Exploring the world through art: Prof Peter Török

“Science is a mix of disciplines and we can only solve problems if we look at science as a whole,” says microscopy and imaging expert Prof Peter Török, who is affiliated with three NTU entities—the School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (SPMS), the Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering (SCELSE), and the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine.

While studying for a degree in electrical engineering in his home country of Hungary, Prof Török simultaneously worked at the renowned Central Research Institute for Physics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, which piqued his interest in optics research.

It was during his PhD studies at Oxford University in the UK that Prof Török developed a confocal microscope for the non-destructive testing of semiconductors. The method allowed him to optically view 10 nm-sized silicon dioxide particles in bulk silicon—a world-first. In 2002, then at Imperial College London, he developed high-accuracy confocal polarised light microscopy that until today holds the world record for its degree of polarisation resolution.

At SCELSE, Prof Török is Director of Imaging and in charge of a lab that is developing 3D imaging- and artificial intelligence-enhanced next-generation imaging systems to study bacterial biofilms. Bridging biological and physics research at SCELSE and SPMS, he advances optical methods to measure mechanical properties of cells. At SPMS, he also creates 3D-printed lenses with high surface quality for various imaging applications.

In addition, working with scientists from NTU’s medical school, Prof Török is designing and building confocal microscopes to characterise brain function in live mice and zebrafish.

Prof Török’s research collaborations go beyond NTU and Singapore: he was instrumental in securing a large grant from Singapore’s National Research Foundation, which led to SingaScope, a Singapore-wide infrastructure network for state-of-the-art microscopy platforms. He is also helping to develop a joint Master of Science programme in optics between NTU and Imperial College London.

The article appeared first in NTU’s research & innovation magazine Pushing Frontiers (issue #15, June 2019). 

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