.
  • Improving on OCT to broaden the application of molecular imaging in medicine: Combining the noninvasive, 3D, high-resolution, imaging capabilities of OCT with the rich source of knowledge available with spectroscopy to provide cancer detection in addition to other biomedical applications.


  • Nature Light Science and Applications’ Rising Stars of Light Award (2023)
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institutes of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) Maximizing Investigators Research Award (2022)
  • National Science Foundation CAREER Award (2018)
  • Burroughs Wellcome Fund (BWF) Career Award at the Scientific Interface (2015)
  • NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service (NRSA) Fellowship (F32) (2013)