Most recently Dr. Selim Hanay, who is a faculty member at the Mechanical Engineering Department and UNAM of Bilkent University, has been awarded with an ERC Starting Grant for his research project “Resonant Electromagnetic Microscopy: Imaging Cells Electronically”. ERC grants are highly prestigious research grants that receive applications from all over the world. ERC provides 1.5 million Euros of financial support for the approved projects for a time span of 5 years for Starting Grants. We had a short interview with Dr. Hanay to talk about the details of his research project and learn some tips for preparing a successful ERC proposal.
UNAM: Dr. Hanay, congratulations for your recent ERC grant! Could you tell us a little bit about electromagnetic resonance imaging? What are its unique advantages over the conventional methods?
Dr. Hanay: This is an all-electronic imaging technique based on microwave resonant sensors surrounding and probing a microfluidic channel. As a cell passes through active region of the sensor, it induces frequency shifts on each mode of the sensor. By using this multimodal frequency shift information, it is possible to reconstruct the image of a cell.
The technique works at microwave frequencies where the contrast difference between water and biopolymers is very large. It is entirely electronic, so it can be easily integrated with the rest of the lab-on-a-chip components. It provides the quantitative classification features with only a small amount of computational processing.
UNAM: What are some possible outcomes of your research work?
Dr. Hanay: We may see a unique image of the cell in the microwave band (since this is a near-field technique, we are not limited by the diffraction limit). The technique may turn into a commercial paradigm for automatically detecting abnormal cells in a given sample.
UNAM: Are there any tips you can share with us for preparing a successful ERC proposal?
Dr. Hanay: I have received a tremendous amount of help from researchers on campus and at UNAM. So talk with as many people as possible, even if their immediate research interests may not align with your project. Second, think about problems that are really exciting for you.