Catherine Best-Popescu's directory photo.

Catherine Best-Popescu

Research Assistant Professor

Primary Affiliation

Neurotechnology for Memory and Cognition


Status Part-time Faculty

Home Department of Bioengineering

Phone 333-8367


Address 2055 Beckman Institute, 405 North Mathews Avenue

  • Biography

    Catherine Best-Popescu is a research assistant professor in the Department of Bioengineering. Her primary affiliation is Neurotechnology for Memory and Cognition.


    • B.S., biology and psychology, University of Massachusetts, Boston, MA, 1994

  • Honors
    • 2015: Alpha Omega Alpha Robert Glaser Distinguished Teacher Nominee

    • 2014: UIC Urban Health program COM Team Member Servant Leadership Award, College of Medicine (COM), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)

    • 2012, 2013, and 2014: Teacher ranked as excellent by the students, Medical Neuroscience, COM UIUC, 2012, 2013 and 2014* (* instructor rating was outstanding- top 10%)

  • Research

    Research Areas:

    • Molecular, Cellular and Tissue Engineering

    • Neural Engineering

    • Research in BME Education

    Research Interests:

    • Neuroprotection and neuroimaging of cerebral blood flow in the context of brain Injury and neurodegenerative disease.

    • Interface bioengineering

    • Neuroscience and medicine from the molecular to the behavioral scale

    • Application of quantitative phase microscopy techniques to biomedical problems

    My lab, the Cellular Neuroscience Imaging (CNI) laboratory at Illinois, is currently investigating neuronal repair, and neurodegenerative mechanisms following impact-induced injury. We develop and analyze therapies in cellular and mouse models of brain injury in parallel with studies of patients with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). We use a fluid percussion device, which is essentially a weighted hammer attached to a pendulum. Once released, the hammer hits a volume of fluid which generates a pressure wave that supplies a controlled and measurable impact to both cells and mice. Currently, we are studying the ability of anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids such as Docosahexanoic acid (DHA), and the DHA endocannabinoid-like metabolite N-docosahexanoylethanolamine (DHEA, also known as synaptamide) and cooling, to provide protection against impact-induced trauma. We measure neuronal recovery, and we quantify trauma-induced cellular and whole brain alterations using standard immunohistochemistry and novel label free imaging techniques. We use spatial light interference microscopy (SLIM), a quantitative form of microscopy, to characterize and map changes in global brain structure and cellular morphology following injury. The goal for us, is to understand TBI pathophysiology across the scales: from cells, to the whole brain, and on through to effects on function and behavior. Our key translational themes involve neuroprotection through photobiomodulation and anti-inflammatory Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (n-3 PUFA) treatment. We have partnered with physicians at the Lovell Federal Health Care Center (Chicago), to test the effects of ultraviolet light (UVB) on sleep, mood, cognition, behavior, and disease symptomology in veterans with TBI. This study follows preliminary findings from a pilot human study that showed promising beneficial immunomodulatory effects of UVB light conducted here at Illinois.

  • 2022

    • Creating psychoneuroimmunology research networks in Ibero-America Caetano-Silva, M. E., González-Ricón, R. J., Chalen, I., Best-Popescu, C. A., Antonson, A. M. & Kelley, K. W., Dec 2022, In: Brain, Behavior, and Immunity - Health. 26, 100532.


