Ph.D., University of Groningen, the Netherlands, 2001, Chemical Physics
The ability to see the cell's molecular machinery at work has contributed immensely to our understanding of cellular functioning. Optical microscopy in combination with selectively labeling of molecular compounds lies at very foundation of our ability to zoom into the microscopic world of cells. Thanks to the molecular sensitivity of fluorescence microscopy, the cell's dynamic pathways can now be followed with high spatial and temporal resolution.
Despite the triumph of fluorescence microscopy, there are several complications associated with the use of fluorescent labels, which can significantly compromise certain applications in cellular and systems biology.
Chemically selective imaging without fluorophores can be achieved with vibrational microscopy. The intrinsic molecular bond vibrations leave molecular specific fingerprints in the vibrational spectrum. However, the weakness of these spectroscopic features have limited the use of vibrational contrast for real-time cellular imaging. But not anymore. In recent years, new molecular imaging techniques, such as coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering microscopy, or CARS in short, have been developed for rapid vibrational imaging of living cells. In Professor Potma's lab, he and his team focus on advancing and applying novel imaging techniques to unveil the molecular secrets of microscopic biological systems.