Pushing the Limits of Single-Molecule Microscopy

Elizabeth HelblingDate: March 9, 2020
Time: 10:00am
Location: CEPSR 750
Speaker: Adam Backer
Faculty host: Prof. Christine Hendon

Abstract: In recent years, single-molecule microscopy has transformed the field of biological imaging. Using single-molecule methods and image-reconstruction algorithms, it is now possible to resolve structures an order of magnitude smaller than the wavelength of light, thus achieving super-resolution. These advances have established the fluorescence microscope as a premiere non-invasive imaging technology.

My research seeks to enhance the optical tools that underpin super-resolution and single-molecule imaging. By constructing non-traditional microscopes that record additional physical parameters on a molecule-by-molecule basis, we stand to gain unique insights into a variety of biological and materials systems. In my talk today, I will first present one of my Ph.D. projects developing three-dimensional super-resolution methods and describe how this work will benefit from emerging nanophotonic technologies such as optical metasurfaces. Next, I will present a recent project using fluorescence polarization and optical tweezers to explore how the DNA molecule behaves under mechanical tension. This combination of techniques has enabled us to shed new light on a mysterious “overstretched” DNA conformation, which is currently not well understood. Finally, I will discuss how this methodological toolkit could be further expanded to address a wide range of current challenges such as rapid, whole-organism imaging.

Bio: Adam’s work aims to create nanophotonic devices, optical techniques, and computational algorithms to investigate biological systems at the nanoscale. Since joining Sandia as a Truman Fellow, he has pursued an eclectic mix of research topics and enjoyed collaborations with academic labs around the world. Adam received his Ph.D. in Computational Mathematical Engineering from Stanford in 2016, where he performed his doctoral research in the lab of W. E. Moerner. He also holds an M.Phil. in Engineering from Cambridge University, and a B.S. in Engineering and Physics from Brown University.

Event Contact: Eliese Lissner | el3001@columbia.edu


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