Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Myung K. Kim, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Donald Haynie, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Martin Muschol, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jiangfeng Zhou, Ph.D.


cell-substrate interaction, digital holography, four-dimensional tracking, three-dimensional profiling, traction force


In this dissertation, I utilize digital holographic microscopy (DHM) to study the motility of biological cells. As an important feature of DHM, quantitative phase microscopy by digital holography (DH-QPM) is applied to study the cell-substrate interactions and migratory behavior of adhesive cells. The traction force exerted by biological cells is visualized as distortions in flexible substrata. Motile fibroblasts produce wrinkles when attached to a silicone rubber film. For the non-wrinkling elastic substrate polyacrylamide (PAA), surface deformation due to fibroblast adhesion and motility is visualized as tangential and vertical displacement. This surface deformation and the associated cellular traction forces are measured from phase profiles based on the degree of distortion. Intracellular fluctuations in amoeba cells are also analyzed statistically by DH-QPM. With the capacity of yielding quantitative measures directly, DH-QPM provides efficient and versatile means for quantitative analysis of cellular or intracellular motility.

Three-dimensional profiling and tracking by DHM enable label-free and quantitative analysis of the characteristics and dynamic processes of objects, since DHM can record real-time data for micro-scale objects and produce a single hologram containing all the information about their three-dimensional structure. Here, I utilize DHM to visualize suspended microspheres and microfibers in three dimensions, and record the four-dimensional trajectories of free-swimming cells in the absence of mechanical focus adjustment. The displacement of microfibers due to interactions with cells in three spatial dimensions is measured as a function of time at sub-second and micrometer levels in a direct and straightforward manner. It has thus been shown that DHM is a highly efficient and versatile means for quantitative tracking and analysis of cell motility.