Friday Evening Lecture Series – Porter Lecture – “Pushing the Envelope in Biological Fluorescence Microscopy”

Date(s) - 06/22/2012
8:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Lillie Auditorium

Friday Evening Lecture SeriesPorter Lecture – “Pushing the Envelope in Biological Fluorescence Microscopy”
Eric Betzig, Janelia Farm Research Center, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
June 22, 2012, 8:00 PM, Lillie Auditorium

Introduction by Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz

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Lecture Abstract:
Optical microscopy has remained at the forefront of biological discovery for centuries. However, 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. For example, there is a hundred-fold gap between the resolution limits of conventional optical microscopy and the scale at which molecules self-assemble to form sub-cellular structures. Furthermore, as we attempt to peer more closely at the three-dimensional dynamic complexity of living systems, the actinic glare of our microscopes can adversely influence or even kill the very specimens we hope to study. Finally, the heterogeneity essential to life, ranging from organelles within single cells to specialized cell types within tissues and organs, can seriously impede our ability to image at high resolution, due to the resulting warping and scattering of light rays. Dr. Betzig will describe three methods developed in his lab to address these challenges: superresolution microscopy for imaging specific proteins within cells at near-molecular resolution; Bessel beam plane illumination microscopy for minimally invasive imaging of the three-dimensional dynamics within live cells and organisms; and adaptive optics to recover optimal images from within optically heterogeneous specimens.

Physicist and engineer Eric Betzig is a Group Leader at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus where he develops novel optical imaging tools. A pioneer in the development of near-field microscopy for ultra-high resolution imaging, Dr. Betzig spent six years at AT&T’s Bell Laboratories, six years as Vice President of Research and Development at his father’s machine tool company, and three years in his own research and consulting venture.  In this latter role, he and Harald Hess invented PALM, a microscope capable of imaging intracellular proteins at near-molecular resolution. In 2010, Dr. Betzig and his Janelia team invented Bessel beam plane illumination microscopy, a method that uses an exquisitely thin sheet of light to peer inside single living cells, revealing their internal three-dimensional dynamics in unprecedented detail. Over the course of three summers, Dr. Betzig and his team have tested the PALM and Bessel microscopes with students and faculty in the MBL’s Physiology course.  Dr. Betzig received his B.S. in Physics from the California Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. in Applied & Engineering Physics from Cornell University. He holds numerous patents for his inventions and has received the National Academy of Sciences Award for Initiatives in Research (1993), and the William L. McMillan Award (1992).

Dr. Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz will introduce Dr. Eric Betzig. Dr. Lippincott-Schwartz is Distinguished Investigator at the National Institutes of Health, serving as Chief of the Section on Organelle Biology at the Institute of Child Health and Human Development. She has been a faculty member in the MBL Physiology course since 2007. Dr. Lippincott-Schwartz has received numerous professional honors for her development of GFP-based, live-cell imaging approaches. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, and is President-elect at the American Society of Cell Biology. She is also a Nonresident Faculty Fellow at the Salk Institute, and member of the Scientific Review Board of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

About the Porter Lecture:
The annual Porter Lecture is held in honor of Dr. Keith Roberts Porter, a former Director of the MBL considered by many to be the “Father” of the field of cell biology. It is sponsored by the Keith R. Porter Endowment whose goal is to support communication and education in cell biology.

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