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Colin Sheppard

Visiting scientist

Research Line

Nanoscopy & NIC@IIT


IIT Central Research Labs Genova


Colin Sheppard's research interests include confocal and multiphoton microscopy, phase imaging, image reconstruction, diffraction, scattering, and beam & pulse propagation.

Papers available on ResearchGate

Academic Qualifications

1986 D.Sc. (Oxford), 1975 M.A., D.Phil. (Oxford) by incorporation, 1973 Ph.D. (Cambridge), 1972 M.A. (Cambridge), 

1968   B.A. (Cambridge)


Senior Scientist, Italian Institute of Technology, Genoa, Italy, 2012-

Professor, Department of Bioengineering, National University of Singapore, 2003-2012 (Head, 2004-2010)

Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, 2009-2012

Professor, Department of Diagnostic Radiology, National University of Singapore, 2003-2008

Research Director, Australian Key Centre for Microscopy & Microanalysis, 1995-2001

Professor of Physics (Physical Optics) & Head of Physical Optics Department, University of Sydney, 1989-2003

University Lecturer, Department of Engineering Science, Oxford University, 1979-89

Fellow, Pembroke College Oxford, 1979- (currently Supernumerary Fellow)

Director and Company Secretary, Oxford Optoelectronics Ltd., 1978-82

Research performance indicators

Associate Editor, Biomedical Optics Express 2010-2013; Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Optics A: Pure and Applied Optics 2002-08; Associate Editor, Bioimaging, 1992-99; Feature Editor, J. Opt. Soc. Am. A, 2001; Guest Editor, Scanning, 1994-5; Editor, Advances in Optical and Electron Microscopy, 1988-94; Organizing/program committees for >60 international conferences; Chaired 5 international conferences.

21 papers chosen for SPIE Milestone Series of selected reprints (in 6 different volumes).

Theory and Practice of Scanning Optical Microscopy: >1000 independent citations.

Journal of Modern Optics 24, 1051 (1977): Ranked 4th in 2008 for total number of citations in the journal.

Total >10000 independent citations. h-factor 60 (Google Scholar).

Ranked world joint 11th ( for publications in optoelectronics, 1991-9.

>150 invited conference presentations, including 30 plenary or keynote talks.

Published 2 books, 4 edited books, 50 book chapters, >400 refereed journal articles, 7 patents.

Confocal microscopy

• Constructed the first high-resolution confocal reflection microscope (1979). 

• Developed the first confocal microscope with computer image storage and processing (1982).

• Launched the first commercial confocal microscope (1982).

• Invented image scanning microscopy (pixel reassignment) (1988).

Nonlinear microscopy

• Proposed multiphoton microscopy, including two-photon fluorescence and coherent Raman microscopy (1978).

• First demonstration of scanning second-harmonic generation microscopy (1978).

Focal modulation microscopy

•Patented and licenced to Zeiss (2009).

Beam and pulse propagation

•Proposed the Bessel-Gauss beam (1978), and the electromagnetic Bessel beam (1978), the first propagationally-invariant beam.

Selected Publications

Sheppard CJR, Choudhury A (1977) Image formation in the scanning microscope, Optica Acta 24, 1051-1073.

Gannaway J, Sheppard CJR (1978) Second harmonic imaging in the scanning optical microscope, Opt. and Quant. Elec. 10, 435-439.

Sheppard CJR, Kompfner R (1978) Resonant scanning optical microscope, Appl. Opt. 17, 2879-2882 (and front cover).

Sheppard CJR, Wilson T (1978) Gaussian-beam theory of lenses with annular aperture, IEE J. Microwaves, Optics and Acoustics 2, 105-112.

Hamilton DK, Sheppard CJR (1984) Differential phase contrast in scanning optical microscopy, J. Microsc. 133, 27-39.

Sheppard CJR (1986) The spatial frequency cut-off in three-dimensional imaging, Optik 72, 131-133.

Cox IJ Sheppard CJR (1986) Information capacity and resolution in an optical system, J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 3, 1152-1158.

Sheppard CJR, Hegedus ZS (1988) Axial behaviour of pupil plane filters, J. Opt. Soc. Amer. A 5, 643-647.

Sheppard CJR (1988) Super-resolution in confocal imaging, Optik 80, 53-54.

Sheppard CJR, Hamilton DK, Matthews HJ (1988) Scanning optical microscopy of low contrast samples, Nature 334, 572.

