Peter Kner

Peter Kner

PI, Optics Team

  • Advanced Imaging Lab
  • University of Georgia

Currently STORM imaging can achieve 20nm resolution fluorescence microscopy in single cells. We hope to get the same resolution, imaging the interior of a cell that is inside a section of tissue or inside an organism.

 

Background

Peter focuses on the development of techniques of super-resolution microscopy and adaptive optics for biological research and biomedical applications.

Peter got excited about STORM super-resolution microscopy soon after it was developed in 2006: STORM increases the power of conventional microscopy ten-fold. Peter knew that with brighter light sources, like quantum dots, STORM could get even better resolution. But the quantum dots would have to be “photoswitchable“— they’d have to be able to be turned on and off. In 2010, Peter met Jessica Winter at an NSF Ideas Lab called "Innovations in Biological Imaging and Visualization." Jessica was using quantum dots as biomarkers in medical diagnostic applications. Peter asked Jessica if she could make switchable quantum dots for use in STORM imaging. She came up with some ideas. They teamed up with biologist Beth Brainerd and bioengineer Ge Yang, who were both looking for ways to record nanoscale dynamics inside living cells. Then they recruited Carol Lynn Alpert to help with communication and education. These five launched QSTORM with NSF funding in 2010. (See qstormlegacy.org.) Peter spearheaded the second QSTORM-AO proposal and now leads our project.

Peter graduated from MIT in 1991 with a B.S. in both Physics and Electrical Engineering. He completed his Ph.D. in Physics at the University of California, Berkeley while working at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He is a tenured professor at the University of Georgia and runs the Advanced Imaging Lab (http://knerlab.engr.uga.edu/) He received a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award in 2014 and has published widely. (http://knerlab.engr.uga.edu/publications/).

Q&A with Peter

Where are you at this point in your career?

I’m never sure how to answer this question. I guess I’m in the middle. I got tenure last Fall. I have some funding to work on a few different exciting microscopy projects. I think things are going well.

 

What’s really exciting about getting this award from the IDBR program?

I’m really happy that we got this funding to continue working on QSTORM. I’m looking forward to working with Carol Lynn and Jessica again, and I’m excited about our ideas for improving STORM and Quantum Dots.

 

How does it build on what we did with QSTORM?

This is a continuation of QSTORM. Building on what we learned, we’re going to combine our previous approach with some new ideas to overcome some of the issues we’ve had imaging in thick samples in the past.

 

What do you hope to accomplish?  

I hope to get some beautiful high resolution images from within different organisms!

 

What limits will the new instrument overcome?

Currently STORM imaging can achieve 20nm resolution fluorescence microscopy in single cells. We hope to get the same resolution, imaging a cell that is inside of an section of tissue or inside an organisms such as a nematode or fruit fly.

 

Which of these will be firsts in the field?

We’ll see. It’s always tricky claiming to be first at anything.

 

Why hasn’t any other team been able to do this?  What do we have now that make us likely to be the ones to make it happen?

We have a great combination of expertise in imaging and quantum dot chemistry, and we have some cool ideas. 

 

What will be the significance for biologists who will have a chance to use the new instrument once it is available? 

I think it will help them understand how proteins function and how cells behave within the context of a larger group of cells and larger biological problem such as how an organism develops or how neurons communicate.

 

What are the most significant challenges the QSTORM-AO team faces – from an engineering point of view and from a biological point of view? 

There are many challenges. We have to solve a host of engineering and chemistry problems in order to get such high resolution from within a sample where any imaging is normally very difficult. 

 

What unique or special education and training experiences will your students have working on this project?

I think one of the great things about this project is that students will be exposed to cutting edge research in a wide variety of disciplines. The project is truly interdisciplinary and students will be exposed to the latest advances in chemistry, optics, and biology.

 

Can you tell us a little about your family and your interests outside the lab?

I like to read and hike. I live with my wife and a very sarcastic 10-year old girl.