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On February 4, Valerii Tuchin, a world-renowned scientist, head of a large scientific school, author of monographs, textbooks, and research papers in highly rated journals, celebrates his 80th birthday.

It turns out that even at this beautiful age, you can complain that the daily routine is based on the principle of doing everything “here and now”. This is bad, the professor believes. There is no time left for new books, for which you need to focus, concentrate, comprehend the data you have gathered, and put it on paper. And all this is said by the author of 100 books, a record holder in the number of patents, articles, monographs, the most prestigious international awards, and the number of candidates and doctors of sciences supervised.

Today, we had a unique opportunity to talk with a very interesting person – a specialist in medical physics, biomedical optics, and biophotonics, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Valerii Tuchin.

– Professor, the first question is obvious: when did you become interested in physics, and why did you decide to enroll in the Faculty of Physics, SSU?

– I graduated from Saratov school No. 42, where a number of subjects were taught in English. It was the fourth graduation, and many were in the mood to enter technical universities. Initially, it seemed to me that it was easier to enroll in the polytechnic institute, besides, I was attracted to the construction topic (apparently, I had read creative books). And the classical university seemed unattainable. But in our yard at Radishchev, 25, there lived a wonderful man Vladik Fedosov, a student of the Faculty of Physics, SSU. For us, he was an idol, he constantly conducted some experiments in the yard, everything flew and moved. I remember the launch of the plane and the howling of the dogs that ran away from the flying machine. It was he who convinced me to enroll in the Faculty of Physics. As a result, not only I, but six other people from our grade enrolled in the Faculty of Physics, SSU.

Vladlen Fedosov himself worked as an engineer in the electronics industry after graduating from university and has always been an example for me of a person who could solve any engineering problem. His son Ivan Fedosov also inherited his father's innovative approach to solving complex scientific tasks, he is now successfully working as an associate professor at our Department of Optics and Biophotonics, the Institute of Physics, SSU.


– After graduating from the university, you worked for four years as an engineer at the Research Institute of Mechanics and Physics, SSU. Did you understand there that you would want to do your own research? Was it difficult to get into postgraduate school?

– Then it was a standard way of entering science, in fact, it was a postgraduate course, since engineers did not maintain any installations, but developed new methods and technologies for projects that industrial enterprises ordered us. There were no restrictions on equipment or business trips – there were enough funds for everything. Only one Department of Optics and Spectroscopy with two laboratories employed more than 40 people. It was here that my own research began, which was a continuation of the work in the student laboratory on quantum electronics. It took two years to publish the first article in an academic journal.

It is important that in our team, consisting of students and graduates of the Departments of Electronics (which I graduated from), Radiophysics, Optics, and Electronic Engineering, there was such a system of scientific leadership when a young employee or a strong graduate student supervised a fifth-year student, who, in turn, supervised the undergraduate students. When I was a fourth-year student, I had a fifth-year student, Yurii Levin, as my supervisor. Then he became the dean of the Faculty of Nonlinear Processes. And his supervisor was a postgraduate Dmitrii Trubetskov, the rector of our university for many years. This system really worked, and we are still practicing it if possible.

When I was hired as an engineer at the RIMPh, SSU, I already had my own students, a small scientific group was organised, and we conducted research together. My first students, Leonid Melnikov and Professor of our department Yurii Sinichkin, became doctors of sciences. Garif Akchurin, a well-respected innovator from science, is Associate Professor of our department. Interestingly, very talented students from the off-site courses came to us as part of those who worked in the electronics industry and studied in the evenings. For example, a well-known inventor in the country, Candidate of Physics and Mathematics Lev Shubochkin, who, unfortunately, passed away early.

I was invited to the postgraduate school by Chair of the Department of Optics and Scientific Supervisor of the Department of Optics and Spectroscopy, the RIMPh, SSU, Professor Mark Katz. In fact, I already had my dissertation ready, but at the same time the post of an assistant of the department became vacant, and a rather difficult decision was made, since I had to combine three positions – an assistant of the department, a correspondence postgraduate, and an engineer. Of course, this delayed the thesis presentation by four years, but it gave a lot of experience working with students. As a result, I had a very strong scientific group fully formed for the presentation of my PhD thesis, which allowed me to successfully present my doctoral thesis after seven years.