Sheppard CJR, Connolly TJ, Gu M (1993) Scattering by a one dimensional rough surface and surface reconstruction by confocal imaging,  Phys. Rev. Letts. 70, 1409-1412.

Sheppard CJR, Choudhury A (2004) Annular pupils, radial polarization and superresolution, Appl. Opt. 43, 4322-4327

Arnison MR, Larkin KG, Sheppard CJR, Smith NI, Cogswell CJ (2004) Linear phase imaging using differential interference microscopy, J. Microscopy 214, 7-12.

Wang HF, Shi LP, Luk’yanchuk B, Sheppard C, Chong CT (2008) Creation of a needle of longitudinally polarized light in vacuum using binary optics, Nature Photonics, 2, 501-505.

Chen NG, Howe WC, Sheppard CJR (2008) Focal modulation microscopy, Optics Express, 16 (23) 18764.

Kou SS, Waller L, Barbastathis G, Marquet P, Depeursinge C, Sheppard CJR (2011) Quantitative phase restoration by direct inversion using the optical transfer function, Opt. Lett. 36 (14), 2671-2673.

Sheppard CJR, Mehta SB, Heintzmann R (2013) Superresolution by image scanning microscopy using pixel reassignment, Opt. Lett. 38 (15) 2889-2892.

Roth S, Sheppard CJR, Wicker K, Heintzmann R (2013) Optical photon reassignment microscopy, Optical Nanoscopy, 2: 5.

Laporte GPJ, Stasio N, Sheppard CJR, Psaltis D (2014) Resolution enhancement in nonlinear scanning microscopy through post-detection digital computation, Optica 1 (6), 455-460.

Mehta SB, Sheppard CJR (2015) An equivalent of the point spread function for partially coherent imaging, Optica 2, 736—739.


2016 Visiting Miller Professor, The Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science, University of California Berkeley

2016 Faculty of Science Visiting Fellow, University of New South Wales

2015 Silver Medal, Celebrating '40 years of pioneering work on scanning optical microscopy, from Oxford to Genoa'. Coherent User Group Meeting, Genova, Italy.

2015 Invited Professor, 17th Giambiagi Winter School, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina

2014 Silver Medal, and Xinlin Forum Guest Speaker, School of Medicine, Zhejiang University, China

2013 Lyle Fellowship, University of Melbourne, Australia

2013 Fellow International, Japan Society of Applied Physics

2013 Centre for Advanced Studies Visiting Professor, Warsaw University of Technology, Poland

2012 Fellow, Optical Society of America

2011-2012 Carl Zeiss Visiting Professor, Friedrich Schiller Universität, Jena, Germany

2011 Erasmus Mundus Visiting Scholar, EuroPhotonics Program, Institut Fresnel, France

2010- Visiting Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

2010 Whitman Visiting Investigator, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA, USA

2010 Erudite Lecture Programme, International School of Photonics, Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT),      India

2010-2012 President, Singapore Biophysics Society

2008 Invited Professor, EPFL, Switzerland

2006 Institute of Physics, Optics and Photonics Division Prize, UK

2006 Karl-Friedrich Bonhoeffer Medal, Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, Germany

2005-8 Adjunct Professor, University of Western Australia

2004-10 Honorary Professor, University of Queensland

2004 Fellow, Institute of Physics

2003-12 Fellow, Singapore-MIT Alliance

2003 Alexander von Humboldt Research Award, Germany

2003-12 Honorary Professor, University of Sydney

2002 Mosey Fellowship, University of Western Australia

2001 Guest Professor, Technical University of Delft

1999-2002, Vice-President, International Commission for Optics (ICO)

1998 ISATA Mercedes Award

1998-2000 President, International Society for Optics Within Life Sciences (OWLS)

1997 ICO (International Commission for Optics) Traveling Lecturer

1995 Australian Academy of Sciences, Bede Morris Fellowship, University of Besançon, France

1995 Vavilov Medal, Ukrainian Optical Society

1993 Australian Academy of Sciences/JSPS Fellowship, Osaka University, Japan

1987 Distinguished Visitor, CSIRO Division of Applied Physics, Sydney, Australia

1987 William Girling Watson Travelling Fellowship, School of Electrical Engineering, University of Sydney

1986 Damon Wells Travel Fellowship, Malaysia and Singapore

1984-1985 Royal Society/JSPS Fellowship, Tokyo University,Japan

1984 Metrology Award, UK National Physical Laboratory

1983 Fellow, Institution of Electrical Engineers

1983 Chartered Engineer

1983 Prince of Wales Award for Industrial Innovation (Presented by Prince Charles on BBC TV)

1982 Academic Enterprise Award, British Technology Group

1982 IEE Gyr and Landis Prize

1981 Arthur Andersen Travelling Fellowship, Stanford University

1976-1978 UK SERC Advanced Fellowship

1975-8 Junior Research Fellow, St John’s College Oxford

1965-1971 University Apprentice, British Petroleum Co. Ltd.

