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2015 Eric Betzig

Dr. Eric Betzig

Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2014 and a
Janelia Research Campus Group Leader,
Howard Hughes Medical Institute

This lecture was held on Wednesday, September 30,
2015 in Rackham Auditorium on the University of
Michigan's Central Campus

Imaging Life at High Spatiotemporal Resolution

As our understanding of biological systems has increased, so has the complexity of our questions and the need for more advanced optical tools to answer them. In my group, we develop such tools: super resolution microscopy for imaging cells down to near-molecular resolution; plane illumination microscopy for imaging 3D intracellular dynamics at high speed; and adaptive optics to recover optimal images from within optically heterogeneous specimens. The application of these tools to a diverse set of biological systems provides a visceral reminder of the beauty and complexity of life.

Biographical sketch for Dr. Eric Betzig

Eric Betzig obtained a B.S. in Physics from Caltech and a Ph.D. in Applied Physics at Cornell. In 1988, he became a PI at AT&T Bell Labs where he extended his thesis work on near-field optical microscopy, the first method to break the diffraction barrier. By 1993, he held a world record for data storage density, and recorded the first super-resolution fluorescence images of cells as well as the first single molecule images at ambient temperature. Frustrated with technical limitations and declining standards as more jumped into the field, he quit science and by 1996 was working for his father's machine tool company. Commercial failure of the technologies he developed there left him unemployed in 2003 and looking for new directions. This search eventually culminated in his co-invention of the super-resolution technique PALM with his best friend, Bell Labs colleague Harald Hess. For this work, he is co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Since 2005, he has been a Group Leader at the Janelia Research Campus, developing new optical imaging technologies for biology.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2014 was awarded jointly to Eric Betzig, Stefan W. Hell and William E. Moerner "for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy."