BME Seminar Series: Hao Zhang, PhD, Northwestern University

Fontana Labs 1000
140 W. 19th Ave.
Columbus, 43210
United States

Headshot of Hao Zhang

Hao Zhang, PhD

Dept. of Biomedical Engineering
Northwestern University

Title: "Multi-scale Optical Imaging: From Single Molecules to Human Eyes"


My group focuses on two core technologies, spectroscopic single-molecule localization microscopy (sSMLM) and visible-light optical coherence tomography (vis-OCT), and their applications to vision and cancer imaging at the length scale ranging from single molecules to whole human eyes. While traditional OCT uses near-infrared light, vis-OCT takes advantage of the much higher tissue contrast within the visible light spectral range to extract physiological and pathological information in addition to ultra-high (1.3 µm) resolution anatomical imaging. Using vis-OCT in both patients and small animal models, we detected retinal ischemia well before the onset of angiogenesis, produced the first in-vivo three-dimensional imaging of the entire ocular outflow pathway, and discovered new neuron damage biomarkers. In contrast, sSMLM offers multiplex super-resolution imaging at up to 5 nm spatial resolution by analyzing the spatial locations and full fluorescence emission spectra of stochastic single-molecule fluorescence emissions. Using sSMLM, we overcame the long-standing challenges of rejecting fluorescence impurities, investigated single-molecule fluorescence heterogeneities, and imaged molecular interactions with drastically different molecular concentrations. In this talk, I will describe the working principles of vis-OCT and sSMLM and how we combine them to investigate several ocular diseases comprehensively.


Hao F. Zhang is a Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Ophthalmology (by courtesy) at Northwestern University. He received his BS and MS degrees from Shanghai JiaoTong University (Shanghai, China) in 1997 and 2000, respectively, and his Ph.D. degree from Texas A&M University (College Station, Texas) in 2006. From 2006 to 2007, he was a post-doctoral fellow at Washington University in St. Louis. He and colleagues reported the first demonstration of photoacoustic microscopy (Nature Biotechnology 2006, Nature Protocols 2007, PNAS 2010, Nature Communications 2019), spectroscopic super-resolution imaging (Nature Communications 2016, PNAS 2016, Optica 2019, Light: Science and Applications 2020, Nanophotonics 2022), visible-light optical coherence tomography (Light: Science and Applications 2016, J. Neuroscience 2022, PNAS 2022). He received the NSF CAREER award and NIH Director’s Challenge Award in 2010, the NIH IMPACT award in 2015, the SPIE Translational Research Award in 2016, and the US National Academy of Sciences Cozzarelli Prize in 2017. He is a fellow of Optica and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. His research interests include optical coherence tomography, super-resolution imaging, ophthalmology and vision science, and genomics. In 2015, he co-founded Opticent Health to commercialize visible-light optical coherence tomography. In 2023, he founded the Center of Engineering for Vision and Ophthalmology (CEVO) at Northwestern University. For more information, please visit

Category: Seminar Series