MICHAEL S. FELD, Professor of Physics;
Director, George R. Harrison Spectroscopy Laboratory

Professor of Physics
Director, Harrison Spectroscopy Laboratory

In Memoriam: November 11, 1940 - April 10, 2010


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Area of Physics:

Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics, Biophysics

Research Interests

Applications of lasers to biology and medicine, modern optics, laser spectroscopy, and atom-resonator QED.

Biographical Sketch

Professor Michael S. Feld was educated at MIT, where he is a Professor of Physics and directs the George R. Harrison Spectroscopy Laboratory. Professor Feld is active in various aspects of laser physics, spectroscopy and biomedicine. His optical physics research spans the fields of molecular and atomic spectroscopy, laser-nuclear interactions and the study of dynamical and radiative processes in atoms and molecules. Much of this research has been conducted at the MIT Laser Research Facility, the center for physical science research using lasers and spectroscopy that he founded in 1979. 

Beginning in 1965, Professor Feld conducted a series of experiments (with Professor Ali Javan) to study the saturation spectroscopy of Doppler-broadened three level systems and the role played by coherent Raman processes. This provided a foundation for two photon Doppler-free spectroscopy, lasers without inversion, and electromagnetically induced transparency. In 1973, he made the first experimental observation of superradiance, the collective spontaneous emission of an assembly of excited atoms. In 1987, he began a series of experiments to study the radiation of a single, isolated atom in an optical resonator, which led to the first demonstration of enhanced and suppressed spontaneous emission and radiative level shifts in an open optical resonator. In 1994 he developed the single atom laser, a fundamental system in which a two-level atom is coupled to a single mode of the optical field.

Professor Feld was also active in the field of application of lasers, light and spectroscopy to biology and medicine. He directed the Laser Biomedical Research Center at MIT, an NIH-supported center that he founded in 1985, where he pursued research on the use of fluorescence, reflectance, elastic light scattering, Raman spectroscopy and optical interferometry to characterize and image biological cells and tissues. His research contributions were both basic and applied. In 1985, he showed that fluorescence could be used to diagnosis atherosclerosis, laying the basis for the field of spectral diagnosis of disease. In 1991, he demonstrated that Raman spectroscopy could be used to analyze biological tissue. This led to its clinical use, in 2006, in diagnosing atherosclerosis and breast cancer. In 1998, his group developed the technique of light scattering spectroscopy for measuring the size distribution of epithelial cell nuclei to characterize pre-cancerous change, and in 2001, the method of tri-modal spectroscopy, a clinical technique that combines fluorescence and reflectance for spectral diagnosis. Beginning in 2001, he began exploring the use of optical interferometry to study nanometer length changes and small-scale dynamical processes in biological systems. This led, in 2007, to development of a method for creating 3D tomograpic images of living biological cells.

Honors and Awards

Professor Feld was selected as an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow in 1973. He is a Fellow of the Optical Society of America (1976), the Society of Sigma Xi (1976), the American Physical Society (1978), the American Society for Laser Surgery and Medicine (1978), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1989). In 1980 he received the MIT Minority Community Distinguished Service Award, and in 1982 the Gordon Y. Billard Award, for exemplary service in leading the MIT Equal Opportunity committee. He was the Wolk Visitor and Lecturer at Colgate University in 1992, and the distinguished Baetjer Colloquium speaker at Princeton University in 1996. He received the Thompson Award of Spectrochemica Acta in 1991 for development of biomedical Raman spectroscopy, and the Vinci of Excellence (France) in 1995 for development of the single atom laser. He was named the 2003 recipient of the Lamb Medal of the Physics of Quantum Electronics Society, which cited his work in biological physics that involves the close interplay between fundamental and applied science. He was the Dasari Distinguished Lecturer at the Indian Institute for technology, Kanpur, in 2006. In 2008, he was the recipient of the MLK Jr. Achievement Award from the MIT Campus Committee on Race and Diversity, "recognizing your extensive and persistent efforts to make MIT a more open, more welcoming and more harmonious workplace”; and the Meggers Award of the Optical Society of America, for major contributions to the foundations of laser spectroscopy, and for pioneering developments in the application of spectroscopy to biomedicine.

Professional Activities

Professor Feld served on the joint Council on Quantum Electronics in 1982. He chaired the MIT Equal Opportunity Presidential Committee from 1978 to 1982; and was co-chair of MIT’s Martin Luther King Celebration Presidential Committee from 1992 to 2007. In June 1989, he chaired the Ninth International Conference on Laser Spectroscopy at Bretton Woods, NH, and in July 1992 he co-chaired the Gordon Conference in Lasers in Biology and Medicine. He was an Adjunct Staff Member, Research Division, Department of Cardiovascular Research, Cleveland Clinic Foundation from 1984 to 2003, and since 1984 a Research Member of the Joint Faculty of the Harvard-MIT Division of Health, Science and Technology. He served on the Board of Directors of the American Society for Laser Surgery and Medicine from 1986 to 1990; the Scientific Advisory Board, Rowland Institute for Science from 2001 to 2004; and since 2001 served on the Advisory Board of the Center for Functional Neuroimaging Technologies at Massachusetts General Hospital. In 1994 he co-founded Newton Laboratories (Woburn, MA), of which he is Chairman.

