Project Overview

Optical analysis of biological materials

Faculty Sponsor

Rebecca Metzler (


Physics and Astronomy


Organisms make materials with a variety of functional properties: many marine organisms construct hard shells or exoskeletons to protect themselves, many insects have exteriors that reflect light in patterns that attract mates and repel predators, and many photosynthesizing plants optimize structure and pigmentation to harvest light. Light can be polarized such that its electric field oscillates in a specified direction. When polarized light interacts with a material, that interaction and the way in which the light changes polarization following that interaction can provide information as to the material’s structure and composition. This project aims to use polarized light to examine biological materials with the goal of connecting structure and composition to function. The project is a collaboration between Professor Rebecca Metzler and Professor Kiko Galvez who will be co-supervising the student working on the project. The student will work with optical set-ups, digital image analysis, visual light microscopy, and scanning electron microscopy (SEM).

Student Qualifications

Introductory physics

Number of Student Researchers

1 student

Project Length

8 weeks

Applications open on 01/03/2022 and close on 02/04/2022

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If you have questions, please contact Karyn Belanger (