Simons Foundation Lectures are free public colloquia related to basic science and mathematics. These high-level talks are intended for professors, students, postdocs and business professionals, but interested people from the metropolitan area are welcome as well.
As our understanding of biological systems has increased, so has the complexity of our questions and the need for more advanced optical tools to answer them. For example, there is a hundredfold gap between the resolution of conventional optical microscopy and the scale at which molecules self-assemble to form subcellular structures. Furthermore, as we attempt to peer more closely at the three-dimensional, dynamic complexity of living systems, the actinic glare of our microscopes can adversely influence the specimens we hope to study. Finally, the heterogeneity of living tissue can seriously impede our ability to image at high resolution, due to the resulting warping and scattering of light rays.
Eric Betzig will describe three areas focused on addressing these challenges: super-resolution microscopy for imaging specific proteins within cells at various lengths, scaling down to near-molecular resolution; plane illumination microscopy using non-diffracting optical lattices for noninvasive imaging of three-dimensional dynamics within live cells and embryos; and adaptive optics to recover optimal images from within large, optically heterogeneous specimens, such as zebrafish and the cortex of living mice.