– The field of your current scientific interests is extremely wide. Most of the areas related to medical topics have somehow come out of your physical laboratory. And at what stage did you see the obvious synergistic effect of previous efforts?

– You will not believe it, but it was an off-site student Lev Shubochkin who involved me in medical topics. At first, it was ophthalmology in cooperation with Professor Valerii Vasilyevich Bakutkin, then a dermatologist Sergei Utz appeared with his tasks and ebullient energy. Laser medicine developed rapidly in Saratov thanks to the efforts of Professor Vladimir Koshelev and his students, Professor Grigorii Brill and many others. They all needed support from fundamental science, and since we, optical physicists who know laser physics and technology well, were nearby, a complementary Saratov community of laser medicine, medical physics, and biophotonics developed.

One minute before the opening of the 27th Saratov Fall Meeting International Conference and Scientific School, Saratov, September, 2023

Valerii Tuchin with participants and organisers of the 27th Saratov Fall Meeting International Conference and Scientific School, Saratov, September, 2023


– What your colleagues and you are currently doing is called biophotonics. Can you explain in laymen terms what is the innovation of these studies? How are their results applied today?

– Biophotonics is photonics, that is, the science of light, its propagation, and interaction with various substances and materials to solve many applied tasks of information transmission, communication, image acquisition, processing of natural and artificial materials, etc., with the prefix bio-, which indicates that all this is used in biology and medicine.

Indeed, medicine is diagnosis, therapy, and surgery, and light is needed everywhere! To obtain clear images of cells, tissues, and organs, to make a diagnosis, to carry out treatment using light of various wavelengths, as well as to perform surgery with a laser scalpel. The advantages of optical methods are their relative cheapness and high accuracy of measurements and effects. But there are still many problems that need to be solved in order for these methods to win their rightful place among the well-known methods of medical diagnosis and therapy. 


– Professor, you are the head of an officially recognised leading scientific school in Russia, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and one of the most cited scientists in the world. Last year, the Russian Professorial Assembly awarded you with the title of the winner of the Professor of the Year national award in the Physics and Mathematics nomination. It is very difficult to list all your awards and titles. Are there any more unconquered peaks? What is your current priority in the field of your research?

– Titles and awards are secondary, although it is always important to realise that your work is needed by society. It is stimulating. Recent years have been very successful for our team, eight PhD theses and one doctoral thesis have been successfully presented for the last three years, we continue integrating into Russian science, we have been productively working with Tomsk State University for five years, we have two scientific laboratories there. We conduct joint research with Lomonosov Moscow State University, Sechenov University, ITMO University, and many leading academic institutions. For example, with such as the Institute of General Physics RAS, the Institute of Solid State Physics RAS, the Research Centre of Biotechnology RAS, and, of course, with the Saratov Scientific Centre RAS, where we have a laboratory for laser diagnostics of technical and living systems.

The funding for such research is grants, for example, the so-called megagrants – we have five in total, two of them are still ongoing; grants from the Russian Foundation for Basic Research and Russian Science Foundation. Many are collective, joint with other organisations, which mutually enriches scientific schools.

Our priority is to develop technologies for deep imaging and targeted exposure to pathological tissues, which can be used in a wide spectral range, from ultraviolet to terahertz. In terms of the diseases, we have focused on cancer types and complications related to diabetes. There are ideas for the treatment of cognitive diseases with light. Together with the staff of the Research Medical Centre, we are going to expand the range of optical approaches to the study of living objects. There are many plans, the main thing is that the younger generation will pick them up and implement them.


– The scale of your international scientific activity is impressive. For almost four decades, you have organised more than 50 international conferences in Russia, the USA, Europe, and China, and made more than a hundred invited and plenary presentations. As a scientist, you are known in almost all research centres of the world, where they are engaged in research in biophotonics. How did the integration into the global scientific and students training take place, how did the department establish relations with the leading universities of the world? Who do you work most closely with today?

