Wilson's biomedical imaging research
recognized with two early career awards

Jesse Wilson, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, was recently announced as the recipient of two early career awards that will support his growing research program in biomedical imaging.

Wilson was named the Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber, & Schreck-MRA Young Investigator by the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA), the largest non-profit funding source of research in melanoma prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. The MRA’s Young Investigator program supports the work of early career scientists who have novel ideas for combating melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer and the fifth most common cancer in the United States.

Under seed funding from the Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, Wilson has been developing a new laser microscopy technique for skin imaging. The current FDA-approved technology produces grainy images that are unrecognizable to pathologists without extensive training. More advanced multiphoton technologies produce clear, recognizable pathology images, but lack FDA approval and require prohibitively expensive ultrafast-pulsed laser sources.

Wilson’s MRA award aims to combine these technologies, using inexpensive laser sources with digital signal processing and artificial intelligence to produce multiphoton-like pathology images. The resulting enhanced virtual biopsy images, significantly improved from the products currently available from the approved clinical instrumentation, will provide a new means for early, noninvasive detection of melanomas. Wilson will collaborate with Doug Thamm, director of Clinical Research at the Flint Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University, to validate and test the new technology on canine oral melanomas.

Comparison, Wilson's research of noninvasive imaging technology

Wilson’s research aims to use machine learning algorithms to transform images from FDA-approved noninvasive imaging technology (left), which are grainy and textured, into images that more recognizable by a pathologist (right), with clearly defined cells and nuclei.


Wilson has also been named Colorado State University’s 2018 recipient of the Boettcher Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Award. The Boettcher Foundation aims to support scientific innovation in Colorado by providing funding for early career investigators at the state’s research institutions. Wilson will hold the title of Boettcher Investigator, and will use the funding from the award to develop a new laser technique to enable the first-ever direct microscopy of mitochondrial respiratory chain function in living cells and tissues.

Wilson’s interest in improving understanding of respiratory chain dysfunction stems from its implication in a broad spectrum of health problems, including aging, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and mitochondrial disease. However, the present lack of techniques for assessing mitochondrial respiratory chain function in patients means that it is impossible to know whether a trial therapy is having any positive effect. The unique laser systems in Wilson’s lab generate short pulses of light that can be absorbed by different parts of the mitochondrial respiratory chain. By combining different wavelengths, an optical signature that is sensitive to relative concentrations of different electron transfer heme proteins, their redox states, and the local molecular environment is generated. This information measures respiratory chain efficiency, pinpointing defects.


Jesse Wilson is an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering in the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering at Colorado State University, and also holds an appointment in the School of Biomedical Engineering. Wilson earned his doctorate in electrical and computer engineering from Colorado State University, developing techniques in ultrafast pulse shaping and impulsive Raman spectroscopy.

He conducted postdoctoral research in Warren Warren’s lab at Duke University, where he was awarded both the JenLab Young Investigator Award from the Society of Photographic Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) and a Ruth Kirchstein fellowship from the National Cancer Institute. He is interested in leveraging ultrafast and nonlinear optical phenomena for microscopic imaging contrast, with a specific focus on cancer imaging and other biomedical applications. Wilson is a member of SPIE, the Optical Society of America, and the American Physical Society.

Jesse Wilson, Colorado State University
Jesse Wilson

“Right now, noninvasive virtual biopsy for diagnosing skin cancer is available at only a few clinics in the United States. They require specialized training, because the images they produce bear little resemblance to a traditional biopsy.”

Jesse Wilson

For more information:

Jesse Wilson,
Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Colorado State University

Wilson Lab

Make the connection

School of Biomedical Engineering: Imaging and Diagnostics Theme

Imaging & Diagnostics theme in SBME

The Colorado State University School of Biomedical Engineering (SBME) provides transdisciplinary education, research, and practical experiences throughout a full range of degree programs. The unique structure of the School involves four colleges, 14 departments, and over 70 faculty.

Research interests of the faculty involved in the Imaging & Diagnostics theme in SBME revolve around the development of a new generation of novel biosensors incorporating everything from lab-on-a-chip technologies to the use of lasers and optics in state-of-the-art microscopy. The range of targets runs from ions crossing channels in membranes detected electrophysiologically to oxidizable molecules detected by electrochemistry or larger peptides or proteins detected by immunochemistry. Additional approaches, including aptamers on one end and various forms of spectroscopy on another, are in constant development.