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Photo of Prof Francesca Palombo

Prof Francesca Palombo

Professor of Biomedical Spectroscopy


Telephone: 01392 726612

Extension: (Streatham) 6612

Along with being a PI in Physics, I am an affiliate investigator of the Living Systems Institute.

My research is focused on developments of Brillouin, Raman and Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy methods for applications to biology and medicine. I am interested in physical and chemical aspects of biological systems at a molecular level, as well as their implications in disease. Previously, I developed the application of Attenuated Total Reflection (ATR) - FTIR spectroscopic imaging to atherosclerosis in animal models of the disease. I used both ultrafast time-resolved Optical Kerr Effect (OKE) and low-frequency Raman scattering to elucidate the dynamics, structure and physical interactions in ionic solutions. My PhD project was focused on investigating the hydrogen bonding properties of octanols in the liquid and supercritical fluid phases using FTIR and Raman spectroscopy.

Visit our BioSpec team website and Raman NanoTheranostics website.


Current team members:

  • Michelle Bailey (PDRA): Novel Brillouin-Raman microscopy applied to oesophageal cancer
  • Hao Meng (PhD): Laser spectroscopy for biofluid detection of Alzheimer's disease
  • Felix Weedon (PhD): Light scattering spectroscopy of keratin structures
  • Steve Hill (PhD): Advanced optical tools for early detection of oesophageal cancer
  • Eve Nebbiolo (PhD): Collagen organisation and biomineralisation in biological tissues
  • Ioana Blein (PhD): Novel nanoparticles for Raman nanotheranostic applications
  • Doriana Calabrese (PhD): FTIR imaging of breast cancer microcalcifications
  • Jenni Haskell (PhD): Deep Raman spectroscopy applied to breast cancer
  • Jacob Binsley (PhD): Magnetoelastic metamaterials for lab-on-a-chip technology

Alumni: postdoc - Dr Noemi Correa 2017-21; PhD Physics - Michelle Bailey and Fahad Aldosari 2022, Rikke Morrish 2021, Ryan Edginton 2018; visiting PhDs - Leonardo Pioppi 2021, Martina Alunni Cardinali 2019/20, Doriana Calabrese 2018, Beatrice Gironi 2017, Sara Mattana 2016; visiting undergraduates - Antoine David (MEng) 2014; summer internship - Savi Elias (MSci) 2022, Will Mitchell (MSci) 2021, Elise Hobson (MSci) 2020, Ebony Cave and Tom Carter (MSci) 2018, Laurence Mitchell and Thomas Ledgerwood (MSci) 2017, Imogen Swift (MSci) 2016, Sarah Stoyle (MPhys) 2016.

Taught modules: Physical Chemistry (NSC2002); Physical Methods in Biology and Medicine (PHYM008).

Education and Employment

  • 2022-date  Professor of Biomedical Spectroscopy, University of Exeter
  • 2018-22  Associate Professor of Biomedical Spectroscopy, University of Exeter
  • 2017-18  Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Spectroscopy, University of Exeter
  • 2013-17  Lecturer in Biomedical Spectroscopy, University of Exeter
  • 2012-13  Senior Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of East Anglia
  • 2009-11  Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Perugia, Italy
  • 2007-9  Postdoctoral Research Associate, Imperial College London
  • Feb 2007  PhD Physical Chemistry, University of Perugia, Italy
  • Jul 2003  MSc Chemistry (110/110 cum laude), University of Perugia

