This year NESM tried something new – a fall symposium with a unifying theme. The Symposium, called “Development of Microscopy Tools and Techniques” was held at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, MA, on Nov 20th.
After a warm welcome from 2014 president
Blair Rossetti, Jun Xu, a research scientist at the Department of Mechanical Engineering, MIT, presented his work on mapping plasmonic nanostructures by electron induced near field optical microscopy. Using the unmatched spatial resolution of low-energy excitation by swift electrons, he was able to show and explain the properties of dark plasmons in metal nanoantenna and nanocavities, opening new possibilities for achieving better detection of nanostructures.
Or Shemesh, a postdoctoral researcher from Ed Boyden’s group at the MIT Media Lab, presented his work in synthetic neurobiology. His talk highlighted a novel method to label neuronal membranes, both in vitro and in vivo, using nitrogen vacancy nanodiamond technology. These nanodiamonds can be solubilized, and bind to cell membranes without being internalized. He showed that the unique characteristics of nitrogen vacancy allow nanodiamonds embedded in membranes to be detectable by microscopy, and that color detection can be modulated by voltage and electron spin. His research may open new doors to the way we think about membrane voltage, and lead to even more innovation in the methods to study these phenomena directly in living tissues.
Anne Carpenter, the director of the Imaging Platform at the Broad Institute, discussed her work developing image analysis techniques for extracting information from large data sets. Her software, CellProfiler, is an open-source high-throughput image analysis software package, and is the result of numerous collaborations with research groups across the life sciences. By comparing multiple biometric parameters, Dr Carpenter’s software can be trained to identify which parameter is being altered, and can provide sophisticated distinctions between diseased and healthy cells. This provides a new method for analyzing microscopy data and could identify subtle differences in experimental conditions that were previously impossible to measure.
Peng Yin, a core faculty members in Harvard Wyss
Institute, presented his game-changing application of fluorescent DNA probes (DNA-PAINT) to super-resolution light microscopy. In this method, the photoswitchable proteins used in traditional super-resolution microscopy are replaced with labeled short DNA probes, which create stochastic switching between fluorescence on- and off-states by diffusion and reversible DNA hybridization. They have achieved remarkable resolution of DNA nanostructures and subcellular objects using this technique. In addition, the programmability and specificity of DNA hybridization enables sequential imaging of many different types of molecules in a single cell, thus providing researchers with a richer, more accurate view of cell organization than is possible using current techniques.
The final talk of the night was given by Ben Krasnow, currently a hardware engineer at GoogleX. Krasnow is well known for his innovative work as well as a channel on YouTube describing how to build advanced scientific apparatus and equipment right in your own garage. He presented his work building a wave-scanning device similar to ones used for airport security as well as a scanning electron microscope built in his home for under $1,500, with many parts purchased on eBay. His talk was a delightful finale to a symposium full of innovative technologies.
The evening wrapped up with a buffet dinner and the annual business meeting.