Dr Frederique Denise Gilberte Vanholsbeeck

Lic.Sc.Phys (ULB), PhD (ULB)

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Assoc Dean Diversity & Incl
Associate Professor


Starting out with a degree in architecture, Frederique's research career turned to Physics. In 2001, she was awarded the Scientific Prize of the Belgian Physical Society for the best Masters thesis in physics. The aim of her thesis was to model gas transport in the lungs. She received her PhD in 2003 for investigating nonlinear optical phenomena in fibers for applications to wavelength-division-multiplexing (WDM) telecommunication systems and to Raman optical amplifiers.

In 2004, she commenced a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Auckland. In 2005, she was appointed to the position of Lecturer in the Department of Physics. A history of University-industry research engagement includes the development of a patented all-fibre real time spectroscopic optical probe (or optrode) and now focuses on monitoring bacterial processes using optical coherence tomography (OCT) with over 40 publications in this area of expertise.

She has been awarded the NZAS Hill-Tinsley medal in 2020, the OSA (Optical Society of America) Diversity and Inclusion Advocacy Recognition inaugural award in 2018, and the Miriam Dell Excellence in Science Mentoring Award and the Dean’s Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching in 2017.

Research | Current

Frederique's principal research area is biophotonics, ie, using light to observe and to understand physiological processes. Her area of expertise includes optical coherence tomography (OCT) imaging and fluorescence spectroscopy. 

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) 
OCT is an interferometric technique that allows high resolution in vivo, non-invasive imaging of human tissues. Such a system uses the coherence properties of a light source to map biological tissues in 3 dimensions. If the light source is sufficiently incoherent, details as small as a few microns can be resolved, ie, a few cells, and it is possible to scan up to a few millimeters in the depth of the tissue under investigation without having to cut or even to touch it.

On top on developing state-of-the-art imaging capabilities, I have successfully worked towards improving the technique itself, in particular through the development of original signal processing methods. These developments have lead us to use OCT to identify tissues of different natures, adding a layer of functional information to the structural image provided by OCT.

Fluorescence spectroscopy. 
In particular, the biophotonics group is developing modular all fiber fluorescence spectroscopy systems (optrode). The optrode is a very versatile tool and it has been applied to the measurement of the heart action potential in vivo, to bioremediation monitoring and to water safety testing. In combination with microfluidics, thfluorescence microscpy has been used to study bacteria viability. 

Recently, Frederique has started to investigate the potential of nonlinear optical imaging study brain cell and network function in Autism Spectrum Disorder.


Postgraduate supervision

Currently looking to recruit PhDs in areas ranging from OCT, bacterial enumeration and nonlinear microscopy.

Current students

Since 2020  Craig Steed, PhD student working on bioinformatic to develop new dyes to monitor bacterial processes
Since 2019  Ashly Jose, PhD student working on developing and using nonlinear microscopy to study brain cell and network function in Autism Spectrum Disorder
Since 2019  Joni White, PhD student working on the use of eukaryotic extracellular vesicles for communication to the resident and pathogenic microbiome
Since 2019  Ayomikun Esan, PhD student working on microfluidic and spectroscpic fluorescence to detect bacteria
Since 2018  Matthew Goodwin, PhD student working on optical coherence tomography for early detection of ostheoarthritis
Since 2018  Mykola Zlygostiev, PhD student working on optical coherence tomography for optical biopsies
Since 2018  Abi Thampi, PhD student working on optical coherence tomography to measure meat quality

Former PhD students

2017-2021  Magdalena Urbanska, Optical coherence elastography of the vitreous humour
2016-2020 James Hope, Electrical Impedance Tomography in Nerve Cuffs: Towards an Intuitive Control Interface for Neural-Prosthetics, co-supervisor
2016-2020  Rachel Ou, Quantitative fluorescence study of microbiological systems using a fibre-based spectroscopic device
2015-2020 Claire Honney, Novel detection system for microbial contamination on meat: the use of a near real time all-fibre fluorometer to detect fluorescently stained bacterial samples, co-supervisor
2013-2017, Bastian Brauer, Source development and dispersion measurements in optical coherence tomography
2015-2016, Ming Yong, Microfluidic dics for bacterial enumaration
2015-2016, Rachel Guo, Fluorescence quantification to enumerate bacteria
2009-2013 Norman Lippok Novel polarisation and dispersion concepts for optical coherence tomography
2007-2011 Sairam Iyer Optical Coherence Tomography: Dispersion Compensation and Parametric Imaging
2006-2011 Andy Chen Development and characterization of fiber-based systems for biomedical imaging

Former MSc students

2016 Neelam Hari, Illuminating the vitreous for shear wave optical coherence elastography: a feasibility study
2013 Michael Cheng In situ monitoring of microorganisms using fiber optics
2013 Sean Liew Preliminary design of a scanning laser SHG microscope for collagen imaging
2012-2013 Isha Sharma Spectral Domain Doppler Optical Coherence Tomography for Vibrometry Applications
2012 Arti Patel Optimisation of an all-fibre spectroscopic system for in situ bacteria monitoring
2012 Ivy Au Development of a Second harmonic microscope
2011-2012 Kaidi Liang Development of an all-fibre interferometric dosimeter.
2011 Jason Kuo Monte Carlo simulations to optimise the sensitivity of an optrode system
2010 Anna Yang  All-fibre dispersion compensation OCT system based on an integrated spectral shaper.
2004 Tony P. Goldsmith Cancellation of Raman soliton self-frequency shift by cross-phase modulation

Former Honour students

2020 Alexander Ferguson, Microaspiration: Experiments and Simulations, co-supervisor
2018 Joni White, BSc honors, Using optical methods to monitor bacteria viability
2017 Matthew Brown, Btech MPIT, Using polarisation-sensitive optical coherence tomography and mechanical indentation to assess cartilage degeneration in the bovine model of early osteoarthritis
2015  Neelam Hari, Btech MPIT, Interactive Playground: Beambox
2015  Rachel Ou, Btech MPIT, Near real time quantification of bacteria viability using spectroscopic fluorescence.
2013  Guneet Kaur, Btech MPIT, Studies of Forster resonance energy transfer using an all fibre optical system
2013  Michel Yap,  Btech MPIT, Optical coherence tomography in the assessment of articular cartilage condition
2013  Jennifer Yeh, Btech MPIT,  Ice core layer counting using time-domain OCT
2012  Michael Cheng, PGDipSc, Development and studies of dual optical fibre probe sensor for fluorescence measurement.
2011  Arti Patel, Btech MPIT, Bioluminescence measurement using an all-fibre setup
2010  Jason Kuo, Btech MPIT, Monitoring bacteria tagged with fluorescent proteins by using an optrode
2010  Jenny Lim, Btech MPIT,  Algorithms and method for analysing spectra emitted by bacteria tagged with fluorescent proteins
2010  Hamish Randle, Btech OPTO, Fabrication and optimisation of fused fibre couplers


2018   OSA (Optical Society of America) Diversity and Inclusion Advocacy Recognition inaugural award2017   Dean’s Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching
2017   Highly Commended Miriam Dell Excellence in Science Mentoring Award from the Association for Women in the Sciences (AWIS)
2017   Velocity Innovation Challenge Winner
2013   Ideas Challenge Winner of the SPARK competition
2003   IEEE/LEOS Japan Chapter Young Scientist Award, received at the Optical Amplifiers and Their Applications'2003 topical meeting (July 2003, Otaru, Japan).
2000   Award of the Belgian Physical Society for the best Master thesis in experimental physics.



Since 2021 Science Leader of the CoRE in photonics and  quantum technologies.
Since 2016 Member of the executive committee of the CoRE in photonics and  quantum technologies.
2018-2020 Theme leader for Future materials and technologies in the Faculty of Science
2015-2020 Chair of the diversity committee for the physics department. Obtained the Pleiades Bronze level certification for the Department in 2016 and then Silver in 2019.
2015-2017 Leader of the Sensing and Imaging theme for the CoRE in photonics and  quantum technologies.
2014-2016 Stage 3 adviser for the Physics Department.

