Dr W M (Steve) Lee

Harvard-Postdoc (Biomed) | St Andrews- PhD(Physics) | NTU- B.Eng(Hons)
Group Leader
College of Health & Medicine
T: +6126125 6166

Areas of expertise

  • Biological Physics 029901
  • Optical Physics 0205
  • Fluidisation And Fluid Mechanics 091504
  • Cellular Interactions (Incl. Adhesion, Matrix, Cell Wall) 310105
  • Artificial Intelligence And Image Processing 0801
  • Biomedical Instrumentation 090303
  • Medical Biotechnology Diagnostics (Incl. Biosensors) 100402
  • Cardiovascular Medicine And Haematology 1102

Research interests

ANU Optical Biofluidics Imaging Group (Lee group@JCSMR) 

- Explore, Discover & Profile #spatialtemporalbiology with #optics #fluidics #ML.

Living cells are an integrated network of genes, proteins and dynamic metabolic reactions that give rise to functions that are essential for life. Cells moves and organizes into complex networks  under a diverse range of microscopic fluidic forces (interstitial and vascular flow) in response to injury, pathogen invasion and cancer. We explores the collective functional and morphological responses of complex cellular network in 3D under external stimulations (fluid shear, micro-textured surfaces, surface ligand).

Our team explores the collective functional and morphological responses of complex cellular network in 3D under external stimulations (fluid shear, micro-textured surfaces, surface ligand). We discover novel optical principles for the development of 4D imaging flow assays by exploring the interface of optics, surface chemistry and data science, Through our imaging, computational and biological tools, we shall profile complex functional behavior of cellular network and validate drug targets or the study of diseases and disorders.

Video summary: Video 1 (Overview), Video 2 (Instruments)



Steve's research focuses on the application of imaging science for biomedical science so as to understand cell aggregation, cell migration and extracellular matrix re-modelling under fluidic forces.

Steve earned degrees in electronics engineering, physics and trained in advanced bioimaging and industry instrumentation. In his undergraduate and research assistantship, he studied phase singularities in shaped light field (aka fluidic vortex of light) by pioneering optical holography and so-gel electron lithography methods. He then headed R&D department at Einst Technology Pte Ltd to develop confocal laser scanning technologies. He left Singapore to pursue PhD at Uni St Andrews (UK) with Kishan Dholakia in collaboration with Ewan Wright from OSC at University of Arizona. His PhD led to the invention of an optical fiber-capillary fluidics diagnostic tool to resolve the fundamental optical nonlinear properties of nanofluids. In parallel to his PhD, he developed fluid shear optical gene transfection in mammalian cells with laser trapping/cavitation. At Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital (Wellman Photomedicine), he worked with Andy Yun as a NIH/NIDDK postdoctoral fellow to pioneer in vivo imaging tools that investigated micro-blood vessel flow dynamics in tumorigenesis, organ transplantation and taste sensation in living mice. 

At start of his independent lab in mid-2013, he invented fluidic-lens gravity shaping principles for low cost high performance smartphone microscopy/dermatoscope and was awarded the 2014 ANSTO Innovative Technology Award by Australian Museum. Since 2012, he has won successive competitive research fellowships and project grants (e.g.UNSW VC Fellow, ANU NIG-FERL, ARC DECRA, 2x ARC DP, 1x NHMRC Ideas, 1x ACRF, 2x CSIRO-AusIndustry, 1x PBCRC-Biosecurity), he led the development of 5 Bespoke BioImaging tools. With these unique tools, he can study cellular activities under fluidic flows across size and time scales; contributing to deeper understanding of spatial temporal biology.  

Researcher's projects

oBIGGoogle Scholar , ORCIDResearchGate

AIM1 - Under Flow – Adhesiveness, detachment and contraction 

•Classify spatial temporal behavior of adhesive cells mediated by integrin-actin connection under physiological flow rates.
•Mapping heterogeneity of adhesion and contraction of cells under flow.

Outcome: Generate new computational models of cell aggregates and dissolution under different fluid conditions.

AIM 2- Through ECM pore size- aggregation, bridging

•Identify 4D migration rate of adhesive cells within an aggregate under hydrodynamic forces.
•Measure how cells migrate through synthetic ECM pores, by determining membrane protrusions and nucleus “ruler”.

Outcome: Develop novel cell sorting devices tuned to adhesion strength and nucleus deformability

AIM 3-  On curved surface- spheroid, adhesion, bridging

•Filopodia and lamellipodia formation along curved surfaces using super-resolution and volumetric imaging tool
•Influence of 3D micro-gradient and surface coating in the formation filopodia under flow 

Outcome: Develop novel 3D printed microstructure and surface coating to optimize biological fluids transport in disposable flow assay. Improve organoid and spheroid formation.


Available student projects

Highly motivated students with keen interest in interdisciplinary imaging research are welcome to join our highly multidisciplinary and growing research laboratory at the Australian National University to invent, develop new optical imaging solutions to discover new molecular and structural mechanisms of blood cells trafficking, aggregate, migrate under fluid shear

Project 1 (Honours, PhD)

  • Cell migrate to different biomechanical and biochemical cues. In this project, we will develop novel microstructure and surface coating in controlled microfluidic flow environment. This is to study adhesion versus non-adhesion cell migration

Project 2 (PhD, Postdoc)

  • Study the emergence of salient features of disordered fluidic pathways in extracellular matrix. In this project, we shall use advanced imaging, machine learning and computational fluidics to study seemingly chaotic fluidic pathways.



