Ahluwalias’ research interests are at the crossroads of physics and biology. He is developing novel optical fluorescence imaging tools to decode the mysteries of nanoscale biological systems. During his young research career (PhD 2007), Ahluwalia has worked in different leading research groups in Asia (Singapore), Europe (University of Southampton, UK and UiT, Norway) and North America (University of California, Davis, USA). This has enabled him to acquire a unique, complimentary research expertise in the fields of laser physics, integrated optics, nanophotonic, optical nanoscopy and the basics of cell-biology and develop international collaborations. Ahluwalia has established himself as a promising young scientist and is a recipient of projects at different levels, European Unions (3 projects), National (2 projects), Bi-lateral (3 projects) and at University (1) level and as attracted over 50M NOK funding so far as lead Principle Investigator. His funded activities include ERC Grant (2013), ERC Proof-of-Concept (2017), EU MSCA-IF (2016) and EU MSCA-ITN (2017) for research activites towards development and application on optical nanoscopy.
Ahluwalia is principle investigator of UiT “Tematisksatsing” (Strategic Funding) to establish a “Centre on Nanoscopy to decode nanoscale biological systems”. Besides the development of next generation of optical nanoscopy techniques, his group strongly focuses on applying newly developed imaging modalities for biomedical applications in close collaboration with groups in Pharmacy and Medical Department at UiT, and with the medical doctors at UNN hospitals. The strong research team on optical nanoscopy (3 post-docs, 1 researcher and 4 PhDs) together with in-house research infrastructure of state-of-the-art commercial optical nanoscopes will be useful for this application. Ahluwalia’s group will contribute in this project on following areas: a) optimization of staining protocol for optical nanoscopy and b) performing super-resolved live cell imaging using dSTORM/SIM techniques.
Mentioned below are the selected projects where I have significantly contributed (prior to 2014):
Optical Functions and Lab-on-a-Chip for Microparticles and Biomedicine, (The Research Council of Norway).
In this project, I optimized and fabricated high-refractive index contrast waveguides for lab-on-a-chip applications including optical trapping, propulsion and sensing (Raman spectroscopy). I developed novel cell squeezing technique on narrow waveguides that bio-mimics the flow of blood cells in micro-capillary. Waveguide-cell squeezing was employed to measure minute loss of membrane deformability in blood cells stored in the blood bank (storage lesion). Within 10 days of blood storage significant loss of deformability was found. The technique was used to detect minute loss of membrane deformability during blood storage. Status: Completed
Subsea oil and gas sensors, (The Research Council of Norway).
In this project, we are developing waveguide based Mach–Zehnder interferometer sensors for early detection of subsea leakage of methane. Dual-approach is being investigated a) by sensing dissolved subsea methane (500 meters) and b) by sensing methane gas on sea-surface. Status: On-going.
Mechanisms of highly efficient HIV transfer at virological synapses, (National Institutes of Health – National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases).
In this project, I used structured illumination microscopy for real-time super-resolved imaging of HiV transfection. The transfer of sub-diffraction HiV viral protein was successfully imaged from an infected Jurkat cell (Gag-iGFP expressing) to the primary CD4+T cells. The entire process of HiV transfection was imaged i.e. accumulation of viral protein at the cell membrane and at the viral synapse between the host and target cell, followed by the transfection of viral protein to the target cell.
High-resolution 3D imaging of mitochondria in melanocytes, keratinocytes, and fibroblasts, (Research Contract). Replying on sub-diffraction resolution (100nm) of structured illumination microscopy and selective stain binding, I imaged sub-mitochondrial regions in living keratinocytes cells. Mito-Tracker stain was trapped inside the mitochondria consequently imaging mitochondrial compartments, whereas GFP-BacMan stains the mitochondrial membrane. Using dual stain on the same cell, sub-mitochondrial region was imaged. Moreover, UV-damage at sub-mitochondrial level was studied by imaging mitochondria before and after the UV exposure.
Rapid, three-dimensional microscopy of cell-cell interactions in suspension, (NSF, USA): -
In this project, we combined holographic-optical-trapping set-up with 3-dimensional spinning disk microscopy. Using this set-up, the trapped cells were imaged in 3-dimension. This has answered the long-debate on the shape of trapped blood cells (folding versus flipping), which we confirmed flipping based on the 3-D images.
Development of Dynamic Optical Trapping Toolkit for Micro-Manipulation, A*STAR, Science and Engineering Research Council, Singapore.
In this project, we fabricated and integrated micro-optical element with the optical trapping set-up. Power-efficient novel micro-elements was designed and fabricated (using E-beam) for the generation of lasers beams with high mode quality (Bottle beams, Bessel beams and vortex beams). Role: Lead researchers and active participation in the entire project. Status: Completed
Radial polarization beams for high resolution optical microscopic imaging and lithography, Singapore Bioimaging Consortium (SBIC), A*STAR Role:
In this project, I showed that the radially polarized beams can exert mechanical torque to microscopic birefringent particles using optical tweezers set-up. It was first experimental report of mechanical torque from a radially polarized beam. Status: Completed.
Oct 2016-Present: Group Leader (Associate Professor)
Oct 2013-Present: Associate Professor, University of Tromsø, Norway
2010 - Oct 2013: Scientist, University of Tromsø, Norway
2007 - 2010: Post Doctorate Fellow, University of Tromsø, Norway
2006-2007: Project Officer, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Aug, 2011–Aug, 2012: 1 Year overseas stay as a Visiting Scientist, Centre of Biophotonics Science & Technology (CBST), University of California Davis, USA.
Jan, 2008–Jan, 2009: 1 Year overseas stay as a Visiting Post-Doctorate Fellow, Opto-Research Centre (ORC), University of Southampton, UK.
PhD: Majored in Optics (March 2003-June 2007)
- Department of Electrical & Electronics Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
- Thesis “Study of propagation invariant beams and its application in optical tweezers for micro-manipulation”.
Bachelor of Engineering:
Electronic & Communication (July 1998- July 2002)
M. J. P. Rohilkhand University, India.
Awarded Honors Degree