Areas of expertise

  • Biophotonics
  • Nonlinear optics
  • Fiber optics
  • Rapid detection of bacteria
  • Optical sensors
  • Laser technologies


Committees/Professional groups/Services

Since 2014         Member of the advisory committee for the PhD in medical imaging
Since 2013         Member of the Exec committee of the faculty of Science
2011–2012         Physics Programme Leader for the Science academic committee, deputy since 2013.
2011–2012         Head of the teaching committee for the Physics Department
2010–2011 and 2014–2015           Elected sub-professorial member of the University Senate
2009–2010         Tuakana coordinator for the Physics Department.
2010–2012         EEO representative for physic
2008–2012         Member of the implementation team of the Women returning to Work project (combining parenting and a career since 2011).
2005–2013         Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) support and contact person for the Physics Department. Organisation of the Girl Into Science as well as Futures events.
Since 2006           Member of the Student Staff Consultation Committee (SSCC) of the Department of Physics.

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Vargas, M. J. T., Nieuwoudt, M., Yong, R. M., Vanholsbeeck, F., Williams, D. E., & Simpson, M. C. (2019). Excellent quality microchannels for rapid microdevice prototyping: direct CO2 laser writing with efficient chemical postprocessing. MICROFLUIDICS AND NANOFLUIDICS, 23 (11)10.1007/s10404-019-2291-1
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Michel Nieuwoudt, David Williams
  • Hari, N., Patel, P., Ross, J., Hicks, K., & Vanholsbeeck, F. (2019). Optical coherence tomography complements confocal microscopy for investigation of multicellular tumour spheroids. Scientific reports, 9 (1)10.1038/s41598-019-47000-2
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Jacqueline Ross, Kevin Hicks
  • Robertson, J., McGoverin, C., Vanholsbeeck, F., & Swift, S. (2019). Optimisation of the protocol for the LIVE/DEAD® BacLightTM bacterial viability kit for rapid determination of bacterial load. Frontiers in microbiology, 1010.3389/fmicb.2019.00801
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Simon Swift, Julia Robertson, Cushla McGoverin
  • Ou, F., McGoverin, C., White, J., Swift, S., & Vanholsbeeck, F. (2019). Bead-Based Flow-Cytometric Cell Counting of Live and Dead Bacteria. Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.), 1968, 123-134. 10.1007/978-1-4939-9199-0_11
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Cushla McGoverin, Simon Swift, Joni White
  • Turnbull, S. M., Locke, K., Vanholsbeeck, F., & O'Neale DRJ (2019). Bourdieu, networks, and movements: Using the concepts of habitus, field and capital to understand a network analysis of gender differences in undergraduate physics. PloS one, 14 (9)10.1371/journal.pone.0222357
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Dion O'Neale, Kirsten Locke, Steven Turnbull
  • Hope, J., Vanholsbeeck, F., & McDavid, A. (2018). Drive and measurement electrode patterns for electrode impedance tomography (EIT) imaging of neural activity in peripheral nerve. BIOMEDICAL PHYSICS & ENGINEERING EXPRESS, 4 (6)10.1088/2057-1976/aadff3
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Andrew McDaid
  • Hope, J., Braeuer, B., Amirapu, S., McDaid, A., & Vanholsbeeck, F. (2018). Extracting morphometric information from rat sciatic nerve using optical coherence tomography. Journal of biomedical optics, 23 (11), 1-14. 10.1117/1.jbo.23.11.116001
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Satya Amirapu, Andrew McDaid
  • Kolenderska, S. M., Bräuer B, & Vanholsbeeck, F. (2018). Dispersion mapping as a simple postprocessing step for Fourier domain Optical Coherence Tomography data. Scientific reports, 8 (1)10.1038/s41598-018-27552-5


Contact details

Primary office location

SCIENCE CENTRE 303 - Bldg 303
Level 5, Room 502
New Zealand

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