Eric Betzig

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Eric Betzig
Eric Betzig.jpg
Betzig in 2015
Robert Eric Betzig [1]

(1960-01-13) January 13, 1960 (age 61)
Alma mater California Institute of Technology
Cornell University
Known for Photoactivated localization microscopy
Lattice light-sheet microscopy
Scientific career
Fields Applied physics
Institutions Howard Hughes Medical Institute
University of California, Berkeley
Thesis Near-field Scanning Optical Microscopy  (1988)
Doctoral advisor Aaron Lewis, Michael Isaacson
Influences William E. Moerner

Robert Eric Betzig (born January 13, 1960) is an American physicist who works as a professor of physics and professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley. [2] [3] [4] He is also a senior fellow at the Janelia Farm Research Campus in Ashburn, Virginia. [2] [4] [5]


Betzig has worked to develop the field of fluorescence microscopy and photoactivated localization microscopy. He was awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for "the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy" [6] along with Stefan Hell and fellow Cornell alumnus William E. Moerner. [7]

Dual color localization microscopy SPDMphymod/super-resolution microscopy with GFP & RFP fusion proteins GFP Superresolution Christoph Cremer.JPG
Dual color localization microscopy SPDMphymod/super-resolution microscopy with GFP & RFP fusion proteins

Early life and education

Betzig was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1960, the son of Helen Betzig and engineer Robert Betzig. Aspiring to work in the aerospace industry, Betzig studied physics at the California Institute of Technology and graduated with a BS degree in 1983. He then went on to study at Cornell University where he was advised by Aaron Lewis and Michael Isaacson. There he obtained an MS degree and a PhD degree in applied physics and engineering physics in 1985 and 1988, respectively. For his PhD he focused on developing high-resolution optical microscopes that could see past the theoretical limit of .2 micrometers. [8] [9] [10]


Bell Laboratories

After receiving his doctorate, Betzig was hired by AT&T Bell Laboratories in the Semiconductor Physics Research Department in 1989. That year Betzig's colleague, William E. Moerner, developed the first optical microscope that could see past the .2 micrometer limit, known as the Abbe limit, but it could only function at temperatures near absolute zero. Inspired by Moerner's research, Betzig became the first person to image individual fluorescent molecules at room temperature while determining their positions within less than .2 micrometers in 1993. For this he received the William O. Baker Award for Initiatives in Research (previously known as the National Academy of Sciences Award for Initiatives in Research). [8] Betzig was also awarded the William L. McMillan Award in 1992. [ citation needed ]

Ann Arbor Machine Company

In 1994, Betzig became frustrated with the academic community and the uncertainty of the corporate structure of Bell Laboratories, prompting him to leave both. He spent some years as a stay-at-home dad before reentering the workforce in 1996, when he took up the position of vice president of research and development at Ann Arbor Machine Company, which was owned by the Betzig family. [11] [7] Here he developed Flexible Adaptive Servohydraulic Technology (FAST), but after spending millions of dollars on development he only sold two devices. [8] [9] [11] [12]

Return to academia

In 2002, Betzig returned to the field of microscopy and founded New Millennium Research in Okemos, Michigan. Inspired by Mike Davidson's work with fluorescent proteins, he developed photoactivated localization microscopy (PALM), a method of controlling fluorescent proteins that used pulses of light to create images of a higher resolution than were previously thought possible. In the living room of his old Bell Labs collaborator Harald Hess, Betzig and Hess developed the first optical microscope based on this technology. They built their first prototype in under two months, earning them widespread attention. In October of that year, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Farm Research Campus hired him, but his lab was still under construction at the time. [9]

In early 2006, he formally joined Janelia as a group leader to work on developing super high-resolution fluorescence microscopy techniques. He used this technique to study the division of cells in human embryos. [7] [13] In 2010, he was offered the Max Delbruck Prize, but he declined it and Xiaowei Zhuang received the award. In 2014, Betzig was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry along with Stefan Hell and William E. Moerner. [6] [9] [14]

Eric Betzig at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, November 14, 2018 Eric Betzig 2018.jpg
Eric Betzig at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, November 14, 2018

On May 31, 2016 he was appointed an Academician of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences by Pope Francis.

