Robert McLaughlin

Professor Robert McLaughlin


School of Biomedicine

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD - email supervisor to discuss availability.

I am head of the Bioengineering Imaging Group at The University Adelaide, and am also Managing Director of the start-up company, Miniprobes. My team invent new optical devices to help doctors, physiologists and livestock producers. I currently lead a research team addressing two key challenges: developing non-invasive tools to assess blood flow; and developing highly miniaturised imaging probes, small enough to be encased within hypodermic needles. My team of engineers, physicists and computer scientists is based in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale Biophotonics and is part of the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing.

After three years as a researcher at the University of Oxford, I spent five years in the medical imaging industry, including as a Product Manager with Siemens Medical Solutions. I was responsible for the development of three medical devices, two with FDA regulatory approval.

Returning to academia in 2007, I have focused on the development of optical imaging technologies, particularly optical coherence tomography and fluorescence. I have been awarded over $14M in research grants. With 19 years of research experience, I have a Google Scholar h-index of 45. I have co-authored 2 book chapters, 7 patents and 98 journal papers. I received the 2014 WA Innovator of the Year Award, and the 2015 Australian Innovation Challenge. In 2016, I was awarded the prestigious South Australian Premier’s Research and Industry Fund Research Fellowship.

In 2014, I was appointed as a Councillor of the Australian Optical Society. In 2016, I was appointed Chair of Biophotonics at the University of Adelaide.

  • Awards and Achievements

    Date Type Title Institution Name Country Amount
    2015 Award The Australian Innovation Challenge - - -
    2014 Award Western Australian Innovator of the Year, WA Department of Commerce - - -
    2014 Award UWA Vice-Chancellor’s Mid-career Research Award - - -
    2014 Award UWA Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Impact and Innovation - - -
    2014 Award 1st prize, SPIE Start-up Challenge, San Francisco - United States -
    2013 Award Finalist, Australian Museum Eureka Prizes: “Innovative Use of Technology” - - -
    2012 Award Finalist, Australian Museum Eureka Prizes: “Innovative Use of Technology” - - -
    2012 Award Finalist, Centenary Institute Lawrence Creative Prize - - -
    2011 Award National Breast Cancer Foundation Patron’s Award: “Innovation and Vision in Research” - - -
  • Education

    Date Institution name Country Title
    2000 University of Western Australia Australia PhD (Electronic Engineering)
    1993 University of Western Australia Australia Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)
  • Research Interests

Grants: TOTAL: $10million

2020-2022 Medical Research Futures Fund (MRFF)

BioMedTechHorizons 3 (BMTH3.0_104)

“A smart brain biopsy needle for faster, safer brain surgery”

(McLaughlin, Wells)


2021-2023 NHMRC Ideas grant (APP2001646)

“Serial imaging of molecular and microstructural changes in atherosclerosis: tracking plaques towards destabilisation”

(Li, Verjans, McLaughlin)


2021-2023 NHMRC Ideas grant (APP2002254)

“Next-generation smart wound dressings for real-time, non-invasive monitoring of infection and neovascularisation in burns”

(Gibson, McLaughlin, Khalid, Rea)


2021-2022 Office of Naval Research Global, USA

“Heat tolerance in humans”

(Green, McLaughlin, Malone, Carter)


2020-2021 Meat & Livestock Australia Donor Company (MDC) (Ref. P.PSH.1244)

“Automated assessment of intramuscular fat in lamb”

(Pitchford, McLaughlin, van den Hengel)


2019-2022 NHMRC Development Grant (APP1178912)

“Development of a smart needle for safer, faster brain biopsies”

(McLaughlin, Wells)


2020 Australian Wool Innovation

“On-farm assessment of wool follicle density and diameter”

(McLaughlin, Pitchford)


2019-2020 Global Connections Fund Bridging Grant,

Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering

“Development of an image-guided electrode for safer cochlear implant surgery”



2019 ARC Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LE190100124)

“3D Glass Printing: The Next Step in Advanced Manufacturing”

(Ebendorff-Heidepriem, McLaughlin, Withford, Lancaster, Priest, Ghomashchi)


2019 Meat & Livestock Australia

“Rapid measurement of intramuscular fat in lamb using imaging needles”



2018 South Australian Early Commercialisation Fund, Dept. State Development, South Aust. Govt.

“Development of photonics enabled imaging needles for industrial and surgical use”



2018 Photonics Catalyst Program

“Bringing microscopic quality control to manufacturing

(McLaughlin, Li)


2016 University of Adelaide, Commercialisation Acceleration Scheme

“Smart needles for safer and more effective brain surgery”



2016-2019 South Australian Premier’s Research and Industry Fund Fellowship



2016-2018 ARC Discovery Grant (DP160104175)

“Visualising vascular adaptation at the micro-scale in humans”

(Green, McLaughlin)


2016 Photonics Catalyst Program, South Australian Govt.

“Image-guided surgery for safer and faster glaucoma treatment”

(McLaughlin, Casson, Previn)


UWA NHMRC Equipment Grant, “Philips Premium Portable CX50 Ultrasound System”

(Noble, Pillow, Gill, Laing, Nowak, McLaughlin, Kennedy, Hodgetts, Pinniger)


2015-2017 ARC Discovery Grant (DP150104660)

“Quantitative multi-modal optical imaging of deep tissue – a new window onto disease”



UWA Research Collaboration Award 2015-2016



SPIE Education Outreach Grant 2015



2015 Medical and Health Research Infrastructure Fund (MHRIF), Round 18, Dept. Health.



2014-2016 Chevron Australia / Fiona Wood Foundation

“Measuring airway capacity using optical coherence tomography”

(McLaughlin, Sampson)


2015 Intuitive Surgical Technology Research Grant (San Francisco, USA),

“Smart biopsy needles for real-time tissue assessment in lung cancer”

(McLaughlin, Sampson)


2015 Breast Cancer Research Centre WA (BCRC_WA 201406),

“Fluorescent biomarkers for improved breast cancer surgery”

(McLaughlin, Fuller)


2014-2016 NHMRC Development Grant (APP1076050),

“Development of microscope-in-a-needle devices for improved clinical diagnostics”

(McLaughlin, Sampson, Noble, Yeoh, Olynyk)


2014 Commercialisation Australia (CAU06334), Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education (DIISRTE)

“Business plan for microscope-in-a-needle imaging technology”

(McLaughlin, Sampson)


2014 Medical and Health Research Infrastructure Fund (MHRIF), Round 17, Dept. Health.



2013 UWA Research Collaboration Award

“The next generation microscope-in-a-needle: Fluorescence + optical coherence tomography to find cancer”

(McLaughlin, Boudoux)


2013 Cancer Council WA Research Project Grant (ID 1057820),

“Intra-operative assessment of lymph node metastasis in breast cancer with optical imaging”

(McLaughlin, Saunders, Sampson)


2013 UWA Faculty of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics

Research Development Grants,

“Optical coherence tomography for quantitative assessment of burn scars”



2012 Cancer Council WA Research Project Grant (ID 1052459),

“Pre-operative assessment of neoadjuvant therapy for breast cancer using optical

coherence tomography”

(McLaughlin, Saunders, Sampson)


2012 Royal Perth Hospital Medical Research Foundation,

“Early detection of pathological scarring using 3D optical imaging”

(McLaughlin, Wood, Kennedy, Sampson)


2012-2014 NHMRC Development Grant (APP1038871)

“Development of a new surgical-guidance tool for intra-operative tumour margin assessment in breast cancer”

(McLaughlin, Saunders, Sampson)


2012 National Breast Cancer Foundation Novel Concept Award,

“A new tool for intra-operative tumour margin assessment”.

(McLaughlin, Saunders, Sampson, Kennedy)


2011-2013 Cancer Council WA Research Fellowship

“Improved intra-operative breast cancer imaging with OCT”



2010 UWA Safety Net Award,




2010 Perpetual Ltd., “Better imaging to improve cancer surgery”

(McLaughlin, Kennedy, Saunders, Sampson)


2009 Perpetual Ltd., “A new breast cancer imaging probe: combining ultrasound with optical biopsy”.

(McLaughlin, Saunders, Sampson)


2008 National Breast Cancer Foundation Novel Concept Award,

“Steps towards an in vivo optical biopsy: Assessing lymph node metastasis using Optical Coherence Tomography”.

(McLaughlin, Saunders, Sampson)


2008 UWA Research Grants Scheme, “Improved Breast Cancer Surgery with Optical Imaging”.



2007 Raine Medical Research Foundation, “Bringing Optical Imaging into clinical practice for breast cancer and breathing disorders”.



  • Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2022 Co-Supervisor Multimodal imaging probe for atherosclerotic plaque detection Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Rouyan Chen
    2019 Co-Supervisor Spiropyran-Based Photoswitchable Protease Inhibitors Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Miss Kathryn Angela Palasis
    2019 Principal Supervisor Development of fibre optic fluorescence probes for multiple applications Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Mingze Yang
  • Position: Professor
  • Phone: 83139942
  • Email:
  • Campus: North Terrace
  • Building: The Braggs, floor Third Floor
  • Room: 3.17
  • Org Unit: Medical Sciences

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