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Betzig, Robert Eric

Betzig, Robert Eric, 1960–, American physicist, b. Ann Arbor, Mich., Ph.D. Cornell, 1988. Betzig worked at AT&T Bell Laboratories from 1988 to 1996, when he become vice president of research and development at Ann Arbor Machine Company. In 2006, he joined the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, where he is now group leader at the Janelia Research Campus. Betzig was the joint recipient with Stefan Hell and William Moerner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their contributions to the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy, which has circumvented a fundamental limitation of optical microscopy—that the resolution can never be better than half the wavelength of light used—and improved the resolution of fluorescence microscopy to the point where scientists can now see inside living cells. Moerner and Betzig did groundbreaking work in single-molecule microscopy. Betzig built on Moerner's earlier work with a green fluorescent marker protein, laying first the theoretical groundwork and then demonstrating that the fluorescence of different molecules inside a cell could be turned on and off using lasers as the same area was imaged multiple times, yielding a detailed high-resolution image when the multiple images were superimposed. Betzig has used the technique to track cell division inside embryos.

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

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