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Prof Sandro Olivo
Prof Sandro Olivo profile picture
  • Professor in Applied Physics
  • Dept of Med Phys & Biomedical Eng
  • Faculty of Engineering Science
Sandro Olivo graduated in physics summa cum laude at the University of Trieste in Italy in 1995. Following a short spell as a hospital physics (during which he developed a method to perform gamma ray spectroscopy in situ), he obtained his PhD from the same university in 2000.
Originally a high energy physicist, Sandro's interests progressively shifted towards x-ray imaging via detector development. His first research efforts were dedicated to the development of single-photon counting edge-on silicon microstrip detectors (currently at the basis of the SECTRA mammography system). The perfect match between these detectors and synchrotron radiation x-ray beams led to a growing interest in synchrotron-based methods. This led to his contributions to the development of the SYRMEP (SYnchrotron Radiation for MEdical Physics) beamline at the ELETTRA synchrotron in Italy. Following completion and commissioning of the beamline, Sandro started to develop a strong interest in x-ray phase contrast imaging (XPCi), which was starting to emerge in those days. 
He experimented with free-space propagation and crystal-based XPCi methods and developed their first medical applications, before he started to develop his own original methods based on pixel edge illumination. These methods provided the basis to the "coded-aperture" approach working with conventional sources he later developed at UCL. Before moving to UCL, Sandro provided an essential contribution to the development of the station for in vivo phase contrast mammography of human patients with synchrotron radiation at ELETTRA, the only facility of this kind currently existing in the world.
Research Groups
Research Summary
Sandro Olivo is the inventor of the coded-aperture x-ray phase contrast imaging (XPCi) method - a method to produce XPCi images with conventional x-ray sources. XPCi is an extremely powerful x-ray imaging method, which utilizes refraction and interference (instead of conventional attenuation) to generate image contrast, and as consequence increases the visibility of all details and allows the detection of features classically considered invisible. XPCi can thus transform all applications of x-ray imaging in medicine, biology, material science, security, etc. The main roadblock was that XPCi was considered to be restricted to synchrotron facilities, due to the restrictive requirements it imposes on the radiation source. Dr Olivo's method overcomes this limitation making real-world implementation of XPCi possible for the first time.
His research group is currently looking into:
a) the implementation of the coded-aperture method (in 2 and 3D) into new areas of application in medicine (mammography, bone and cartilage imaging, etc) and elsewhere (material science, non destructive testing, biology, cultural heritage, etc);
b) the development of quantitative phase and "dark-field" methods for precise material identification and characterization;
c) the development of new, "phase-based" contrast agents;
d) the development of new "ultra-sensitive" phase methods at synchrotrons worldwide;
e) strategies to reduce radiation dose delivery based on the use of elastic x-ray processes; 
f) the extension of the above methodologies to other types of radiation.
Related areas of research currently under investigation are in radiation detectors development and characterization, image processing and analysis.
Teaching Summary
Sandro Olivo is currently responsible for the "Imaging with ionizing radiation" module, common to all three streams (radiation physics, biomedical engineering and medical image computing) of the MSc course in "Physics and Engineering in Medicine".
Up to last year he has been managing all projects across the same three streams (which were initially three separate MSc courses), a commitment which he dropped this year to undertake the role of REF lead for the Department.
He is also Personal tutor of all 2nd year Undergraduate students in the Department, and Academic tutor for a subgroup of them.
He is currently 1st supervisor of 4 PhD students and regularly supervises MSc and undergraduate projects.
During his previous employment at the University of Trieste he has been teaching classical mechanics, fluid and thermodynamics, electromagnetism, medical and biological physics to Undergraduate students in Architecture, Medicine and Biotechnology. 
He also spent one year teaching physics in Secondary Schools.
Academic Background
2000   ATQ10 - Overseas accreditation or qualification for any level of teaching  
1999   Doctor of Philosophy Universita degli Studi di Trieste
1995   Laurea Universita degli Studi di Trieste
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