    • Emergency ventilator for COVID-19 King, W. P., Amos, J., Azer, M., Baker, D., Bashir, R., Best, C., Bethke, E., Boppart, S. A., Bralts, E., Corey, R. M., Dietkus, R., Durack, G., Elbel, S., Elliott, G., Fava, J., Goldenfeld, N., Goldstein, M. H., Hayes, C., Herndon, N., Jamison, S., & 35 others, Dec 2020, In: PloS one. 15, 12, p. e0244963 e0244963.
    • Quantifying myelin content in brain tissue using color Spatial Light Interference Microscopy (cSLIM) Fanous, M., Caputo, M. P., Lee, Y. J., Rund, L. A., Best-Popescu, C., Kandel, M. E., Johnson, R. W., Das, T., Kuchan, M. J. & Popescu, G., Nov 2020, In: PloS one. 15, 11 November, e0241084.
    • Rapid SARS-CoV-2 Detection and Classification Using Phase Imaging with Computational Specificity Goswami, N., He, Y. R., Deng, Y-H., Oh, C., Sobh, N., Valera, E., Bashir, R., Ismail, N., Kong, H. J., Nguyen, T. H., Best-Popescu, C. & Popescu, G., Dec 15 2020, (In preparation) Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 28 p. (bioRxiv).


    • Epi-illumination gradient light interference microscopy for imaging opaque structures Kandel, M. E., Hu, C., Naseri Kouzehgarani, G., Min, E., Sullivan, K. M., Kong, H., Li, J. M., Robson, D. N., Gillette, M. U., Best-Popescu, C. & Popescu, G., Dec 1 2019, In: Nature communications. 10, 1, 4691.


    • Magnified image spatial spectrum (MISS) microscopy for nanometer and millisecond scale label-free imaging Majeed, H., Lihong, M. A., Lee, Y. J. A. E., Kandel, M., Eunjung, M. I. N., Jung, W., Best-Popescu, C. & Popescu, G., Mar 5 2018, In: Optics Express. 26, 5, p. 5423-5440 18 p.
    • Prenatal exposure to DEHP induces neuronal degeneration and neurobehavioral abnormalities in adult male mice Barakat, R., Lin, P. C., Park, C. J., Best-Popescu, C., Bakry, H. H., Abosalem, M. E., Abdelaleem, N. M., Flaws, J. A. & Ko, C. M., Aug 1 2018, In: Toxicological Sciences. 164, 2, p. 439-452 14 p.
    • Real-time halo correction in phase contrast imaging Kandel, M. E., Fanous, M., Best-Popescu, C. & Popescu, G., Feb 1 2018, In: Biomedical Optics Express. 9, 2, p. 623-635 13 p., 312902.


    • Cell density modulates intracellular mass transport in neural networks Cintora, P., Arikkath, J., Kandel, M., Popescu, G. & Best-Popescu, C., May 2017, In: Cytometry Part A. 91, 5, p. 503-509 7 p.
    • Halo-free Phase Contrast Microscopy Nguyen, T. H., Kandel, M., Shakir, H. M., Best-Popescu, C., Arikkath, J., Do, M. N. and Popescu, G., Mar 24 2017, In: Scientific reports. 7, 44034.
    • Measurement of multispectral scattering properties in mouse brain tissue Min, E., Ban, S., Wang, Y., Bae, S. C., Popescu, G., Best-Popescu, C. and Jung, W., Mar 1 2017, In: Biomedical Optics Express. 8, 3, p. 1763-1770 8 p., #282487.
    • Quantitative assessment of neural outgrowth using spatial light interference microscopy Lee, Y. J., Cintora, P., Arikkath, J., Akinsola, O., Kandel, M., Popescu, G. and Best-Popescu, C., Jun 1 2017, In: Journal of biomedical optics. 22, 6, 066015.
    • Three-dimensional intracellular transport in neuron bodies and neurites investigated by label-free dispersion-relation phase spectroscopy Kandel, M. E., Fernandes, D., Taylor, A. M., Shakir, H., Best-Popescu, C. and Popescu, G., May 2017, In: Cytometry Part A. 91, 5, p. 519-526 8 p.


    • Label-free, multi-scale imaging of ex-vivo mouse brain using spatial light interference microscopy Min, E., Kandel, M. E., Ko, C. J., Popescu, G., Jung, W. and Best-Popescu, C., Dec 23 2016, In: Scientific reports. 6, 39667.


