Prof. Cather Simpson

University of Auckland’s Physics and Chemistry Departments

Photonics Transforming 21 st Century Sensing

The 21 st century is already seeing the rising impact of photonics – the creation, manipulation, control and use of light. No where is the rise of high-performance coupled with cost-effectiveness being felt than in optical sensing. I will discuss how photonic technologies are transforming optical sensing, and highlight with examples from my research team in the Photon Factory at the University of Auckland. There, we are exploiting today’s light-based sensing for applications that range from sorting of sperm by sex and “point of cow” diagnostics for the dairy industry to evaluating the nutritional health of mussel beds, improving prostate cancer diagnostics and monitoring stress with wearable sensors.


Professor Cather Simpson joined the University of Auckland’s Physics and Chemistry departments in 2007. She had received her Ph.D. in the USA in Medical Sciences with a focus on the ultrafast vibrational dynamics of heme proteins. After completing a Department of Energy Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellowship, she joined the Chemistry Department at Case Western Reserve University as an Assistant Professor to pursue research in ultrafast energy conversion in molecules. After earning tenure and promotion at CWRU, she moved to the University of Auckland, where her research now spans fundamental spectroscopy to applied device development.

Cather’s research focuses on the interaction of light with matter, particularly how materials can convert light into more useful forms of energy. Cather is a Principal Investigator in the MacDiarmid Institute and the Dodd-Walls Centre and was Chair of the New Zealand National Committee for the UNESCO 2015 International Year of Light. She has received a long stretching list of science, teaching and entrepreneurial excellence awards. She is the founding Chief Science Officer of Engender Technologies and Orbis Diagnostics, both international award-winning spin-offs from the Photon Factory at the University of Auckland.