Photo of Dr Francesca Palombo

Dr Francesca Palombo

Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Spectroscopy


Telephone: 01392 726612

Extension: (Streatham) 6612

My research is focused on the development of vibrational spectroscopy methods (FTIR, Raman and Brillouin) applied to the biomedical sciences. I am particularly interested in the physical and chemical aspects of biological systems at a molecular level, as well their implications in health and disease. Previously, I developed the application of Attenuated Total Reflection (ATR)-FTIR spectroscopic imaging to atherosclerosis in animal models, such as rabbits and mice. I applied both ultrafast time-resolved (Optical Kerr Effect) and frequency-domain techniques (FTIR, Raman and depolarized Rayleigh scattering) to elucidate the dynamics, structure and molecular interactions in complex media. 

Taught modules: since 2014, Physical Chemistry (NSC2002) and Practical Physics II (PHY2026); 2015-2017: Introduction to Radiation Physics (PAM1014; Module Lead).

Current team members:

  • Ryan Edginton (PhD): Biomechanics of the protein fibres of the extracellular matrix (2014-18)
  • Rikke Morrish (PhD): FTIR imaging applied to live immune cells in microfluidic devices (2016-20)
  • Louise Clark (PhD): Surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy and surface enhanced spatially offset Raman spectroscopy for disease diagnosis (2013-18)
  • Michael Hermes (PhD): Rapid high-resolution mid-IR imaging for molecular spectral histopathological diagnosis of oesophageal cancers (2016-20)
  • Pascaline Bouzy (PhD): Novel IR spectroscopic imaging for the elucidation of disease specific changes in breast calcifications (2016-20)
  • Fahad Aldosari (PhD): TBD (2017-2021)

Currently open positions:

Both positions are funded by CRUK/EPSRC Multidisciplinary Award starting on 1st October 2017.

There may be other PhD opportunities in my group. I would be happy to discuss projects and other sources of funding, so please feel free to email me.

Education and Employment

  • 2017-date   Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Spectroscopy, University of Exeter
  • 2013-2016  Lecturer in Biomedical Spectroscopy, University of Exeter
  • 2012-2013  Senior Research Associate, University of East Anglia
  • 2009-2011  Research Associate, University of Perugia, Italy
  • 2007-2009  Research Associate, Imperial College London
  • 2003-2007  PhD Physical Chemistry, University of Perugia
  • 1998-2003  MSc (110/110 cum laude) Chemistry, University of Perugia

Funded Research Projects

  • (PI) CRUK/EPSRC Multidisciplinary Award NS/A000063/1, 2017-2021, £499,876
  • (CI; Vice Chair) CA COST Action 'BioBrillouin' CA16124, 2017-2021, €358,000
  • (PI) EPSRC First Grant EP/M028739/1, 2015-2017, £114,916
  • (CI) Wellcome Trust ISSF2 Seed-Corn Round 3, 2016-17, £10,950
  • (PI) Wellcome Trust ISSF2 Seed-Corn Round 2, 2016, £11,480
  • (PI) Small grant for scientific activities, Royal Society of Chemistry, 2016, £2,000
  • (PI) International travel grant, Royal Academy of Engineering, 2007, £700
  • (PI) International travel grant, European Molecular Liquid Group, 2007, €660
  • PhD studentship, Ministry of Education, Universities and Research, Italy, 2003-2006, ca. €39,000

Facilities Usage

  • (PI) LASERLAB EUROPE, LENS002120, 2015, 19 shifts of 9 hours

Invited Presentations

Invited presentations since January 2008:

