Helen Parker

PhD student at Proteus, University of Edinburgh.

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About Me

I grew up in Brighton on the south coast of the UK. After school, I moved along the coast to complete my Undergraduate Masters in Physics at the University of Southampton. I began my PhD in optical physics at the Queen's Medical Research Institute at the University of Edinburgh in 2015. I am interested in the challenge of applying the principles of physics to the medical world.

My Picture


I work within the large, multidisciplinary, EPSRC funded research group, Proteus. Our aim is to develop a fibre based imaging technology that will be used to provide diagnoses of various respiratory diseases in the clinic.

Respiratory diseases are diseases of the airways and other structures of the lung. They are prevalent throughout the world, and include a range of conditions such as the Common Cold, Pneumonia, Asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and many others. According to the British Lung Foundation, somebody dies from lung disease in the UK every 5 minutes.


Coherent Fibre Bundles

I use optical fibres to image biological fluorescence in order to detect disease. Just like the fibres used in telecoms, these are very thinly draw pieces of glass that guide light entering one end of the fibre to the other. Doctors can use these imaging fibres to see inside the body. The fibres are made up of bundles of 'cores' that are coherent. That means that the light entering one core within the bundle comes out the same core once it reaches the other end of the fibre. By using thousands of these cores, all closely packed together, we can build up an image. This is similar to the idea of pixels on a screen. Sometimes, light that is transmitted down one core can 'leak' into its neighbours in a process called 'inter-core coupling'. Inter-core coupling blurs the image which reduces its overall quality, and can therefore negatively affect the detection of disease.

Fibre Optics Fibre Physics

Developing an accurate description of a fibre's inter-core coupling could lead to an understanding of the light spread and we could correct for the negative effects by using mathematics (image processing algorithms). We illuminated one core at a time with a laser and measured the light spread that we saw coming out the other end of the fibre. By repeating this over hundreds of cores of the fibre, we built up a distribution of inter-core coupling which we could then analyse to create image-processing algorithms that can enable better imaging for doctors.

You can read more about this work here:

Spectral Imaging

The cameras that we use in our fibred imaging system are monochromatic. This is because they are better than coloured cameras. Of course, this does come with a downside - the images we collect of lung are grey, much like the image of the trees on the left below. We can still see nice structure, we can distinguish one tree from another and we can still make out individual leaves. However, if you look at the image on the right, there is a wealth of extra information contained in knowing the true colours of an image. Perhaps to a trained eye, the extra colour information could help distinguish one species of tree from another, what time of year it is, or even the health of the tree. On the other hand, gathering the full spectrum of colours means the amount of data contained in one image is much larger. It's not always useful to have a lot of data.

Monochromatic Trees Colour Trees

I am developing a multispectral imaging system to help identify the differences in colour within an image without having to collect all the data required to build a full colour image. I hope that this imaging system will enable doctors to confidently identify features of disease within images of the lung.


The Brilliant Club

The Brilliant Club is the largest university access programme for secondary schools in the UK. The Brilliant Club works with hundreds of schools across England, Scotland, and Wales with a vision to equip students from disadvantaged backgrounds with the tools and confidence to progress to Universities that are highly-selective. This is achieved by placing PhD researchers, called Scholars, with schools to deliver courses based on their own research. Scholars are required to produce their own course handbook to cover 6 weeks of tutorials.

I was one of two Scholars in the pilot scheme of The Brilliant Club in Scotland in Spring 2017. If you wish to download the full handbook for yourself, click on any of the images below.

HTML tutorial Page 4 The Brilliant Club The Brilliant Club

Feel free to download the course handbook and use as you wish

If you would like to read the case study written my Kirsty Ross, Outreach Officer at OPTIMA, it is provided here


Characterisation and Modelling of Inter-Core Coupling in Coherent Fibre Bundles

Antonios Perperidis, Helen E. Parker, Ahmed Karam-Eldaly, Yoann Altmann, Kevin Dhaliwal, Robert R. Thomson, Michael G. Tanner, and Stephen McLaughlin

Talks and Posters

Talk: Multispectral fibre endoscope imaging system for enhanced visualisation of smartprobes

EPSRC All-IRC Conference, The Future of Healthcare Technology, June 2017, Bath, UK

Poster: Core coupling in coherent fibre bundles for imaging of pathologies in the distal lung

EPSRC All-IRC Conference, The Future of Healthcare Technology, June 2017, Bath, UK

Poster: Core coupling in coherent fibre bundles for imaging of pathologies in the distal lung

Photon16,September 2016, Leeds, UK

Poster: Imaging and spectroscopic data of pathologies in the distal lung using coherent fibre bundles

Photonic Systems for Sensing and Metrology Summer School, June-July 2016, St. Andrews, UK