Inaugural Speaker: Eric Betzig


Windows Into The Secret Lives of Cells

Eric Betzig, UC Berkeley, Janelia Research Campus, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute

From the 17th through the 19th century, beautifully artistic micrographs of living specimens were inextricably linked to biological discovery.  However, for much of the 20th century, optical microscopy took a back seat to the powerful new fields of genetics and biochemistry. Starting in the 1980s, the tables started to turn again, thanks to the widespread availability of computers, lasers, sensitive detectors, and fluorescence labeling techniques.  The result has been an explosion of new technologies with the ability to understand the findings of genetics and biochemistry in the context of spatially complex and dynamic living systems at high spatiotemporal resolution. I will discuss the role of my lab in this developing story, and show how an increasingly detailed look at life has increasingly revealed an intricate and beautiful world.

eric betzig
Eric Betzig

Biography of Eric Betzig

Eric Betzig is a Professor of Molecular and Cell biology, the Eugene D. Commins Presidential Chair in Experimental Physics, a Senior Fellow at the Janelia Research Campus, and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of California, Berkeley. His Ph.D. thesis at Cornell University and subsequent work at AT&T Bell Labs involved the development of near-field optics – an early form of super-resolution microscopy. He left academia in 1995 to work in the machine tool industry. , but returned ten years later when he and friend, Harald Hess, built the first super-resolution single molecule localization microscope in Harald’s living room. For this work, he is a co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Today, Betzig continues to develop new imaging tools to aid in biological discovery, including correlative super-resolution fluorescence and electron microscopy, 4D dynamic imaging of living systems with non-diffracting light sheets, and adaptive optical microscopy to recover optimal imaging performance deep within aberrating multicellular specimens.