In the summer of 2017, Betzig joined the faculty of UC Berkeley with a joint appointment at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. [15]

Selected research papers

Related Research Articles

Microscope Scientific instrument

A microscope is a laboratory instrument used to examine objects that are too small to be seen by the naked eye. Microscopy is the science of investigating small objects and structures using a microscope. Microscopic means being invisible to the eye unless aided by a microscope.

Optical microscope Microscope that uses visible light

The optical microscope, also referred to as a light microscope, is a type of microscope that commonly uses visible light and a system of lenses to generate magnified images of small objects. Optical microscopes are the oldest design of microscope and were possibly invented in their present compound form in the 17th century. Basic optical microscopes can be very simple, although many complex designs aim to improve resolution and sample contrast.

William E. Moerner Nobel prize winning American chemical physicist

William Esco Moerner is an American physical chemist and chemical physicist with current work in the biophysics and imaging of single molecules. He is credited with achieving the first optical detection and spectroscopy of a single molecule in condensed phases, along with his postdoc, Lothar Kador. Optical study of single molecules has subsequently become a widely used single-molecule experiment in chemistry, physics and biology. In 2014, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Richard Henderson (biologist)

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Stefan Hell

Stefan Walter Hell HonFRMS is a Romanian-German physicist and one of the directors of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, Germany. He received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2014 "for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy", together with Eric Betzig and William Moerner.

Janelia Research Campus

Janelia Research Campus is a scientific research campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute that opened in October 2006. The campus is located in Loudoun County, Virginia, near the town of Ashburn. It is known for its scientific research and modern architecture. The current Executive Director of the laboratory is Ronald Vale, who is also a vice-president of HHMI. He succeeded Gerald M. Rubin in 2020. The campus was known as "Janelia Farm Research Campus" until 2014.

Nanoscopic scale Structures with a length scale applicable to nanotechnology

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Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz American biologist

Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz is a Senior Group Leader at Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Research Campus and a founding member of the Neuronal Cell Biology Program at Janelia. Previously, she was the Chief of the Section on Organelle Biology in the Cell Biology and Metabolism Program, in the Division of Intramural Research in the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health from 1993 to 2016. Lippincott-Schwartz received her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University, and performed post-doctoral training with Dr. Richard Klausner at the NICHD, NIH in Bethesda, Maryland.

Super-resolution microscopy is a series of techniques in optical microscopy that allow such images to have resolutions higher than those imposed by the diffraction limit, which is due to the diffraction of light. Super-resolution imaging techniques rely on the near-field or on the far-field. Among techniques that rely on the latter are those that improve the resolution only modestly beyond the diffraction-limit, such as confocal microscopy with closed pinhole or aided by computational methods such as deconvolution or detector-based pixel reassignment, the 4Pi microscope, and structured-illumination microscopy technologies such as SIM and SMI.

Xiaowei Zhuang is a Chinese-American biophysicist who is the David B. Arnold Jr. Professor of Science, Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, and Professor of Physics at Harvard University, and an Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She is best known for her work in the development of Stochastic Optical Reconstruction Microscopy (STORM), a super-resolution fluorescence microscopy method, and the discoveries of novel cellular structures using STORM. She received a 2019 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for developing super-resolution imaging techniques that get past the diffraction limits of traditional light microscopes, allowing scientists to visualize small structures within living cells. She was elected a Member of the American Philosophical Society in 2019 and was awarded a Vilcek Foundation Prize in Biomedical Science in 2020.

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Photo-activated localization microscopy and stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (STORM) are widefield fluorescence microscopy imaging methods that allow obtaining images with a resolution beyond the diffraction limit. The methods were proposed in 2006 in the wake of a general emergence of optical super-resolution microscopy methods, and were featured as Methods of the Year for 2008 by the Nature Methods journal. The development of PALM as a targeted biophysical imaging method was largely prompted by the discovery of new species and the engineering of mutants of fluorescent proteins displaying a controllable photochromism, such as photo-activatible GFP. However, the concomitant development of STORM, sharing the same fundamental principle, originally made use of paired cyanine dyes. One molecule of the pair, when excited near its absorption maximum, serves to reactivate the other molecule to the fluorescent state.

Lattice light-sheet microscopy is a modified version of light sheet fluorescence microscopy that increases image acquisition speed while decreasing damage to cells caused by phototoxicity. This is achieved by using a structured light sheet to excite fluorescence in successive planes of a specimen, generating a time series of 3D images which can provide information about dynamic biological processes.

