The University of Southampton

NATS6006 Imaging life at the cellular level

Module Overview

Imaging biological processes in vivo is emerging as a critical capability for future advances in the life sciences and biomedicine. In particular, the ability to identify and observe intracellular processes in real time provides new capabilities to interrogate biological behaviour at the single cell level. This module provides an introduction to the application of three cutting-edge areas of bio imaging using examples from contemporary research publications. The fundamental physical sciences background in spectroscopy required to understand the range of applications of these imaging techniques is developed through a combination of formal lectures and directed workshop assignments.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aims of this module are to: 1. provide students with an understanding of the fundamental principles of spectroscopic imaging techniques and their use in vivo 2. enable students to understand and evaluate critically research publications relating to in vivo spectroscopy-based imaging 3. enable students to design in vivo imaging experiments.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • an understanding of the physical basis of Raman spectroscopy.
  • an understanding of the physical basis of fluorescence and fluorescence energy transfer
  • a working understanding of surface enhancement effects
  • an understanding of SERS and its range of applications
  • an understanding of FRET techniques and their range of applications
  • a basic understanding of the principles of hyperspectral/multispectral imaging
  • an appreciation of the limitations of different in vivo imaging techniques


The philosophy underlying this course is to empower students to take charge of their own learning in the area of in vivo single-cell imaging. As a consequence the course will make extensive use of directed and peer-assisted self-learning and active-learning methods. The module will be delivered in the context of three areas of research and application of bioimaging: • Fluorescence-based imaging • SERS imaging • Hyperspectral techniques The lecture sessions will provide basic physical sciences background to the relevant spectroscopic methods, namely: uv-vis, fluorescence and Raman. General physical principles underpinning spectroscopy, such as molecular energy levels and transitions between energy levels, as manifested by electronic, rotational and vibrational transitions will be covered briefly. Selection rules will be described as the basis for understanding the origin of the absorbance/emission characteristics of the various spectroscopic techniques as demonstrated by a range of examples. Energy absorption and transfer will be covered as the basis for fluorescence techniques. The lectures will also address fundamental issues relating to imaging, for example, diffraction limits, resolution (spatial and temporal) and discrimination. In addition the sessions will cover ancillary general issues relating to the application of these spectroscopic methods to imaging, namely tagging of biomolecules with fluorescent species, design and in situ expression of fluorescent fusion proteins, selection and delivery of quantum dots. The active-learning part of the module will entail students being directed to on line resources through which they can deepen their understanding of these methods. A selection of research papers in each of the three areas will be used as the basis for guiding the students through the set assignments.

Learning and Teaching

Independent Study100
Total study time150



MethodPercentage contribution
Assessment 70%
Research proposal 30%
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