    • The effects of ethanol on the morphological and biochemical properties of individual human red blood cells Lee, S. Y., Park, H. J., Best-Popescu, C., Jang, S. and Park, Y. K., Dec 1 2015, In: PloS one. 10, 12, 0145327.


    • Brain temperature and its fundamental properties: A review for clinical neuroscientists Wang, H., Wang, B., Normoyle, K. P., Jackson, K., Spitler, K., Sharrock, M., Miller, C. M., Best, C., Llano, D. and Du, R., 2014, In: Frontiers in Neuroscience. 8, SEP, 307.


    • Real Time Blood Testing Using Quantitative Phase Imaging Pham, H. V., Bhaduri, B., Tangella, K., Best-Popescu, C. and Popescu, G., Feb 6 2013, In: PloS one. 8, 2, e55676.


    • Light scattering of human red blood cells during metabolic remodeling of the membrane Park, Y., Best-Popescu, C. A., Dasari, R. R. and Popescu, G., Jan 2011, In: Journal of biomedical optics. 16, 1, 011013.
    • Measurement of the nonlinear elasticity of red blood cell membranes Park, Y., Best, C. A., Kuriabova, T., Henle, M. L., Feld, M. S., Levine, A. J. and Popescu, G., May 27 2011, In: Physical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics. 83, 5, 051925.
    • Metabolic remodeling of the human red blood cell membrane measured by quantitative phase microscopy Park, Y. K., Best, C., Auth, T., Gov, N. S., Safran, S. and Popescu, G., 2011, Imaging, Manipulation, and Analysis of Biomolecules, Cells, and Tissues IX. 79021M. (Progress in Biomedical Optics and Imaging - Proceedings of SPIE; vol. 7902).
    • Optical sensing of red blood cell dynamics Park, Y., Best, C. A. and Popescu, G., 2011, Mechanobiology of Cell-Cell and Cell-Matrix Interactions. Springer, p. 279-309 31 p.


    • “Erythrocyte Nanoscale Flickering: A Marker for Disease” by C. A. Best-Popescu, in “Nanobiophotonics”, Edited by G. Popescu (McGraw Hill, 2010).
    • Measurement of red blood cell mechanics during morphological changes Park, Y. K., Best, C. A., Badizadegan, K., Dasari, R. R., Feld, M. S., Kuriabova, T., Henle, M. L., Levine, A. J. & Popescu, G., Apr 13 2010, In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 107, 15, p. 6731-6736 6 p.
    • Metabolic remodeling of the human red blood cell membrane Park, Y. K., Best, C. A., Auth, T., Gov, N. S., Safran, S. A., Popescu, G., Suresh, S. and Feld, M. S., Jan 26 2010, In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 107, 4, p. 1289-1294 6 p.


    • A double-blind dose-finding pilot study of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) for major depressive disorder Mischoulon, D., Best-Popescu, C., Laposata, M., Merens, W., Murakami, J. L., Wu, S. L., Papakostas, G. I., Dording, C. M., Sonawalla, S. B., Nierenberg, A. A., Alpert, J. E. and Fava, M., Sep 2008, In: European Neuropsychopharmacology. 18, 9, p. 639-645 7 p.
    • Cellular-scale hydrodynamics Abkarian, M., Faivre, M., Horton, R., Smistrup, K., Best-Popescu, C. A. and Stone, H. A., Sep 1 2008, In: Biomedical Materials. 3, 3, 034011.
    • Optical imaging of cell mass and growth dynamics Popescu, G., Park, Y. K., Lue, N., Best-Popescu, C., Deflores, L., Dasari, R. R., Feld, M. S. and Badizadegan, K., Aug 2008, In: American Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology. 295, 2, p. C538-C544


    • Omega-3 fatty acid monotherapy for pediatric bipolar disorder: A prospective open-label trial Wozniak, J., Biederman, J., Mick, E., Waxmonsky, J., Hantsoo, L., Best, C., Cluette-Brown, J. E. and Laposata, M., May 2007, In: European Neuropsychopharmacology. 17, 6-7, p. 440-447 8 p.