Current student projects

  • Dr Daniel Lim - ANU BioImaging Postdoctoral FellowAdvanced 4D Imaging of blood cells, Collaborator – Gardiner, JCSMRPhan, Garvan
  • Mr Hanqi Lin - ANU Imaging Technician, Advanced Computational Imaging 
  • Ms Yujie Zheng- PhD student, Label- Free Multimodal Biofluidic Imaging Collaborator – Gardiner, JCSMR
  • Mr Avinash Upadhya- PhD studentStructured beams for super-res nanoscopy Collaborator – Shroff NIH
  • Mr Tienan Xu- PhD student,  Novel Lightsheet Imaging, Collaborator – Gaus UNSW
  • Mr Zhiduo Zhang- Research AssistantMachine learning for Microscopy, Collaborator – Xie, CS , Eduardo JCSMR
  • Mr Junxiang Zhang- ANU Imaging Technician, Capillary Fluidics for Advanced 4D Imaging
  • Mr Andrew Waddell, Honours student, Computing Real time Adaptive optics for imaging in blood vessel.
  • Mr Jasper Li, ANU Imaging Technician for platelet biology (with Gardiner Grp), Imaging meets modeling thrombus formation

Past student projects

Junior Research Staff (Primary Supervisor)

2017 - 2020:      Mr Tao Xu ,                          Toyota Graduate Training Program    

2018 - 2019:     *Dr Yuanqing (Alex) Ma ,        EMBO Fellow, Marseille France    

2017 - 2018:      Dr Samantha Montague,        Research Fellow,             

2016 - 2017:      Dr Roland Fleddermann,         Research Fellow,                          

2014 - 2015:      Mr Zijian Cen,                        Senior Product Analytics                              

Graduate students (Primary supervisor)

2015 -  2019:     Mr Yongxiao Li, PhD Candidate, Postdoctoral Researcher, Rockefeller Uni

2014 -  2018:     Miss Xuefei (Sherry) He, PhD Candidate  Imaging Engineer, HiSilicon

2014 -  2018:     Miss Tahseen Kamal, PhD Candidate Research Associate UNSW

2016 -  2017:    *Miss Wei Zhong, Master Student (Uni Twente, Netherlands)  Research Scientist, Science Sport

2013 -  2016:     Mr Niko Eckerskorn, PhD Candidate (Australian National University)  Analytics Engineer - CoreLogic RP Data

2015 -  2016:    *Mr Wengou Zhu, Visiting PhD candidate(Sun Yat University, China)        Lecturer

2014 – 2015:    *Mr Redmar Vileg, Visiting Master Student (Uni Twente, Netherlands) PhD student, Leiden Uni 

2013 – 2014:     Mr Huang Longyao, Master by Research  (Australian National University)

2013 – 2014:    *Miss Sjoukje Schoustra, Visiting Master Student (Uni Twente, Netherlands)   PhD student, Twente Uni

2013 – 2014 :   *Miss Li Li,Visiting PhD candidate(Sun Yat University, China) Research Engineering Huawei


2020 - 2021:     Mr Hanqi Lin                          Imaging Technician, ANU  

2019 - 2020:     Mr Junxiang Zhang                 Imaging Technician, ANU

2019 - 2020:     Mr Sanjeev Parbaharan

2018           :    *Ms Hui Wang Undergraduate, Tsinghua University

2017-  2018:     Mr Yonglin Ren

2017-  2017:     Mr Oliver Johnson, University Medal  | ANU-HST-MIT summer scholar

2016 - 2016 :    Ms Emily Campbell  Tillyard prize recipient | ANU-HST-MIT Summer scholar

2016-  2017:     Mr Tienan Xu  ANU-PhD student

2015 - 2016:     Mr Thomas McMenamin  Bioscout-Head R&D

2015 - 2016:     Mr Avinash Upadhya, University Medal  | ANU-HST-MIT summer scholar ANU-PhD student

2015 - 2016:     Mr Yang Lu  CSIRO-PhD student 

2015 - 2016:     Mr Tao Xu    ANU-MSc student

2014 - 2015:     Mr Misha Petkovic System Engineer, Seeing Machine

2015 - 2016      Miss Yi Du

2015 - 2016      Miss Yujie Zheng   ANU-PhD student

2015 - 2016      Mr Lyle Halliday,  University Medal, IET Medal  System Engineer, S Medical

2014 - 2015      Mr Zachary Shafron,  Honorable mention(undergraduate project) System Engineer, Thales

2013 –2015      Mr Avinash Upadhya, Yao Su Student Research Award ANU-PhD student

2014 2015      Ms Rachel Watkins,YouFab Global Creative Awards, Finalist Teacher (STEM)

2014 2015      Mr David Wright

2014 2015      Mr Jaden Rubstein

2014 –2015      Mr Zi Cen (Kenny) Senior Product Analytics Engineer ResMed

2014 2015      Mr Alan Harrison 

2013 2014      Miss Siti Mohd Shariaf   

* visiting


Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

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Updated:  04 December 2021 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers