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Photo of Dr Francesca Palombo

Dr Francesca Palombo

Associate Professor in Biomedical Spectroscopy


Telephone: 01392 726612

Extension: (Streatham) 6612

My research is focused on the development of Brillouin, Raman and FTIR spectroscopy methods for applications to the biomedical sciences. I am particularly interested in the 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 imaging to atherosclerosis in small animal models. I applied both ultrafast time-resolved optical Kerr effect (OKE) and THz-Raman scattering to elucidate the dynamics, structure and interactions in ionic solutions. My PhD was focused on investigating the hydrogen-bonding properties of octanols from liquid to supercritical fluid conditions using FTIR, Raman and depolarised Rayleigh scattering.

Visit our BioSpec team website.

Frontiers Research Topic "Probing the chromatin architecture" is open for submissions.

Current team members:

  • Dr Noemi Correa (PDRA): Novel Brillouin-Raman microscopy applied to oesophageal cancer
  • Michelle Bailey (PhD): Chemo-mechanics of epithelial tissue in dysplastic Barrett's oesophagus
  • Fahad Aldosari (PhD): Noble metal nanoparticles for SERS applications in biomedicine
  • Rikke Morrish (PhD): Chemical imaging of live immune cells in microfluidic devices
  • Doriana Calabrese (PhD): FTIR imaging of breast cancer microcalcifications
  • Jenni Haskell (PhD): Deep Raman spectroscopy applied to breast cancer
  • Bassey Ndiyo (PhD): Evaluation of diagnostic tools in prostate cancer
  • Jacob Binsley (PhD): Magnetoelastic metamaterials for lab-on-a-chip technology

Alumni: PhD Physics - Pascaline Bouzy 2020, Michael Hermes 2019, Ryan Edginton and Louise Clark 2018; visiting PhDs - Martina Alunni Cardinali 2019 and 2020, Doriana Calabrese 2018, Beatrice Gironi 2017, Sara Mattana 2016; visiting undergraduates - Antoine David (MEng) 2014; summer internship - 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) and Practical Physics II (PHY2026)

Education and Employment

  • 2018-date   Associate Professor in Biomedical Spectroscopy, University of Exeter
  • 2017-2018  Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Spectroscopy, University of Exeter
  • 2013-2017  Lecturer in Biomedical Spectroscopy, University of Exeter
  • 2012-2013  Senior Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of East Anglia
  • 2009-2011  Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Perugia, Italy
  • 2007-2009  Postdoctoral Research Associate, Imperial College London
  • 2003-2007  PhD Physical Chemistry, University of Perugia, Italy
  • 1998-2003  MSc (110/110 cum laude) Chemistry, University of Perugia

Recently Funded Research Projects

  • EPSRC Programme Grant RaNT (PI: Nick Stone) EP/R020965/1, 2018-23, £5.75M
  • EPSRC Core Equipment Award 2020 (PI: Neil Gow) EP/V034251/1, 2020-22, £349,586
  • (PI) CRUK/EPSRC Multidisciplinary Award NS/A000063/1, 2017-21, £499,876
  • (Vice-chair) COST Action BioBrillouin CA16124, 2017-21, €507,935
  • China Scholarship Council/Exeter PhD Scholarship to Hao Meng, 2021-25, TBD
  • BBSRC CASE PhD Studentship with Unilever, 2020-24, £158,026 
  • (PI) EPSRC IAA Impact and Knowledge Exchange Award 2018, £33,995
  • (PI) EPSRC DTP Studentship to Rikke Morrish, 2016-20, £70,000
  • (PI) EPSRC First Grant EP/M028739/1, 2015-17, £114,916
  • Wellcome Trust ISSF2 Seed-Corn Fund Round 7, 2020, £10,000
  • 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
  • (PI) Small Grant for Scientific Activities, Royal Society of Chemistry, 2016, £2,000

Facilities Usage

  • (PI) UK Diamond Light Source, 2020, 15 shifts of 8 hours, £75,360
  • UK National Ion Beam Centre University of Surrey, 2017, £9,744
  • (PI) LASERLAB EUROPE, LENS002120, 2015, 18 shifts of 9 hours, €14,592

