Faculty Recruit: Betzig

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Betzig Title
By Kirsten Mickelwait

Professor Eric Betzig
Professor Eric Betzig (Photo credit: Matt Staley)

According to Eric Betzig, the best science often occurs when things collide — or, more specifically, when scientists of different disciplines bump into each other. He should know about innovative science: Betzig won the 2014 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work developing superresolution fluorescence microscopy, which allows scientists to look inside cells and see the pathways of individual molecules.

This summer, he’ll become UC Berkeley’s eighth active Nobel Laureate, bringing its list of lifetime faculty members to 22. He‘ll perform research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and will join the faculty in the Molecular Biophysics and Integrated Bioimaging Division of the Biosciences Area. He’ll also serve as a professor in the Departments of Molecular & Cell Biology and Physics and as a member of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute.

Betzig, who describes himself as an inventor with a physics education, comes to campus from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus in Ashburn, Virginia. He was drawn to Berkeley because of its reputation as a world leader in imaging, and for its extremely broad disciplinary reach. Ultimately, he’d like to help create an advanced imaging center to attract scientists from all over the world, promoting creative collaboration on the Berkeley campus and beyond.

After winning science’s highest honor, Betzig wants to find a new direction that’s both impactful and risky. “There’s nothing left for me to prove in microscopy,” he says. “At Berkeley I want to feel scared again. I have nothing to lose.”

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