    • Increased plasma fatty acid ethyl ester levels following inhibition of oxidative metabolism of ethanol by 4-methylpyrazole treatment in human subjects Best, C. A., Sarkola, T., Peter Eriksson, C. J., Cluette-Brown, J. E. and Laposata, M., Jul 2006, In: Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 30, 7, p. 1126-1131 6 p.
    • Method to assess fatty acid ethyl ester binding to albumin Best, C. A., Laposata, M., Poios, V. G. and Szczepiorkowski, Z. M., May 2006, In: Alcohol and Alcoholism. 41, 3, p. 240-246 7 p.
    • Observation of apparent membrane tension in red blood cells using actively stabilized hilbert phase microscopy Popescu, G., Ikeda, T., Best, C. A., Goda, K., Badizadegan, K., Dasari, R. R. and Feld, M. S., 2006, Biomedical Topical Meeting, BIO 2006. Optical Society of America (OSA), (Optics InfoBase Conference Papers).
    • Optical measurement of cell membrane tension Popescu, G., Ikeda, T., Goda, K., Best-Popescu, C. A., Laposata, M., Manley, S., Dasari, R. R., Badizadegan, K. and Feld, M. S., 2006, In: Physical review letters. 97, 21, 218101.
    • Rapid fatty acid ethyl ester synthesis by porcine myocardium upon ethanol infusion into the left anterior descending coronary artery Yoerger, D. M., Best, C. A., McQuillan, B. M., Supple, G. E., Guererro, J. L., Cluette-Brown, J. E., Hasaba, A., Picard, M. H., Stone, J. R. and Laposata, M., May 2006, In: American Journal of Pathology. 168, 5, p. 1436-1443 8 p.
    • Red blood cell fluctuations during osmolarity changes Popescu, G., Park, Y. K., Best-Popescu, C. A., Badizadegan, K., Dasari, R. R. and Feld, M. S., 2006, Frontiers in Optics, FiO 2006. Optical Society of America (OSA), (Optics InfoBase Conference Papers).


    • Erythrocyte structure and dynamics quantified by Hilbert phase microscopy Popescu, G., Ikeda, T., Best, C. A., Badizadegan, K., Dasari, R. R. and Feld, M. S., Nov 2005, In: Journal of biomedical optics. 10, 6, 060503.


    • Fatty acid ethyl esters. Ethanol metabolites that reflect ethanol intake. Soderberg, B. L., Salem, R. O., Best, C. A., Cluette-Brown, J. E. and Laposata, M., Jun 2003, In: American journal of clinical pathology. 119 Suppl, p. S94-99
    • Fatty acid ethyl esters: Toxic non-oxidative metabolites of ethanol and markers of ethanol intake Best, C. A. and Laposata, M., 2003, In: Frontiers in Bioscience. 8, p. e203-e218
    • Fatty acid ethyl esters: toxic non-oxidative metabolites of ethanol and markers of ethanol intake. Best, C. A. and Laposata, M., Jan 1 2003, In: Frontiers in bioscience : a journal and virtual library. 8, p. e202-217
    • Red blood cell fatty acid ethyl esters: A significant component of fatty acid ethyl esters in the blood Best, C. A., Cluette-Brown, J. E., Teruya, M., Teruya, A. and Laposata, M., Mar 2003, In: Journal of Lipid Research. 44, 3, p. 612-620 9 p.


    • Fatty acid ethyl esters: Recent observations Laposata, M., Hasaba, A., Best, C. A., Yoerger, D. M., McQuillan, B. M., Salem, R. O., Refaai, M. A. and Soderberg, B. L., 2002, In: Prostaglandins Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids. 67, 2-3, p. 193-196 4 p.