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Moerner, W. E.

Moerner, W. E. (William Esco Moerner), 1953–, American physical chemist, b. Pleasanton, Calif., Ph.D. Cornell, 1982. Moerner worked at the IBM Almaden Research Center from 1981 to 1995 and at the Univ. of California, San Diego from 1995 to 1998, when his research group moved to Stanford. In 2014 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry jointly with Eric Betzig and Stefan Hell for their contributions to the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy. Moerner and Betzig did groundbreaking work in single-molecule microscopy. Moerner first measured the light absorption of a single molecule in 1989, and discovered in the late 1990s that a a variant of a green fluorescent protein found in a glowing jellyfish that was used as a marker could be turned on or off by shining specific wavelengths of light on it, laying the foundation for Betzig's discovery a decade later that the on-off capability could be activated using lasers. The technology circumvents the diffraction limit associated with ordinary optical microscopy and allows the imaging of individual molecules inside living cells, shedding light on biology at the nanoscale. Moerner has used it to examine proteins related to Huntington's disease.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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