A key driver for all scientific research is humanity’s natural instinct for exploration. We are driven to go where no one has gone before, discover what no one has found, and study what has never been seen. Scientists follow this exploratory instinct in all kinds of directions, whether it’s space, the deep ocean, or the human psyche. W.E. Moerner’s work focuses on a different frontier – surpassing the limitations of traditional light microscopes and rendering visible what makes up the basis of all organisms, the inner workings and nanomachines in the cell at the molecular level. Through long years of passionate research, W.E. was the first to optically detect a single molecule, a key step in the co-development of an entirely new field called super-resolution microscopy. This now allows us to explore the smallest imaginable structures in cells, opening a new window to the nanoscale. With scientists and medical researchers using the resulting nanoscopy technologies all over the world today, the influence of W.E.’s work is hard to overstate. Whether it is disease management or drug development, nanoscopy has opened up new avenues for the life sciences and biomedical research. At Falling Walls, W.E. provides insights into the past and future development of super-resolution microscopy, the discovery that won him, along with Eric Betzig and Stefan W. Hell, the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
William Moerner is a Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Physics at Stanford University and leader of the Moerner Lab. His persistent research into super-resolution imaging, visualizing the pathways of individual molecules inside living cells, eventually awarded him the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry which he shared with colleagues Stefan Hell and Eric Betzig. His ardent research allows today’s scientists to peek into the nano-scale worlds of proteins and smallest molecules, creating a new understanding of diseases and innovations in many scientific fields.