A seminar by William. E. Moerner, Nobel Prize in Chemistry*, Departments of Chemistry, and by courtesy, of Applied Physics at Stanford University Tuesday 13th October 2015 - 02:00 p.m. Faculté des Sciences Saint Jérôme, Amphithéâtre PASTEUR
More than 25 years ago, low temperature experiments aimed at establishing the ultimate limits to optical storage in solids led to the first optical detection and spectroscopy of a single molecule in the condensed phase. At this unexplored ultimate limit, many surprises occurred where single molecules showed both spontaneous changes (blinking) and light-driven control of emission, properties that were also observed in 1997 at room temperature with single green fluorescent protein variants. In 2006, PALM and subsequent approaches showed that the optical diffraction limit of ~200 nm can be circumvented to achieve super-resolution fluorescence microscopy, or nanoscopy, with relatively nonperturbative visible light. Essential to this is the combination of single-molecule fluorescence imaging with active control of the emitting concentration and sequential localization of single fluorophores decorating a structure. Super-resolution microscopy has opened up a new frontier in which biological structures and behavior can be observed in live cells with resolutions down to 20-40 nm and below. Examples range from protein superstructures in bacteria to bands in actin filaments to details of the shapes of amyloid fibrils and much more. Current methods development research addresses ways to extract more information from each single molecule such as 3D position and orientation, in thick cells. Still, it is worth noting that in spite of all the focus on super-resolution, even in the “conventional” single-molecule tracking regime where the motions of individual biomolecules are recorded in solution or in cells rather than the shapes of extended structures, much can still be learned about biological processes.
Moerner was born on June 24, 1953, at Parks Air Force Base in Pleasanton, California. He attended Washington University in St. Louis and obtained three degrees: a B.S. in physics, a B.S. in electrical engineering and an A.B. in mathematics summa cum laude in 1975. This was followed by graduate study, partially supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, at Cornell University in the group of Albert J. Sievers. He received a M.S. degree in 1978 and a PhD. in physics in 1982. His doctoral thesis was on vibrational relaxation dynamics of an IR-laser-excited molecular impurity mode in alkali halide lattices. Then Moerner worked at the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California, as a Research Staff Member (1981-88), a Manager (1988-89) and Project Leader (1989-95). After an appointment as Visiting Guest Professor of Physical Chemistry at ETH Zurich (1993–94), he assumed the Distinguished Chair in Physical Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California from 1995 to 1998. In 1997 he was named the Robert Burns Woodward Visiting Professor at Harvard University. His research group moved to Stanford University in 1998 where he became Professor of Chemistry (1998), Harry S. Mosher Professor (2003), and Professor, by courtesy, of Applied Physics (2005). Moerner was appointed Department Chair for Chemistry from 2011 to 2014. His current areas of research and interest include : single-molecule spectroscopy and super-resolution microscopy, physical chemistry, chemical physics, biophysics, nanoparticle trapping, nanophotonics, photorefractive polymers, and spectral hole-burning. Moerner was listed as a faculty advisor in 26 thesis and write more than 386 publications.