MIT electrical engineering professor responsible for advances in biomedical optical imaging wins prestigious ZEISS award

The Ernst Abbe Fund has announced that James G. Fujimoto, Professor of Electrical Engineering at MIT, is the recipient of the Carl Zeiss Research Award. Presented in alternating years, the award honors special scientific achievements in basic research and application in the field of optics.  Two previous Carl Zeiss honorees won the Nobel Prize.  Fujimoto is awarded the prize for his advances in the use of optical coherence tomography (OCT), a new medical and diagnostic technology.

Professor Fujimoto is a principal investigator in the Research Laboratory of Electronics at MIT, and an Adjunct Professor of Ophthalmology at Tufts University.  Fujimoto has directed pioneering efforts at MIT since 1991 to develop OCT, which uses light to enable real-time visualization of tissue microstructure and pathology.  The emergence of OCT stems from the group’s early studies using femtosecond optical pulses to perform optical ranging and measurement in the eye.  His group’s groundbreaking research at MIT, in collaboration with investigators from the Harvard Medical School and Tufts University School of Medicine, has produced a host of valuable OCT applications.

OCT has had a dramatic impact in ophthalmology, where it has become a standard of care for evaluating disease progression and assessing treatment response in diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. OCT is also proving to be a powerful tool in intravascular imaging to identify unstable plaques prone to rupture and guide treatment. OCT continues to be integral in diverse areas of fundamental research, ranging from small animal imaging and tissue engineering to cancer research and art conservation.

OCT enables the visualization of tissue pathology in real time, without the need to excise and process tissue specimens.  It can provide information in situations where a biopsy would be hazardous or impossible.  In addition, OCT can be integrated with a wide range of instruments, such as catheters, endoscopes and surgical microscopes, and can be used to guide biopsy to improve sensitivity, to guide surgical interventions or to assess treatment outcome.


James G. Fujimoto is a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received his SB, SM and PhD in electrical engineering from MIT. His research areas include studies of ultrafast phenomena, biophotonics and biomedical optical imaging. His research group in the MIT Research Laboratory of Electronics, along with collaborators, has pioneered the development of optic coherence tomography (OCT). An author of more than 300 journal articles, Fujimoto is the editor or author of several books and holds numerous US patents.  He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, National Academy of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Science. Fujimoto is also co-founder of a startup companies that developed OCT for ophthalmic and intravascular imaging.

The Ernst Abbe Fund was founded in 1989 by Carl Zeiss to honor 100 years of the Carl Zeiss Foundation. The award honors special scientific achievements in basic research and applications in the field of optics.

The Research Laboratory of Electronics at MIT was the first of the Institute’s great modern interdepartmental academic research centers, and today it is one of MIT’s largest and most intellectually diverse such organizations.  RLE research encompasses both basic and applied research in an extensive range of natural and man-made phenomena.  Integral to RLE efforts is expanding the understanding of and leading innovation in electronics in the service of society.  Research starts at the most basic realm of particles and quantum physics and extends all the way to sophisticated engineering applications, ranging from those that produce significant advances in communication systems or enable remote sensing from air- and spacecraft to the development of new biomaterials and innovations in the diagnosis and treatment of human diseases.

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Ernst Abbe Fund

Professor James G. Fujimoto