Research and Teaching Interests
Superresolution Biomedical Imaging in Live Cells
The extension of sophisticated nanoscale optoelectronic tools, techniques and materials to biological systems will enable fundamental discoveries, broaden our understanding of key biological processes, and assist in the development of novel therapeutics. Undertaking such an endeavor at the crossroads of chemistry, biology and engineering requires the development of sensitive experimental methods and careful, quantitative analysis procedures. Research in our group seeks to maximize the impact of single-molecule fluorescence and nanophotonics by applying them to investigations of live cells.
Superresolution techniques based on single-molecule optical microscopy can reach nanometer-scale accuracy. These non-invasive, non-perturbative methods are ideal for investigating biological specimens, and our research is focused on improving these methods and applying them to physiologically relevant problems. Because of their small size and lack of subcellular compartments, the cell biology of bacteria is a particularly difficult challenge for superresolution imaging. One interest in our group is exploring the role of protein-nucleic acid hyperstructures in a host of cellular processes, which can include chromosome and plasmid segregation, DNA replication, cell division, motility, chemo-sensing and signaling, metabolism, cytoskeletal stabilization, and DNA repair. In order to treat these and other problems, we seek to adapt current methodologies to live cell imaging of proteins and nucleic acids, to combine single-molecule fluorescence imaging with plasmon-enhanced emission and quantum dot photophysics, and to improve existing techniques to address limitations of spatial and temporal resolution.
Nanophotonics for Solar Energy and Device Physics
The tools of nanophotonics are not limited in their utility to biological imaging. In particular, when materials are decreased to a small size scale, their fundamental optical properties are altered. Our group is very interested in the photophysics of small metal particles and semiconductor nanocrystals (quantum dots). The fundamental photophysics of such materials can be explored with a combination of computational, analytical, and experimental tools, and these properties can be applied to solar energy and device physics.