The pioneers of multiphoton fluorescence microscopy, a technique that allows scientists to image subcellular structures deep within living tissues, will be honored with the 43rd Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Biomedical Science.
Watt Webb, professor emeritus of applied and engineering physics at Cornell; David Tank, the Henry Hillman professor of molecular biology at Princeton; and Winfried Denk, professor of physics at the University of Heidelberg, will receive the award and cash prize at a dinner at Brandeis University on April 10, 2014.
Webb and Denk implemented the principle of multiphoton fluorescent microscopy in 1990, allowing scientists, for the first time, to study how signaling and structural dynamics in individual neurons relate to neural circuitry in awake animals. The microscope excites fluorophores within specimens using long-wavelength light, giving scientists high resolution, three-dimensional images of living tissue.
Denk and Tank worked together on some of the first important applications of multiphoton microscopy — visualizing calcium signaling in living neurons. Both used this technology to understand cellular and circuit mechanisms that underlie key brain computations, such as direction of movement and the ability to navigate in complex environments. Denk has also made advancements in understanding how basic circuit computations such as direction selectivity are carried out by neural circuits in rodents.
The Rosenstiel Award, founded in 1972, is presented annually to scientists who have made discoveries of particular originality and importance to basic medical research. The award was established to highlight the important role educational institutions play in encouraging and developing basic science. Many winners of the Rosenstiel have gone on to win the Lasker and Nobel Prizes.