Giuseppe Strangi

Case Western Reserve University, USA

For contributions to the advancement of optical biosensors based on plasmon polaritons and for promoting connections between nanophotonics and life sciences.

Giuseppe Strangi describes himself as a dreamer and free-thinker. Born, raised, and educated on Italy's southeastern coast, the region's rich multidisciplinary history has undoubtedly influenced his view of science as a field. His hometown hosted Pythagoras, a mathematician, musician, and philosopher, around 500 BC, and Giuseppe comments that the people from this region today "like to think that we inherited something." Giuseppe's own work stretches over many disciplines, including physics, chemistry, biomedicine, and material sciences, but at the center is optics. His primary focus is to design materials that can mediate light interaction with biological matter, which has applications in oncology for the detection and treatment of cancer.

Giuseppe offers a useful metaphor for how he thinks about multidisciplinary research: the spider web. At the center is the scientific question, and branching from that question are all the possible ways to answer it and all the resources needed to solve it. He encourages his students to consider who is already working on the issue worldwide, what materials are required, and what the first step should be. An essential piece of this puzzle is that there can be no border or limit to what branches from the center of the web. He comments, "We do not create borders between disciplines…there is a language barrier we do recognize, but we can overcome this by keeping the scientific question at the center of the web." This idea of borderless science is continued in his advice for all young researchers. He advises that young scientists spend time in the space between disciplines because it is more fertile. It is important to take ideas from other places and apply them to your own field because this can generate completely new results.

As a mentor, he aims to show his students the wealth of available opportunities. "I don't show them how difficult it is…they will discover that on their own." Giuseppe aims to pass on an excitement for the process and the ability to have space and time to think freely. His mentoring style is clearly derived from what his own mentors showed him during his schooling. They were enthusiastic about the field and encouraged Giuseppe to see the bigger picture. He comments that his short interaction with Nobel Prize winner Pierre-Gilles de Gennes was particularly influential. "He had shown to me how to seek for new promising research paths and the importance of looking for minute details by maintaining clear the big picture of the scientific question”.

His excitement for the field of optics and photonics is apparent, and his thoughts on the current state of research are inspirational. He conjures the image of a funnel. Research for the last half of a century has been limited to the narrow tube-like portion of the funnel, but now, with recent technological advancements, we have entered into a vast new territory. He comments, "I see no limit…I see only a huge and intense light."

Photo Credit: Giuseppe Strangi

Profile written by Samantha Hornback