Harvard's Xie to receive award for laser and microscopy based research

May 21, 2008--Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) professor Xiaoliang Sunney Xie is one of the founding fathers of single-molecule biophysical chemistry, specifically single-molecule enzymology; much of his research involves the use of lasers and microscopy.

May 21, 2008--Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) professor Xiaoliang Sunney Xie is one of the founding fathers of single-molecule biophysical chemistry, specifically single-molecule enzymology; much of his research involves the use of lasers and microscopy. For his contributions to high-resolution optical-imaging techniques, Xie will receive the Berthold Leibinger Zukunftspreis for outstanding research in applied laser technology. The prize will be presented to Xie by jury member Professor Theodor Hänsch at an award ceremony in Ditzingen, Germany on September 15, 2008. Worth 20,000 Euro, the prize is being awarded for the second time; the first recipient was Professor Jeffrey H. Kimble of the California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, CA) in 2006 for his work on cavity quantum electrodynamics.

Video: In a time-lapse movie of dividing E. coli cells with 55 minute division time, protein production is monitored one molecule at a time. Each yellow flash in the fluorescent overlay is due to a single newly born fluorescent protein molecule. (Elapsed time in video: 210 minutes. Running time of video: 10 seconds.)


The person presenting the award this year to Xie is quite famous in his own right--Theodor Hänsch shared half of the 2005 Nobel Prize for his work in laser-based spectroscopy, including his development of the ultrafast-laser-based optical-frequency-comb technique.

A recent success of the Xie group at Harvard's Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology is a real-time molecule-by-molecule movie of protein production in live cells. The direct observation of single fluorescent molecules in single cells is of great importance in probing gene expression. This generation of proteins according to the genetic codes in DNA is a core process of live regulation in cells. A better understanding of this process will enable scientists to develop new strategies to fight against many diseases.

Sunney Xie is also well-known for his development work on CARS (coherent anti-Stokes Raman Scattering) microscopy (see Laser Focus World May 2008, p. 74, Photonic Frontiers, for both a mention of Xie and a comment of his on CARS microscopy). Due to Xie's relentless efforts, CARS microscopy has become one of the most important developments in light microscopy. Xie not only first recognized the full potential of CARS in biological imaging, but he also eliminated most of its technical challenges as well. Unlike fluorescence microscopy, CARS can be used when the observed material cannot be tagged with or is intolerant of fluorescent markers. Xie's team has demonstrated the use of CARS microscopy to identify tumors and monitor metabolism.

Born in Beijing, China, Professor Xie earned his doctorate in chemistry at the University of California at San Diego in 1990. After postdoctoral fellowship and Chief Scientist positions at the University of Chicago and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Richland, WA) respectively, he became Professor of Chemistry at Harvard University in 1999. Xie has been decorated with prestigious awards and prizes, among them the NIH (National Institutes of Health) Director's Pioneer Award in 2004 and the Willis E. Lamb Award for Laser Sciences and Quantum Optics in 2007.

The Berthold Leibinger Zukunftspreis is an international research prize awarded biennially by the German nonprofit foundation Berthold Leibinger Stiftung (Ditzingen, Germany). Together with the Berthold Leibinger Innovationspreis awarded biennially since the year 2000, these prizes support research and innovations on laser sources and the applications of laser light. An international jury of laser experts, medical doctors, and former business executives selects the prize winners.

For more information, go to:

http://bernstein.harvard.edu (the Website of Xie's group at Harvard)

http://www.leibinger-stiftung.de (the Website of Berthold Leibinger Stiftung)

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