Photo of Prof Francesca Palombo

Prof 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. Register to our free online meeting BioBrillouin2020 on 9-11 September.

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
  • Pascaline Bouzy (PhD): Novel IR spectroscopic imaging of breast microcalcifications
  • 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: PhD Physics - Michael Hermes 2019, Ryan Edginton and Louise Clark 2018; visiting postgraduates - Martina Alunni Cardinali 2019, Doriana Calabrese 2018, Beatrice Gironi 2017, Sara Mattana 2016; visiting undergraduate - 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

Funded Research Projects

  • EPSRC Programme Grant RaNT (PI: Nick Stone) EP/R020965/1, 2018-23, £5.75M
  • (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/Uni Exeter PhD Scholariship, 2020-24, TBD
  • BBSRC/Unilever Training Grant, Industrial CASE CSV, 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
  • (PI) International travel grant, Royal Academy of Engineering, 2007, £700
  • (PI) International travel grant, European Molecular Liquid Group, 2007, €660
  • PhD studentship, Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Research, 2003-6, €39,000

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

Invited Presentations

  • 2nd International Conference on Biomedical Photonics, Palavas-les-Flots (France), Apr 2021
  • Nanoengineering for Mechanobiology meeting, Camogli (Italy), 29 Nov - 2 Dec 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
  • School of Chemistry, University of Bristol, 5 Jun 2015
  • SciX conference, Reno (USA), 28 Sep - 3 Oct 2014
  • Health and Medical Research Showcase, University of Exeter, 27 Jun 2014
  • Workshop on Solvation in Liquids, University of Lille (France), 28 Mar 2011
  • (x2) University of Catania (Italy), 21-22 Feb 2008
  • Department of Chemistry, University of Perugia (Italy), 28 Jan 2008

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 for Son et Lumiere School, Les Houches, 22/03-02/04/2021
  • Topic editor of Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology research topic "Probing the Chromatin Architecture", 01/11/2020
  • 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 the RCUK, 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