Professor Feld had deeply held beliefs in the importance of affirmative action in science and received several awards for his activities in this area. His 1979 article in Scientific American on the physics of karate broke new ground, and you can see photos of him there breaking boards and concrete blocks.

Selected Publications

  • “Laser Induced Line Narrowing Effects in Coupled Doppler-Broadened Transitions”, Feld MS and Javan A. Physical Review 177 (2), 540-562 (1969).
     “Observation of Dicke Superradiance in Optically Pumped HF Gas”, Skribanowitz N, Herman IP, Macgillivray JC and Feld MS. Physical Review Letters 30 (8), 309-312 (1973).
  • “Diagnosis of Fibrous Arterial Atherosclerosis Using Fluorescence”, Kittrell C, Willett RL, de los Santos-Pacheo C, Ratliff NB, Kramer JR, Malk EG and Feld MS. Applied Optics 24 (15), 2280-2281 (1985).
  • “Enhanced and Inhibited Visible Spontaneous Emission by Atoms in a Confocal Resonator”, Heinzen DJ, Childs JJ, Thomas JE and Feld MS. Phys. Rev. Letters 58 (13), 1320-1323 (1987).
  • In Situ Optical Histochemistry of Human Artery Using Near-Infrared Fourier Transform Raman-Spectroscopy”, Baraga JJ, Feld MS and Rava RP. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 89 (8), 3473-3477 (1992).
  • “Microlaser - A Laser with One-Atom in an Optical-Resonator”, An KW, Childs JJ, Dasari RR and Feld MS. Physical Review Letters 73 (25), 3375 (1994).
  • “Observation of Periodic Fine Structure in Reflectance from Biological Tissue: A New Technique for Measuring Nuclear Size Distribution”, Perelman LT, Backman VM, Wallace MB, Zonios G, Manoharan R, Nusrat A, Shields S, Seiler M, Lima C, Hamano T, Itzkan I, Van Dam J, Crawford JM and Feld MS. Physical Review Letters 80 (3), 627-630 (1998).
  • "Detection of Preinvasive Cancer Cells", Backman V, Wallace M, Perelman LT, Arendt JT, Gurjar R, Müller MG, Zhang Q, Zonios G, Kline E, McGillican T, Shapshay S, Valdez T, Badizadegan K, Crawford JM, Fitzmaurice M, Kabani S, Levin HS, Seiler M, Dasari RR, Itzkan I, Van Dam J and Feld MS. Nature 406 (6791):35-36 (2000).
  • “Fluorescence, Reflectance and Light-Scattering Spectroscopy for Evaluating Dysplasia in Patients With Barrett's Esophagus”, Georgakoudi I, Jacobson B, Van Dam J, Backman V, Wallace M, Muller M, Zhang Q, Badizadegan K, Sun D, Thomas G, Perelman LT and Feld MS. Gastroenterology 120:1620-1629 (2001).
  • "Phase Dispersion Optical Tomography", Yang C, Wax A, Dasari RR and Feld MS, Optics Letters 26 (10): 686-688 (2001).
    “Diagnosing Breast Cancer Using Raman Spectroscopy”, Haka AS, Shafer-Peltier KE, Fitzmaurice M, Crowe J, Dasari RR and Feld MS.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 102 (35), 12371-12376 (2005).
  • “Hilbert Phase Microscopy for Investigating Fast Dynamics in Transparent Systems”, Ikeda, T, Popescu, G, Dasari, RR, and Feld, MS.  Optics Letters 30 (10), 1165-1167 (2005).
  • Raman Spectroscopy For Non-Invasive Glucose Measurements, Enejder, AMK, Scecina, TG, Oh, J, Hunter, H, Shih, W-C, Sasic, S, Horowitz, G, and Feld, MS.  Journal of Biomedical Optics 10. 031114 (2005).
  • “Tissue Self-Affinity and Polarized Light Scattering in the Born Approximation:  A New Model for Precancer Detection”, Hunter, M, Backman, V, Popescu, G, Kalashnikov, M, Boone, CW, Wax, A, Gopal, V, Badizadegan, K, Stoner, G, and Feld, MS.  Phys. Rev. Lett. 97, 138102 (2006).
  • “Optical measurement of cell membrane tension”, Popescu, G, Ikeda, T, Goda, K, Best-Popescu, C. A, Laposata, M, Manley, S, Dasari, R. R, Badizadegan, K, and Feld, M. S. Physical Review Letters 97, 218101 (2006).
  • “In Vivo Raman Spectral Pathology of Human Atherosclerosis and Vulnerable plaque”, Motz, J, Fitzmaurice, M, Miller, A, Gandhi, S, Haka, A, Galindo, L, Dasari, RR, Kramer, J, and Feld, M. Journal of Biomedical Optics.11 (2). 021003 (2006).
  • “In Vivo Margin Assessment During Partial Mastectomy Breast Surgery Using Raman Spectroscopy”, Haka, A, Volynskaya, Z, Gardecki, J, Nazemi, J, Lyons, J, Hicks, D, Fitzmaurice, M, Dasari, RR, and Feld, MS. Cancer Res. 66 3317-3322 (2006).
  • “Tomographic phase microscopy”, Choi, W, Fang-Yen, C, Badizadegan, K, Oh, S, Lue, N, Dasari, RR, and Feld, MS. Nature Methods 4 (9), 717-719 (2007).