  • TBD, School of Medicine, University of Leeds, 2017
  • "Viscoelasticity of extracellular matrices", 8th International Discussion Meeting on Relaxation in Complex Systems (IDMRCS), Wisla, Poland, 23-28/07/2017
  • "Multimodal spectroscopic analysis of protein fibres using Brillouin and Raman scattering", Dept. Physics, Cardiff University, 08/02/2017
  • "Brillouin spectroscopy to probe the elasticity and mapping stiffness across tissues", Nano-spectroscopy and Bio-Imaging conference, Photonex, Ricoh Arena, Coventry, 12-13/10/2016
  • "Brillouin scattering of fibrous proteins and tissues. A contactless micromechanical testing", MiFoBio school, Seignosse, France, 30/09-07/10/2016
  • Two talks: "Chemical imaging of Amyloid-beta plaques" and "Brilliant Brillouin and waves. New approaches in biomedicine", SciX conference, Minneapolis, USA, 18-23/09/2016 
  • "Probing the biomechanics of protein fibres of the ECM by Brillouin spectroscopy", Dept. Bioengineering, Imperial College London, 14/07/2016
  • "Stiffness maps of biological tissues based on Brillouin scattering", Workshop on Future Biophotonics Technologies at the Engineering/Physics/Life Sciences Interface, Exeter, 15-17/03/2016
  • "From protein fibres to biological tissues: the synergy of chemical and mechanical imaging", Winter School on Biotechnology, Dept. Physics and Geology, University of Perugia, Italy, 18-22/01/2016
  • "Probing the Biomechanics of Protein Fibres and Tissues by Brillouin Scattering Spectroscopy", MERI, Sheffield Hallam University, 18/01/2016
  • "Brillouin micro-spectroscopy of biological fibres and tissues", School of Chemistry, University of Bristol, 05/06/2015
  • "Non-invasive label-free detection of pre-cancerous tissue biomechanics and composition via micro-Brillouin and Raman mapping", SciX conference, Reno, USA, 28/09-03/10/2014
  • "Advances in spectroscopic imaging of disease", Health and Medical Research Showcase, University of Exeter, 27/06/2014
  • "Molecular dynamics of alkali halide-acetone solutions", Workshop on Solvation in Liquids, University of Lille 1, France, 28/03/2011
  • "An experimental study of atherosclerosis in the aorta artery by FTIR imaging", Dept. Physical and Chemical Methodologies for Engineering, University of Catania, Italy, 22/02/2008
  • "An experimental study of atherosclerosis in the aorta artery by FTIR imaging", Dept. Chemical Sciences, University of Catania, Italy, 21/02/2008
  • "FTIR imaging of arteries affected by atherosclerosis: an experimental model", Dept. Chemistry, University of Perugia, Italy, 28/01/2008

Contributions to the Community

  • External examiner for the award of PhD degrees at University of Perugia, Italy
  • Member of the EPSRC Peer Review College
  • Reviewer for funding bodies including EPSRC, CRUK and the European Commission
  • Reviewer and member of the pool of experts for the EU Horizon 2020 FET-OPEN and RIA call 2016-2017
  • Reviewer for international scientific journals including Advanced Materials, Analyst, Analytical Methods, Applied Spectroscopy, Biomacromolecules, and the Journal of Physical Chemistry

Conference Organisation

  • Royal Society of Chemistry ChemNet event "Meet the BIOSPEC team at Exeter", University of Exeter, 14/12/2015
  • 13th Martin & Willis Student Prize Meeting and Infrared and Raman Discussion Group (IRDG) Meeting 210, University of Exeter, 26-27/08/2015
  • Clinical Infrared and Raman Spectroscopy (CLIRSPEC) Network Conference, University of Exeter, 20-22/04/2015


  • "Spectroscopy Zone" in I'm a Scientist, Get me out of here, November 2014
  • "Chemical photography: seeing in a different light", Royal Academy Exhibition Celebrating 350 years of the Royal Society, London Southbank Centre, 25/06-04/07/2010
  • "Chemistry Games" (Competition for school students), University of Perugia, Italy, 2003-06 and 2009-11
  • "Differently Chemistry" (Demonstrations for differently abled persons), Perugia, Italy, 2010-11


  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)
  • Member of the American Chemical Society (ACS)
  • Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC)
  • Member of the Society for Applied Spectroscopy (SAS)
  • Member of the SAS Publications Committee
  • Member of the UK SAS Committee


  • Best undergraduate supervisor at CEMPS, Exeter, 2016-17
  • Best poster at the EMLG/JMLG conference, Sheffield, 03-07/09/2004