2014 Paterson medal and prize

Dr Sarah Bohndiek, University of Cambridge. For her remarkable work in developing advanced molecular imaging techniques and applying them to address questions at the interface of physics, biology and medicine.


Sarah Bohndiek possesses a unique combination of skills in physics and biology and a great tenacity in getting experiments to work. Her remarkable career got off to a fruitful start when as a research student at UCL working on radiation physics she published more than ten significant papers, five of them as first author. In this work she critically assessed and exploited the capabilities in X-ray imaging of a new complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) detector. In particular the ability of the detector to perform angle dispersive X-ray diffraction and 2-dimensional phase contrast imaging with a polychromatic laboratory X-ray source was successfully demonstrated.

She then joined the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute and in the period 2008 -11 made major contributions to magnetic resonance imaging of metabolic effects, particularly redox processes. During this time she used hyperpolarised carbon-13, a technique that dramatically increases the carbon NMR signal by over 10,000-fold. This opened up means to study in vivo tumor biochemistry and the response of tissue to different cancer treatments.

Sarah spent two further very productive years in Stanford. There she developed a radically new system for Raman imaging spectroscopy specifically designed for preclinical use. Making a useful compromise between imaging speed and spatial resolution, her system uses a line scanning rather than the more common spot scanning system. The evolving distribution of marker molecules in the liver of a living mouse was clearly demonstrated. In a second project she investigated the application of photoacoustic imaging instruments ingeniously developing stable phantom structures to enable their performance to be quantitatively assessed. Extending this work into medical applications, she showed for the first time the power for photoacoustic imaging for monitoring response to anti-angiogenic therapy, which targets newly forming tumour blood vessels.