– It is a very long story, it has all worked out by itself. But I think I understood the main thing – it is very useful to write articles and books, to have experience in organising research and conferences in my country, then everything can be implemented quite simply in other countries. In addition, there is a significant difference between our school and a number of international ones, where postgraduates are the main researcher, who often “survives” by themselves, without proper supervision. This, of course, hardens, but, on the other hand, you always need a person who will help you set a task and tell you how it can be solved. I have many such examples when students, postgraduates, and postdocs from various countries approached me to set a task, because they read my books. I did it willingly, and we grew whole laboratories out of these, initially small studies. This is the laboratory of my student Kirill Larin at the University of Houston, the huge laboratory of Professor Dan Zhu from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China, and the laboratory of Luis Oliveira from the Polytechnic Institute of Porto.

We also conduct joint research with a number of international laboratories in Iran, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Egypt, Japan, and other countries. There is a good trend – scientific internships for postgraduates, young scientists, employees of international scientific organisations at SSU.

Plenary lecture by Valerii Tuchin at the International Conference on the Laser Applications in Life Sciences (LALS), November 18-20, 2018, Bar-Ilan University, Tel Aviv, Israel


– Your colleagues once noticed that the number of grants you and your department has received could guarantee a place in the Guinness Book of Records. What is the secret of such scientific productivity? Can you advise your younger colleagues on how to organise their work, and indeed their life, in order to achieve such results? Do you have a daily routine? How do you maintain your performance at the work?

– It is difficult to advise something here – everything is individual for everyone. There are people who are talented, but lazy, and vice versa. The main thing is to be interested in what you are doing. Science is sports. Almost all of my colleagues, from whom I studied science, were fond of sports. For example, my friend Vadim Anishchenko, who plunged into big science before all of us, his fellow students, was a high-level athlete. My athletic achievements have been more modest, but they have given me a lot in terms of achieving the goals.

Science should be fascinating, it is useless to do it under pressure or as someone's assignment, you need to think about it always, then there will be time for everything. Another good recipe is the education of students, and you need to start with students. If you spend time on their education and involvement in science, it will be rewarded a hundredfold, including in the form of articles and books.

Unfortunately, my daily routine is determined by what needs to be done here and now. This is bad, there is not enough time for new books, for which you need to focus and give out the knowledge that has been acquired for a long time, comprehended, it only needs to be put on paper, and this is a very long process. For example, by now, I have signed contracts with two publishing agencies for the preparation of the second and third editions of monographs, a new textbook, and two more collective monographs are planned. All this can be done if you have your backs covered and have a family. Hence the advice to young people – if you plan to seriously do science, then make sure that you are understood at home and helped in everything. It will be difficult to cope alone. You need to bring up good students and have support at home.

You also need to rest, but I will tell you a secret. That is why we hold conferences, where there is an opportunity not only for scientific communication, but also for joint recreation.


– Last year, Saratov State University hosted for the first time a two-day scientific seminar entitled Days of Photonics in Saratov. It was attended by scientists and students of SSU from the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology. What, in your opinion, are the prospects for this event, will it be able to become traditional?

– Yes. Dmitrii Gorin, Professor at the Skoltech Centre for Photonics and Quantum Materials, is a good scientist and organiser, he has already brought many of his and my students to Skolkovo, they are very happy there, and we continue cooperating. This expands our abilities.


– As a visiting professor at Huazhong University in Wuhan, China, as well as the University of Limerick, Ireland, you have unique experience and observations. It is interesting to know in what ways their students differ from those who come to your lectures and seminars in Saratov?

– This year, I have lectured in China at Hainan University, it seemed to me that our students know physics better, but their masters are well versed in measurements and processing measurement results using unique equipment that is available to them.

Lecture by Valerii Tuchin to undergraduates of Hainan University, Sanya, China, November, 2023


– Does a physicist of your rank have time for non-research books? Do you need to read fiction, go to exhibitions, theatres, and travel? I am afraid to ask about hobbies...

– Everything is within reasonable limits, we have an apartment a hundred metres from the conservatory and from the Radishchev Museum, so it is easy to get ready for a concert with my wife in the evening. There you can meet all your university acquaintances and friends and exchange news. Now, you can go to the museum at night, which we practice with our grandchildren. I am happy to accept invitations to exhibitions – an hour is quite enough for a short break between plans.

Conferences also help travel and develop culturally. In August and November, I was in China, where I worked a lot, but my leisure time was fantastic – mountains, lakes, sea, music, and monasteries. Also in November, there was a wonderful trip to Armenia with an invited presentation at Russian-Armenian University. We were in the mountains, at the origins of Christianity, in the Matenadaran Library (the Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts).

