06/21/2011

Cutting-edge Research using the Electron Microscope: Ernst Ruska Price 2011 for Researchers from Belgium and USA



Dr. Johan Verbeeck, Physicist from Antwerp (Belgium), and Prof. Dr. David Mastronarde, Cell Biologist from Boulder, Colorado (USA), will receive the Ernst Ruska Price 2011 of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Elektronenmikroskopie (DGE; German Society for Electron Microscopy), for their achievements in the field of Electron Microscopy, a research area that was initiated by the Nobel Prize Laureate Ernst Ruska. The Prize will be awarded on the Microscopy Conference in Kiel, Germany, on August 31st 2011, by Prof. Dr. Reinhard Rachel, from the University of Regensburg.

Although the two price winners work in two totally different areas, what they have in common is their keen interest in elucidating fine structures of materials under the electron microscope in as much detail as possible. Electron microscopes were initially invented and built in the 1930's by Ernst Ruska, Nobel Prize Laureate in 1986 for Physics, but their ultimate potential has not yet been fully exploited. In order to encourage and distinguish new developments in this field, the Ernst Ruska Price is awarded every two years by the DGE.

Johan Verbeeck, physicist at the University of Antwerp (Belgium) developed a new method for the quantitative evaluation of energy losses by electrons interacting with matter. Analyses of electron energy losses make it possible to investigate the chemical composition of matter ultimately on an atomic scale, and also to characterize the bonding of atoms. The new method developed by Johan Verbeeck permits quantitative and unbiased data analysis. In addition, he recently demonstrated that it is possible to manipulate electron beams to follow a spiral path, known as vortex. Such electron waves are a new powerful tool that could be used to investigate magnetic structure in new storage devices, or to manipulate single atoms.

David Mastronarde, Professor at the Department of Molecular-, Cell- and Developmental Biology at the University of Boulder (Colorado, USA) has been developing new electron tomography programs for many years. The programs facilitate the fully automatic generation of serial images from pre-defined angles, as well as enable the three-dimensional (3D) reconstruction and analysis of an object. The basics of some of these algorithms were already known from computer tomography (using X-rays), but as such not suitable for electron tomography: they needed to be adjusted comprehensively and fine-tuned in many important parts. David Mastronarde developed and wrote many new tools and modules. The program packages are available for free for different platforms and have found wide acclaim among specialists. As for other open platforms, the further development of the program modules is a two-way process between the developers in Boulder and a continually increasing number of users in a web-based forum.

Source: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Elektronenmikroskopie