Xiaowei Zhuang

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences has awarded the 2018 Dr H.P. Heineken Prize for Biochemistry and Biophysics  to Xiaowei Zhuang, Professor of Physics, Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University in Cambridge (USA).

Examining the behaviour of molecules in living cells

Xiaowei Zhuang is receiving the Dr H.P. Heineken Prize for Biochemistry and Biophysics for her groundbreaking work on developing high-resolution imaging methods and their use in investigating a variety of fundamental biological problems. 

Xiaowei Zhuang uses revolutionary imaging methods with single-molecule sensitivity to visualise what happens deep inside living cells. Thanks to the pioneering work of Zhuang and her team, it is now possible to visualise and track the behaviour of virions, RNA molecules and cytoskeleton filaments in living cells. 

Her work builds on her own invention, STochastic Optical Reconstruction Microscopy (STORM), one of the first and most popular methods of ‘super-resolution’ imaging, which overcomes the diffraction limit of light to produce much sharper images than possible in conventional light microscopy and on a vast scale. 

STORM uses fluorescent dyes that are activated at different times, making it possible to localise individual molecules and thus generate images of hitherto undreamed-of clarity. 

Zhuang’s paper announcing her invention of STORM in 2006 was a milestone in the development of super-resolution microscopy. Zhuang herself is pioneering the application of such methods and using them to seek answers to longstanding, fundamental questions about the machinery of biological cells.

Press photos


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