Jan Huisken

Seeing is believing with powerful microscopy

Jan Huisken

Jan Huisken

Director, Morgridge Medical Engineering

Medical Engineering

I build smarter, cheaper microscopes because I want to help people use technology to see biology in ways they’ve never seen it before. It’s important to me that the data I produce is appealing and revealing. Looking at something that is behaving, something that’s alive, made me interested in working on concepts that go beyond what people have achieved so far.

During my PhD work we were looking for an instrument that would allow us to collect data from different sides of one sample and then combine this data. We came up with this idea of illuminating the sample from the side with a sheet of laser light.

Now we combine this light sheet microscopy with new techniques where you can make tissue samples more or less transparent and then image them at high resolution.

Our strength is that we always develop a microscope together with a biologist, and demonstrate the performance of the instrument with a particular biological question. We are best known for imaging the developing beating heart in an intact zebrafish. The microscope enabled us to record multidimensional data sets that were impossible before.

Our microscopes are much more powerful than any commercial instrument, because we can customize them. That gives us the advantage that we, and our collaborators, can do experiments that nobody else can do because we address every single aspect in a modern biological experiment.

I want to open up the market so that biologists get their hands on cutting edge technology built in an engineering lab and don’t have to wait for the commercialization to happen. Once we develop a new microscope that we can easily make, the idea is to build several and send them out to many labs, collect their feedback, and improve the technology. It would change the microscopy landscape quite dramatically.

Fearless Science

Science moves. It unlocks mysteries in medicine and opens new doors in human health. But science doesn’t thrive by asking safe questions. It moves when we push fearlessly into new frontiers. This Spring 2018 report explores science with the promise to move our lives.

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