The Armenian colleagues showed Yerevan, Yerevan University, the institutes of the Armenian Academy of Sciences in Ashtarak and Yerevan itself. I was pleased to give three lectures at different institutes, and, remarkably, according to the old Soviet habit, or rather, according to the academic tradition, the halls were full during the two-hour lectures – about a hundred people attended them, and there were many questions. I was pleased that everyone on the street, in restaurants, museums, and institutes willingly speaks Russian very well, the youth have not forgotten it.

I also remember the last meeting of the Department of Physical Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences in December last year, which was held at the Institute of Space Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences. In between the presentations, we were introduced to an exhibition of real spacecraft, and at the end of the meeting, a famous Moscow youth band gave a small jazz concert.

My hobby can be considered preparing slide shows with my grandchildren and great-granddaughter. I really love our cottage – there is no better place on earth! During the covid period, I was very happy to be there with my family from May to October, without traveling to distant countries.

I also really like walking along the frozen and icy Volga, where there are islands with summer recreation centres.

At the Matenadaran Library (the Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts) with the staff of the Institute of Physical Sciences of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, Yerevan, November, 2023.

Football match between lecturers and students of the Sao Paulo School of Advanced Sciences, San Carlos, Brazil, March 20-29, 2019 (with a ball by Valerii Tuchin, after completing a short course of lectures on biophotonics)

As part of lectures by Valerii Tuchin on behalf of the International Optical Society OSA at the Manipal Academy of Higher Education, visiting the laboratories of the Academy, February 27, 2020, Manipal, India

Lectures by Valerii Tuchin on behalf of the International Optical Society OSA at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER-K), February 29, 2020, Calcutta, India

Summing up ceremony of the International Japan-Taiwan Symposium on Medical Spectroscopy, December 4-7, 2016, Awaji Island, Japan

Interview by Tamara Korneva

Translated by Lyudmila Yefremova


General information:

Valerii Tuchin does research in biological and medical physics, biophotonics, biomedical optics, laser spectroscopy and visualization in biomedicine, nonlinear dynamics of biophysical systems, optical and laser measurements in biophysics, as well as nanobiophotonics.

He is the author of more than 60 patents of the Russian Federation, Belarus, Portugal, and the USA, the author or editor of more than 100 books, book chapters, special issues of journals, conference proceedings, textbooks, lecture manuals, brochures, and more than 1,000 research papers and analytical reviews.

He has supervised 12 doctors of sciences and 41 candidates of sciences. His works have been cited almost 40,000 times.

Winner of the International Award (SPIE Educational Award, 2007) for outstanding achievements and in recognition of his unprecedented contribution to world education in biomedical optics and biophotonics

In 2016, he was awarded the Joseph W. Goodman Prize for writing the monograph V.V. Tuchin, Tissue OpticsLight Scattering Methods and Instruments for Medical Diagnostics, 3rd edition, PM 254, SPIE Press, Bellingham, WA, 2015, which is recognised as an outstanding monograph that has made significant contributions to research, teaching, and industry development in optics and photonics. (about 3,000 citations)

In 2019, he was awarded the Michael S. Feld Biophotonics Prize for pioneering research in optics and optical clearing of biological tissues, as well as for the development of biophotonics by publishing fundamental monographs for the training of future researchers.

Research paper (A.N.  Bashkatov, E.A. Genina, V.I. Kochubey, V.V. Tuchin. Optical properties of human skin, subcutaneous and mucous tissues in the wavelength range from 400 to 2000 nm. – J. Phys. D: Appl. Phys., vol. 38, 2005, pp. 2543-2555) has been cited almost 2,000 times and was included into the list of the 12 most important articles published in the journal J. Physics D and in the 50 best publications of the entire series of J. Phys journals over the 50 years of its existence.

Monograph Tuchin, V.V. (ed.) Coherent-Domain Optical Methods: Biomedical Diagnostics, Environmental Monitoring and Material Science, vols. 1&2, Second edition. Berlin, Heidelberg, N.Y.: Springer-Verlag, 2013, has been downloaded over 67,000 times.