1965-8 Open Exhibition and Corfield Scholarship, Selwyn College, Cambridge



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I numeri di IIT

L’Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) è una fondazione di diritto privato - cfr. determinazione Corte dei Conti 23/2015 “IIT è una fondazione da inquadrare fra gli organismi di diritto pubblico con la scelta di un modello di organizzazione di diritto privato per rispondere all’esigenza di assicurare procedure più snelle nella selezione non solo nell’ambito nazionale dei collaboratori, scienziati e ricercatori ”.

IIT è sotto la vigilanza del Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca e del Ministero dell'Economia e delle Finanze ed è stato istituito con la Legge 326/2003. La Fondazione ha l'obiettivo di promuovere l'eccellenza nella ricerca di base e in quella applicata e di favorire lo sviluppo del sistema economico nazionale. La costruzione dei laboratori iniziata nel 2006 si è conclusa nel 2009.

Lo staff complessivo di IIT conta circa 1440 persone. L’area scientifica è rappresentata da circa l’85% del personale. Il 45% dei ricercatori proviene dall’estero: di questi, il 29% è costituito da stranieri provenienti da oltre 50 Paesi e il 16% da italiani rientrati. Oggi il personale scientifico è composto da circa 60 principal investigators, circa 110 ricercatori e tecnologi di staff, circa 350 post doc, circa 500 studenti di dottorato e borsisti, circa 130 tecnici. Oltre 330 posti su 1400 creati su fondi esterni. Età media 34 anni. 41% donne / 59 % uomini.

Nel 2015 IIT ha ricevuto finanziamenti pubblici per circa 96 milioni di euro (80% del budget), conseguendo fondi esterni per 22 milioni di euro (20% budget) provenienti da 18 progetti europei17 finanziamenti da istituzioni nazionali e internazionali, circa 60 progetti industriali

La produzione di IIT ad oggi vanta circa 6990 pubblicazioni, oltre 130 finanziamenti Europei e 11 ERC, più di 350 domande di brevetto attive, oltre 12 start up costituite e altrettante in fase di lancio. Dal 2009 l’attività scientifica è stata ulteriormente rafforzata con la creazione di dieci centri di ricerca nel territorio nazionale (a Torino, Milano, Trento, Parma, Roma, Pisa, Napoli, Lecce, Ferrara) e internazionale (MIT ed Harvard negli USA) che, unitamente al Laboratorio Centrale di Genova, sviluppano i programmi di ricerca del piano scientifico 2015-2017.

IIT: the numbers

Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) is a public research institute that adopts the organizational model of a private law foundation. IIT is overseen by Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca and Ministero dell'Economia e delle Finanze (the Italian Ministries of Education, Economy and Finance).  The Institute was set up according to Italian law 326/2003 with the objective of promoting excellence in basic and applied research andfostering Italy’s economic development. Construction of the Laboratories started in 2006 and finished in 2009.

IIT has an overall staff of about 1,440 people. The scientific staff covers about 85% of the total. Out of 45% of researchers coming from abroad 29% are foreigners coming from more than 50 countries and 16% are returned Italians. The scientific staff currently consists of approximately 60 Principal Investigators110 researchers and technologists350 post-docs and 500 PhD students and grant holders and 130 technicians. External funding has allowed the creation of more than 330 positions . The average age is 34 and the gender balance proportion  is 41% female against 59% male.

In 2015 IIT received 96 million euros in public funding (accounting for 80% of its budget) and obtained 22 million euros in external funding (accounting for 20% of its budget). External funding comes from 18 European Projects, other 17 national and international competitive projects and approximately 60 industrial projects.

So far IIT accounts for: about 6990 publications, more than 130 European grants and 11 ERC grants, more than 350 patents or patent applications12 up start-ups and as many  which are about to be launched. The Institute’s scientific activity has been further strengthened since 2009 with the establishment of 11 research nodes throughout Italy (Torino, Milano, Trento, Parma, Roma, Pisa, Napoli, Lecce, Ferrara) and abroad (MIT and Harvard University, USA), which, along with the Genoa-based Central Lab, implement the research programs included in the 2015-2017 Strategic Plan.