Feb 082011
Authors: Courtney Riley

Lightsabers might not just be every little kids’ dream anymore; it could become a reality in the form of a new microscope two CSU professors are developing.

Stuart Tobet, a professor in biomedical sciences, and Randy Bartels, associate professor in electrical and computer engineering, received a $1 million grant from the Keck Foundation to create a microscope that will be able to see molecules in live tissue and how they react with each other.

“Picture a laser gun from Star Wars hitting snowflakes in the air and getting a signal of what the snowflakes are composed of,” Tobet said.
Bartels said the lasers combined in the microscope will provide sequences of pulses to tickle molecules and see how they’re communicating with each other. Tobet compared these pulses to turning a flashlight on and off.

The Keck Foundation awards grants funding for high-risk, strongly rewarding research projects in the science, engineering and medical fields.
According to a press release, Bartels and Tobet will use the grant to create the Keck Laboratory for Ultrasensitive Raman Microscopy, which will be located in the new Engineering Building scheduled to begin construction this spring at the southeast corner of Laurel Street and Meridian Avenue.

Bartels and Tobet began their collaboration about two years ago.

“There was very tough competition and it was a long, involved process,” Tobet said.

Bartels has studied lasers for the past 15 years. According to a press release he is the head of CSU’s Laboratory for Ultrafast and Nonlinear Optics, “where his research concentrates on the generation and control of short laser pulses and their use for the control of quantum dynamics –– to precisely control the positions of atoms in molecules.”

In 2006, Bartels was one of 56 scientists in the country who received a Presidential Early Career Award, which is the U.S. government’s most prestigious award for exceptional up-and-coming scientists and engineers.

Tobet’s specialty is in biology. According to a press release, his research has been funded by different foundations since 1989 and focuses on how multiple signals affect migration and cell position in the developing nervous system, particularly the migratory behavior of cells that contribute to sex differences in structure or function.

According to a press release he also investigates the differences between males and females in their ability to protect and recover from internal and external assaults, including brain injuries that occur during development or the harmful influences of environmental toxicants.

Bartels and Tobet said their research and success depends on the talents of each other, as well as other scientists.

“I wanted to find someone whose problem I had a solution to,” Bartels said. “We sat down over sushi and formulated ideas that we have been working on for about the past two years.”

Tobet said it’s essential to break down the communication barriers between different disciplines. For example, an abbreviation for something in biology stands for an entirely different concept in physics.

“We need to get people to talk to each other across their language barriers, as opposed to using jargon from their own field,” Tobet said. “We’re teaching each other.”

Staff writer Courtney Riley can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 5:34 pm

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