Expansion microscopy (ExM) is a sample preparation tool for biological samples that allows investigators to identify small structures by expanding them using a polymer system. The premise is to introduce a polymer network into cellular or tissue samples, and then physically expand that polymer network using chemical reactions to increase the size of the biological structures. Among other benefits, ExM allows those small structures to be imaged with a wider range of microscopy techniques. It was first proposed in a 2015 article by Fei Chen, Paul W. Tillberg, and Edward Boyden. Current research allows for the expansion of samples up to 16x larger than their initial size. This technique has been found useful in various laboratory settings, such as analyzing biological molecules. ExM allows researchers to use standard equipment in identifying small structures, but requires following of procedures in order to ensure clear results.

Michael Wesley Davidson was an American research scientist and microscopist. He used microscopes to create images of crystallized substances like DNA and hormones, and he contributed to Nobel Prize-honored research about the inner workings of cells. He is credited by 2014 Nobel Laureate Eric Betzig with teaching Betzig and fellow researcher Harald Hess about fluorescent proteins and providing the samples that led to the development of photoactivated localization microscopy (PALM), a super-resolution microscopy technique.

Joachim Frank

Joachim Frank is a German-American biophysicist at Columbia University and a Nobel laureate. He is regarded as the founder of single-particle cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2017 with Jacques Dubochet and Richard Henderson. He also made significant contributions to structure and function of the ribosome from bacteria and eukaryotes.

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  9. 1 2 3 4 Feltman, Rachel (October 8, 2014). "Nobel chemistry laureate's twisting path to molecular microscope breakthrough". Washington Post. Retrieved August 19, 2015.
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  11. 1 2 Timmer, John (April 10, 2015). "Quitting + failures + a microscope in the living room = Nobel Prize". ars technicia. Retrieved August 19, 2015.
  12. Gewin, Virginia (2006). "Eric Betzig, group leader, Janelia Farm Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Leesburg, Virginia". Nature. 440 (7083): 578. doi: 10.1038/nj7083-578a . S2CID   143733760.
  13. Feltman, Rachel (October 8, 2014). "The Nobel Prize in chemistry goes to three men who revolutionized microscopy". Washington Post. Retrieved August 19, 2015.
  14. "EricBetzig: Chemist and Nobel Prize". Starmus. Retrieved August 19, 2015.
  15. Israel, Brett (September 27, 2016). "Nobel Prize winner to join UC Berkeley faculty". Berkeley News. Retrieved September 28, 2016.
  16. Betzig, Eric; Chichester, Robert J. (November 26, 1993). "Single Molecules Observed by Near-Field Scanning Optical Microscopy". Science. 262 (5138): 1422–1425. doi: 10.1126/science.262.5138.1422 . ISSN   0036-8075. PMID   17736823.
  17. Betzig, Eric; Trautman, Jay K. (July 10, 1992). "Near-Field Optics: Microscopy, Spectroscopy, and Surface Modification Beyond the Diffraction Limit". Science. 257 (5067): 189–195. doi:10.1126/science.257.5067.189. ISSN   0036-8075. PMID   17794749. S2CID   38041885.
  18. Betzig, Eric; Patterson, George H.; Sougrat, Rachid; Lindwasser, O. Wolf; Olenych, Scott; Bonifacino, Juan S.; Davidson, Michael W.; Lippincott-Schwartz, Jennifer; Hess, Harald F. (September 15, 2006). "Imaging Intracellular Fluorescent Proteins at Nanometer Resolution". Science. 313 (5793): 1642–1645. doi: 10.1126/science.1127344 . ISSN   0036-8075. PMID   16902090.
  19. Chen, Bi-Chang; Legant, Wesley R.; Wang, Kai; Shao, Lin; Milkie, Daniel E.; Davidson, Michael W.; Janetopoulos, Chris; Wu, Xufeng S.; Hammer, John A.; Liu, Zhe; English, Brian P. (October 24, 2014). "Lattice light-sheet microscopy: Imaging molecules to embryos at high spatiotemporal resolution". Science. 346 (6208). doi:10.1126/science.1257998. ISSN   0036-8075. PMC   4336192 . PMID   25342811.