Rob Webb is a physicist at Wellman Center for Photomedicine (WCP) at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is a Senior Scientist Emeritus at Schepens Eye Research Institute (SERI). Rob is an Associate Professor at the Harvard Medical School in both the departments of Dermatology and Ophthalmology.
Since 1979, at the Schepens Eye Research Institute, Rob’s main invention has been the scanning laser ophthalmoscope (SLO), for viewing the retina of the living human eye. Webb's SLO was sold by G. Rodenstock Instrumente Gmbh, but he collaborates also with other manufacturers of SLOs. A retinal eye tracker of exceptional promise was developed in Webb's laboratory, and a confocal microscope/ophthalmoscope based on vertical cavity surface emitting lasers is currently on hold while the semiconductor manufacturers catch up. One of the exciting new developments in ophthalmic optics these days is the analysis of wave-front aberrations of the eye (driven to some extent by the possibility that laser surgery may be able to correct them). Webb's entry into this effort is the spatially resolved refractometer (SRR), developed in 1992 with a newer version currently in clinical and research use.
The obvious follow-on to wavefront measurement is adaptive optics – changing the wavefront to compensate for aberrations in the eye or objective lens. Two projects in ophthalmoscopy – for mice and for humans – include this approach.
In 1993 Webb joined the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he developed a confocal microscope (the VivaScope, Lucid, Inc.) for live, noninvasive imaging within skin and other organs. This confocal microscope looks about 400 mm into live tissue, making cellular detail visible without invasive biopsy. In-vivo confocal microscopes are the central theme of his work at Wellman Center. Flow cytometry continues to be one of his interests, and a project at WCP combines the two areas. Webb currently shares his time between Wellman Center and a number of research entities:
MIT: a low vision aid for people with severe visual handicaps. This is based on work with high brightness LEDs.
BU: participation in a diagnostic project for Alzheimer’s Disease. This is effectively a non-scanning confocal microscope.
Shapiro Laboratories (Boston): An LED-based microscope for TB, malaria and AIDS detection for third-world medicine.
Boston Micromachines, Inc and Indiana University: Adaptive optics SLO for humans.
At WCP: Webb has no projects that are solely his, but makes his experience and expertise available to (read “snoops into”) many. Currently, these include a project using Low Light Level Therapy for psychiatric assistance, the microscope/instrument module of a consortium grant on Cell biology.
Rob Webb has published over 50 papers in refereed journals and been issued more than 30 patents, with more pending or allowed. He is an Associate Professor at the Harvard Medical School in both the departments of Dermatology and Ophthalmology. He has won an IR100 award for the SLO, and is the 1999 recipient of the Edwin H. Land Medal of the Optical Society and the Society for Imaging Science and Technology. In 2003 he was awarded an honorary ScD by the SUNY College of Optometry. He is a fellow of the Optical Society of America.
Harvard Medical School
20 Staniford Street