W. E. Moerner.

W. E. (William Esco) Moerner, the Harry S. Mosher Professor of Chemistry and Professor by courtesy of Applied Physics, has conducted research in physical chemistry, biophysics, and the optical properties of single molecules, and is actively involved in the development of 2D and 3D super-resolution imaging for cell biology. Imaging studies include protein superstructures in bacteria, structure of proteins in cells, studies of chromatin organization, and dynamics of regulatory proteins in the primary cilium. Using powerful microscopes optimized for tracking of single objects in cells, the motions of proteins, DNA, and RNA are being measured in three dimensions in real time to understand processing and binding interactions. A related research area concerns precise analysis of photodynamics of single trapped biomolecules in solution, with applications to photosynthesis, protein-protein interactions, and transport measurements.

Professor Moerner’s scientific contributions were recognized with the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy.” One method to surpass the optical diffraction limit (PALM/STORM) uses single-molecule imaging combined with a control mechanism to keep the concentration of emitting molecules at a very low level, followed by sequential localization to reconstruct the underlying structure. The fundamentals of this idea came from early work in the Moerner lab: optical detection and imaging of single molecules (1989) combined with blinking and switching at low temperature, as well as the discovery of optical control of single copies of green fluorescent protein at room temperature (1997). Among many other honors and awards, Professor Moerner was elected fellow of the American Physical Society, Optical Society of America, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Academy of Arts and Sciences; and member of the National Academy of Sciences.