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Nobel-prize winner Moerner speaks at Emory on Tuesday

Emory Report | April 11, 2016

Nobel Laureate W. E. Moerner will discuss his groundbreaking work to view the inner workings of cells in high resolution – during a Hightower Lecture Tuesday in the Candler School of Theology’s Rita Rollins building.

Moerner, the Harry S. Mosher professor of chemistry and professor of applied physics by courtesy at Stanford University, received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2014 for developing optical techniques to detect nanoscale molecular structures and processes.

His lecture, “The Story of Single Molecules,” will trace the development from early work in spectroscopy to Nobel prize-winning super-resolution microscopy techniques.

The resolution of conventional-light microscopy is limited to several hundred nanometers by the diffraction of light. Techniques for selectively illuminating and imaging single fluorescent molecules improve the resolution to a few tens of nanometers.

This, in combination with point spread function engineering, allows the three-dimensional position and orientation of single molecules to be followed in optical microscopes. These are key technologies with which to understand molecular structure in living systems such as protein superstructures in bacteria and amyloid fibril assembly, and are transforming biomedical research.

“Microscopy transformed science by allowing us to see organisms and structure on the microscale. Moerner’s talk will be a rare opportunity for the Emory community to learn how he and his colleagues have retransformed this technology extending our ability to resolve fine structure to the nanoscale and enabling unprecedented insight into cell biology,” says Emory physics professor Laura Finzi.

For more information about Moerner and his work, visit his Stanford page

Moerner’s lecture begins at 3 p.m. April 12 in room 252 of the Rita Anne Rollins building, part of the Candler School of Theology. The event, sponsored by the Emory College Department of Physics, is free and open to the public