2019 Williams-Wright Award

The Coblentz Society is pleased to announce that Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Petrich of Roche Diabetes Care GmbH, Mannheim, Germany and Heidelberg University has been selected as the recipient of the 2019 Williams-Wright Award for Industrial Spectroscopy.  The award will be presented at the Pittsburgh Conference, to be held March 18-21, 2019 in Philadelphia, PA USA.  This award is presented to Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Petrich in recognition of his work in the development and application of biomedical applications of infrared-based clinical laboratory instrumentation in the fields of metabolism, rheumatology, cardiology, and veterinary medicine as well as pioneering applications of quantum cascade laser (QCL) technology to biology and medicine.  The Williams-Wright Award Symposium is held in honor of the awardee and immediately follows the presentation. The 2019 Award symposium will feature an Award Address by Prof. Petrich and talks from invited speakers Nicholas Stone (University of Exeter), Rohit Bhargava (Beckman Institute, University of Illinois), Niels Kröger-Lui (Bruker Optics), and Anita Mahadevan-Jansen (Vanderbilt University).                      

Wolfgang studied physics at the Heidelberg University, Germany and at the ETH Zurich, Switzerland; he subsequently obtained his Ph.D. for research in atomic physics and quantum optics at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics (Heidelberg, Germany).  He was awarded a Feodor-Lynen Research Fellowship by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to work as a postdoc on the topic of Bose-Einstein condensation with the later Nobel Laureates Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman at JILA, Colorado, USA.  

Wolfgang engaged in academic research for two additional years at the University of Constance, Germany before he joined Boehringer Mannheim GmbH (later Roche Diagnostics GmbH). Here, he substantially contributed to biomedical applications of infrared-based clinical laboratory instrumentation in the fields of metabolism, rheumatology, and cardiology, as well as in veterinary medicine. Notably, he and his team conducted by far the largest and most comprehensive study of infrared-spectroscopy of serum in medicine at that time. He also performed the first direct comparison between NIR-Raman spectroscopy and mid-infrared spectroscopy of serum under clinically identical conditions with respect to the quantification of analytes. Wolfgang and his teams also pioneered the application of quantum cascade laser (QCL) technology to biology and medicine. The use of QCLs almost became an obsession such that Wolfgang (in addition to his full-time employment at Roche!) founded a small research group on biophotonics at Heidelberg University’s Kirchhoff-Institute for Physics.  This endeavor turned out to be quite successful; not only was this group among the first teams worldwide to design and build QCL-based infrared microscopes, but it was the first team to apply the technique to the microspectroscopy of biomedical samples. They were able to show that the usual measurement times for thin tissue sections for histopathology could be reduced by two to three orders of magnitude when compared to FT-IR-based microspectroscopy.  A typical tissue thin section can now be measured in seconds or minutes rather than hours or days without sacrificing spatial or spectral quality, thus constituting a big step on the path from benchtop to bedside.  Recently, Wolfgang and his team were able to show fixed-frequency mid-infrared microscopy of living microorganisms in real time (i.e. 0.02 seconds/image) at VGA (640x480) format.

Today, Wolfgang is with Roche Diabetes Care GmbH, Mannheim, Germany and, in his spare time, continues to research and teach at Heidelberg University. He has authored and co-authored many publications and patents and has served as an organizer of many biophotonics conferences such as SPEC 2006 and SPIE’s biannual conference on biomedical vibrational spectroscopy at Photonics West.