Nexus December: From the Lab to the People

Dr. Ünlü on the Interferometric Reflectance Imaging Sensor (IRIS)

The December Nexus session focused on the challenge of taking innovative technologies from the research lab to mass distribution for patient care. Dr. Selim Ünlü’s Interferometric Reflectance Imaging Sensor (IRIS) allows screening for micro and nano entities with significantly higher sensitivity and lower magnification than other available technologies – and it does it all on one silicon disk. To prove the efficacy of the new tool, Dr. Ünlü and his team created a functional and compact disposable device that would allow medical providers to conduct early, accurate testing for the Ebola virus. It was apparent to the attendees how this technology could be used for other medical and industrial applications.

After guiding Nexus participants through the development of and uses for IRIS, Dr. Ünlü discussed a major barrier to the impact of his innovation: the steep cost and logistical barriers to bringing new technologies out of the laboratory and into healthcare system. Our participants workshopped how Dr. Ünlü might be able to circumvent these roadblocks and best present the most revolutionary aspects of the IRIS technology.


Photo of Dr. Selim UlnuSelim Ünlü, PhD: Professor Ünlü received the B.S. degree from the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey, in 1986 and Ph.D. degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in 1992. Since completing his PhD, he has been a professor at Boston University. He is currently a Distinguished Professor of Engineering appointed in electrical and computer engineering, biomedical engineering, physics, materials science and engineering, and graduate medical sciences. He has also served as the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Programs in engineering. His research interests are in the areas of nanophotonics and biophotonics focusing on high-resolution solid immersion lens microscopy of integrated circuits and development of biological detection and imaging techniques, particularly in high-throughput digital biosensors based on detection of individual nanoparticles and viruses.

Dr. Ünlü was the recipient of the NSF CAREER and ONR Young Investigator Awards in 1996. He has been selected as a Photonics Society Distinguished Lecturer for 2005-2007 and Australian Research Council Nanotechnology Network (ARCNN) Distinguished Lecturer for 2007. He has been elevated to IEEE Fellow rank in 2007 for his “contributions to optoelectronic devices” and OSA Fellow rank in 2017 for his “for pioneering contributions in utilization of optical interference in enhanced photodetectors and biological sensing and imaging.” In 2008, he was awarded the Science Award by the Turkish Scientific Foundation. His professional service includes serving as the chair of the Annual Meeting for IEEE Photonics Society and Editor-in-Chief for IEEE Journal of Quantum Electronics.


  • Explore novel problems related to health care research
  • Discuss optical sensing technology, Interferometric Reflectance Imaging Sensor (IRIS), and the relevant features of this multifunctional platform for quantitative, label-free and dynamic detection
  • Synthesize additional use cases for IRIS

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