Recently Funded Research Projects

  • (PI) CRUK/EPSRC Early Detection and Diagnosis Award, 2022-25, £499,139
  • (PI) Research Network "Health Technologies @ Exeter", 2023, £12.5k
  • (PI) COST Innovators Grant "BLiSS-BMD" IG16124, 2021-22, €116,150
  • EPSRC Programme Grant "RaNT" (PI: Nick Stone) EP/R020965/1, 2018-23, £5.75M
  • EPSRC Core Equipment Award "EBOC" (PI: Neil Gow) EP/V034251/1, 2020-22, £632,086
  • Hubert Curien Alliance Programme 2021 (PI: Ben Sherlock) 816469063, 2022, €5k
  • (PI) CRUK/EPSRC Multidisciplinary Award NS/A000063/1, 2017-21, £499,876
  • (Vice-Chair) COST Action "BioBrillouin" CA16124, 2017-21, €507,935
  • (PI) BBSRC CTP PhD Studentship BB/V509450/1 with Unilever to Felix Weedon, 2021-25, £158,026
  • (PI) China Scholarship Council/Exeter PhD Scholarship to Hao Meng, 2021-25, £137k
  • (PI) EPSRC IAA Impact and Knowledge Exchange Award, 2018, £33,995
  • (PI) EPSRC DTG PhD Studentship to Rikke Morrish, 2016-20, £102,238
  • (PI) EPSRC First Grant EP/M028739/1, 2015-17, £114,916
  • Wellcome Trust ISSF2 Seed-Corn Fund Round 7, 2020, £10k
  • Wellcome Trust ISSF2 Seed-Corn Fund Round 5, 2018, £9,986
  • Wellcome Trust ISSF2 Seed-Corn Fund Round 3, 2016-17, £10,950
  • (PI) Wellcome Trust ISSF2 Seed-Corn Fund Round 2, 2016, £11,480

Facilities Usage

  • (PI) UK Diamond Light Source, 2-6 Mar 2021, 15 shifts of 8 hours, £75,360
  • UK National Ion Beam Centre University of Surrey, 1 Jan - 30 Nov 2017, 24 hours, £11,693
  • (PI) LASERLAB EUROPE, LENS002120, 13 Jul - 6 Aug 2015, 18 shifts of 9 hours, €14,592

Recent Invited Presentations

  • VISPEC 2023 Meeting, University of Perugia, Italy, 14-16 Jun 2023
  • Optics and Photonics Group Seminar, University of Nottingham, 30 Nov 2022
  • 1st SPIE-CLP Conference on Advanced Photonics, Hangzhou, China, 21-23 Nov 2022
  • 6th BioBrillouin Meeting (BBM6), Lyon, France, 14-17 Nov 2022
  • VISPEC 2022 Meeting, online, 7 Oct 2022
  • 8th International School of Sound and Light, Saint Pierre d'Oléron, France, 12-23 Sep 2022
  • ICO25 & OWLS16 General Congress, Technische Universitat Dresden, Germany, 5-9 Sep 2022
  • 19th European Conference on the Spectroscopy of Biological Molecules (ECSBM), Reims, 29 Aug - 1 Sep 2022
  • Vibrational Spectroscopy Gordon Research Conference, Rhode Island, 31 Jul - 5 Aug 2022, declined
  • 4th WOMBAT, Max-Planck Institute for the Science of Light, Erlangen, 14-17 Jun 2022
  • International Conference on Biomedical Photonics (ICBP), Palavas-les-Flots, 2-4 Jun 2022, cancelled
  • Pittcon Conference and Expo 2022, Atlanta, 5-9 Mar 2022, cancelled
  • Photonics West BiOS 2022, Conference 11962, San Francisco, 22-27 Jan 2022
  • 5th BioBrillouin Training School, online, 11-12 Oct 2021
  • SPIE Photonex Frontiers in Biophotonics and Imaging, Glasgow, 28-30 Sep 2021
  • International Conference on Advanced Vibrational Spectroscopy (ICAVS), on-line, 23-26 Aug 2021
  • OSA 2021 Novel Optical Materials and Applications (NOMA) Conference, on-line, 26-30 Jul 2021
  • Keynote: Optics and photonics for scientific progress (OPSP) Conference, on-line, 13-14 Apr 2021

