Visualizing Life at the Nanoscale
UKRI Future Leader Fellow & Lecturer
University of Leeds (UK)
Please explain your research in simple words
I develop and adapt new optical microscopy methods (the family of techniques known as 'super-resolution' microscopy') to visualise proteins, nucleic acids and lipid membranes within cells. Visual information that we collect from these techniques go towards simulating virtual experiments and to understand how the interaction of molecules orchestrate life in the nanoscale within vital organs such as the heart and the brain.
Monday - How I came to focus on super-resolution microscopy and high-end optical microscopies
Tuesday - An overview of the different types of super-resolution techniques available today
Wednesday - Current challenges and the leading edge of the super-resolution field
Thursday - How I went about building my own research group, and what early career researchers might need to consider on a path to independence
Friday - The barriers and challenges faced by the microscopy community as a force for revolutionising science, technology, engineering, mathematics & medicine (STEMM).
What can the followers expect in your curation week?
How did you end up in your current research field?
I trained as a biomedical researcher with an interest in cellular-level signalling. The fundamentals of such signalling takes place in nanometre or sub-micron length scales. This has brought about the need to invest time and technology into optical imaging techniques which can observe life at the nanometre-scale. I was a contemporary to the revolution that followed the development of the 'super-resolution' microscopy concept. So, here I am.
single molecule imaging and super resolution microscopy
How and where does your research fall in the domain of materials/nano science?
Which research project are you most proud of and could you explain it in simple words in the section we call #InOtherwords?
A giant protein called the 'ryanodine receptor' is one of the key signalling 'hubs' within most complex cells. Over 20,000 papers have been published, to-date, on these proteins. I was the first person to optically visualise individual ryanodine receptors in their native environment.
Firstly, complete equity in the way research funding is allocated to scientists. Secondly, do away with the metrics which often devalue the efforts and the impact of the research. Thirdly, broaden the types of research outputs that are recognised as positive contributions (this includes placing greater value on preprints, open source outputs and open data sharing).
If you had 3 wishes to improve your research experience, what would you ask for (not promising anything here!)?
What are you most looking forward to in the next 3 months?
I am looking forward to building a brand new research team in the University of Sheffield.
There is a host of challenges at the moment. For sustaining the nano sciences fields, the main ones are the lack of equality, diversity, inclusion and access. Also noteworthy, are the lack of research funding and capital for retaining skills and progressing careers. Scientifically, the main challenges include the expensive and bulky nature of the imaging instruments, the slow nature of the imaging techniques which are currently mainstream, and the lack of interdisciplinary collaborations which put this technology to good practical use.