Recent Invited Presentations

  • 2nd International Conference on Biomedical Photonics, Palavas-les-Flots (France), 15-17 Apr 2021
  • Nanoengineering for Mechanobiology meeting, online, 30 Nov - 3 Dec 2020
  • SPIE Photonex and Vacuum Expo Digital Forum, 5-9 Oct 2020
  • European Microscopy Congress EMC2020, Copenhagen (Denmark), cancelled
  • Keynote: Optics in Clinical Practice V, Institute of Physics, London, cancelled
  • Physics@Exeter event, University of Exeter, 28 Feb 2020
  • 3rd COST BioBrillouin training school, Ben-Gurion University (Israel), 10-12 Feb 2020
  • IRDG Christmas Meeting, UCL, London, 19 Dec 2019
  • Photon Science Institute, University of Manchester, 27 Nov 2019
  • 224th Infrared and Raman Discussion Group (IRDG) meeting, Lancaster University, 19 Sep 2019
  • Keynote: IONS Exeter conference, 9-12 Jul 2019
  • (x2) 2nd COST BioBrillouin conference and Open Day for Clinicians, Perugia (Italy), 12-14 Sep 2018
  • Frontiers in BioImaging meeting, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, 27-28 Jun 2018
  • Advances in Biophotonics conference, UCL London, 18 Apr 2018
  • EPSRC CDT in Diamond Science and Technology seminar, University of Warwick, 12 Feb 2018
  • 1st COST BioBrillouin training school, EMBL Heidelberg (Germany), 17-19 Jan 2018
  • 8th IDMRCS conference, Wisla (Poland), 23-28 Jul 2017
  • School of Physics, Cardiff University, 8 Feb 2017
  • Nano-spectroscopy and Bio-Imaging conference, Photonex, Coventry, 12-13 Oct 2016
  • MiFoBio school, Seignosse (France), 30 Sep - 7 Oct 2016
  • (x2) SciX conference, Minneapolis (USA), 18-23 Sep 2016 
  • Department of Bioengineering, Imperial College London, 14 Jul 2016
  • Workshop on Future Biophotonics Technologies at the EPS/Life Sciences Interface, Exeter, 15-17 Mar 2016
  • Winter School on Biotechnology, University of Perugia (Italy), 18-22 Jan 2016
  • MERI, Sheffield Hallam University, 18 Jan 2016

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 Technical Programme Committee of ICO-25-OWLS-16 General Congress, Dresden, 13-17/09/2021
  • Member of Scientific Committee of Son et Lumiere School, Les Houches, 22/03-02/04/2021
  • Chair of Organising Committee of BioBrillouin2020 Virtual Conference, 9-11/09/2020
  • Topic editor of Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology 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 MRC Neurosciences & Mental Health Board
  • Member of EPSRC Physical Sciences Prioritisation Panel
  • Member of EPSRC Peer Review College
  • Recognised for significant contribution to EPSRC Peer Review in 2016/17
  • Member of ERC, FET Open and COST Expert Panels
  • Reviewer for funding bodies including all UKRI, RAEng, CRUK, ERC, FET Open and COST
  • Reviewer for international scientific journals including Nature Communications, Advanced Materials, Analytical Methods, Applied Spectroscopy, Biomacromolecules and Optics Express

Conference Organisation

  • 4th BioBrillouin Virtual Conference, 9-11/09/2020
  • 3rd BioBrillouin Conference, Porto, 25-27/09/2019
  • 2nd BioBrillouin Conference, 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


  • 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
  • Spectroscopy Zone in “I'm a Scientist, Get me out of here”, 2014
  • Exhibitor at "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


  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)
  • Vice-chair and UK Management Committee member of COST Action BioBrillouin
  • Host Leadership Team member for MRC Skills Development Fellowships 
  • ECN Rep and Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC)
  • Member of the American Chemical Society (ACS)
  • Member of the Society for Applied Spectroscopy (SAS)
  • Member of the SAS Publications Committee


  • High quality presentation at SPIE Photonics West 2020, 11252 conference, $250
  • Best PhD supervisor, CEMPS, Exeter, 2019
  • Above and Beyond Silver Award for research, CEMPS, Exeter, 2017-18
  • Inspirational leader and role model for researchers, Exeter, 2018
  • Best undergraduate supervisor, CEMPS, Exeter, 2017
  • Best poster at the EMLG/JMLG conference, Sheffield, 03-07/09/2004