Contributions to the Community

  • External examiner for the award of PhD degrees at Imperial College London, King's College London, Polytechnic University of Valencia, and University of Perugia
  • Member of the Independent Advisory Board of EPSRC Programme Grant "U-care" (PI: Robert Thomson, Heriot Watt) EP/T020903/1, 2021-25, £6.13M 
  • Member of the 2023 and 2024 Program Committee of "Optical Elastography and Tissue Biomechanics IX" conference, BiOS Photonics West, San Francisco
  • Chair of SPIE Photonex 2022, Birmingham, UK, 6-8/12/2022
  • Member of the Steering Committee of the Workshop on optomechanics and Brillouin scattering (WOMBAT)
  • Member of the Scientific Committee of the 6th BioBrillouin Meeting (BBM6), Lyon, 14-17/11/2022
  • Member of the Scientific Committee of Son et Lumière School, Oléron Island, 12-23/09/2022
  • Member of the Technical Programme Committee of ICO25 & OWLS16 General Congress, Dresden, 5-9/09/2022
  • Member of the Programme Committee of SPIE Biophotonics Conference "Frontiers in Biophotonics and Imaging", Glasgow, 28-30/09/2021
  • Review Editor for Frontiers in Physics - Soft Matter Physics 2021
  • Chair of Organising Committee of the 4th BioBrillouin Meeting (BBM4), online, 9-11/09/2020
  • Guest Associate Editor for Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology and Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences - Cellular Biochemistry. Research topic "Probing the Chromatin Architecture", 01/03/2021
  • Guest editor of Biomedical Optics Express feature issue "Brillouin Light Scattering Microspectroscopy for Biomedical Research and Applications", 01/05/2019
  • Member of CRUK Multidisciplinary Expert Review Panel, Oct 2021 and Oct 2022
  • Member of CRUK Expert Review Panel, Sep 2021
  • Member of EPSRC Transformative Healthcare Technologies Panel, Jul 2021
  • Member of EPSRC Transformative Healthcare Technologies Outlines Panel, Nov 2020
  • Member of EPSRC Physical Sciences Prioritisation Panel, Sep 2019
  • Member of MRC Neurosciences & Mental Health Board, Jul 2017
  • Member of EPSRC Peer Review College
  • Recognised for significant contribution to EPSRC Peer Review in 2020/21 (top 4%), 2019/20 (top 6%) and 2016/17 (top 7%)
  • Member of ERC, FET Open, EIC Pathfinder, and COST Expert Panels
  • Reviewer for funding bodies including all RCUK, UKRI, RAEng, CRUK, ERC, FET Open, EIC Pathfinder, and COST
  • Reviewer for international scientific journals including Nature Communications, PNAS, Advanced Materials, Analytical Methods, Applied Spectroscopy, Biomacromolecules and Optics Express

Conference Organisation

  • 6th BioBrillouin Meeting (BBM6), Lyon, 14-17/11/2022
  • 5th BioBrillouin Meeting (BBM5), online, 12-14/10/2021
  • (Chair) 4th BioBrillouin Meeting (BBM4), online, 9-11/09/2020
  • 3rd BioBrillouin Meeting (BBM3), Porto, 25-27/09/2019
  • 2nd BioBrillouin Meeting (BBM2), Perugia, 12-14/09/2018
  • 13th Martin & Willis Student Prize Meeting and IRDG Meeting 210, Exeter, 26-27/08/2015
  • CLIRSPEC Network Conference, Exeter, 20-22/04/2015

Recent Outreach

  • Public Engagement Programme with Exeter Science Centre, 2021
  • Talk at Cancer Research UK Live event, Exeter, 10/10/2018
  • International Day of Light - EUOPS, Exeter Princesshay, 16/05/2018
  • Lead organiser of RSC ChemNet event, University of Exeter, 14/12/2015


  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)
  • Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC)
  • Member of the Society for Applied Spectroscopy (SAS)

Recent Prizes

  • High quality presentation at SPIE Photonics West BiOS 2020, Conference 11252, $250
  • Above and Beyond Award for first class research talk at Physics@Exeter, 02/03/2020, £250
  • Best PhD Supervisor, Students' Guild Teaching Award, 31/07/2019
  • Above and Beyond Award for support and collegiality, Exeter, 12/04/2019, £250
  • Above and Beyond Silver Award for research achievements, Exeter, 24/07/2018, £2k
  • Inspirational leader and role model, International Women's Day committee, Exeter, 02/02/2018
  • Best Undergraduate Supervisor, Students' Guild Teaching Award, 06/06/2017

Training Courses

  • Aurora Leadership Programme 2017
  • First Aid at Work, St John Ambulance 2015