Eric Betzig, Ph.D.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Dr. Betzig obtained a B.S. in physics at the California Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in applied physics at Cornell University. In 1988, he became a principal investigator at AT&T Bell Labs, where he extended his thesis work on near-field optical microscopy, the first method to break the diffraction barrier. By 1993, he held a world record for data-storage density and recorded the first super-resolution fluorescence images of cells as well as the first single molecule images at ambient temperature. Frustrated with technical limitations and declining standards as more jumped into the field, he quit science and, by 1996, was working for his father’s machine tool company. Commercial failure of the technologies he developed there left him unemployed in 2003 and looking for new directions. This search eventually culminated in his co-invention of the super-resolution technique PALM with his best friend and Bell Labs colleague Harald Hess. For this work, he was co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Since 2005, he has been a group leader at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus, developing new optical imaging technologies for biology.

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