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Biological threats comprise potential terrorist attack or spread of disease through various infection routes, such as surface
contact and ingestion of infective agents through touching, eating or breathing. Being able to detect and monitor biological
contaminants is essential to enable effective measures to be taken to reduce or eliminate the threat; these may include treatment
and remediation or containment. Modeling routes to infection serves to identify critical points that need control and the likely
consequences on the scale of infection for a given outbreak.
Current work is addressing real time detection of microorganisms using laser optical techniques such as a biodynamic
speckle and laser induced fluorescence. With biodynamic speckle, constructive and destructive interference from microorganisms
produces characteristic details. Laser fluorescence produces characteristic spectral information of the cell or specific molecules,
helping detection and identification.
Models of contamination and probability of infection on aircraft have been developed as a means to assess the efficacy of
decontamination treatments, and identify important factors in reducing risk, control and abatement.
Ian A Watson completed his Ph.D. from the University of Glasgow in 1993, studying the optimization of the gaseous discharge and optical coupling of
a high power, pulsed CO
laser. He began lecturing in 1990 and became senior lecturer in Laser Systems Engineering in 1998. He has investigated
the effect of laser and combined systems, including flash lamp, UV, microwave, ultrasonic and chemicals such as ozone, on decontamination of
microorganisms and extending the shelf-life of food. He is on the editorial board of the Journal of Food Processing and Technology.
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