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Biomedical Engineering Team Awarded $1.97M to Transform Bioimaging Technology

Shu JiaProfessor Shu Jia,in the Department of Biomedical Engineering of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the School of Medicine, received a $1.97M, five year Maximizing Investigators’ Resource Award (MIRA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The goal of MIRA is to increase the efficiency of NIGMS funding by providing investigators with stability and flexibility to enhance productivity and foster cutting edge scientific breakthroughs.

Jia’s research, “Exploring Single-Molecule Biophotonics for Ultrahigh-Resolution Spatiotemporal-Multiplexed Optical Microscopy” focuses on new technological developments to understand the distribution and interactions of molecules in three-dimensionally organized cellular networks that are fundamental to the function of living systems.

“When light comes out of traditional microscopes, it always has a focal spot, and the spot will always have a finite size. That limits how small we can observe in, for example, a biological sample of a cell.” Jia explained. “Our goal is to break this limit.”

To date, a complete understanding of how local molecular mechanisms are integrated over larger scale to support tissue functions, or contribute to disease initiation, is still lacking. The challenges are due to limitations in imaging technology to provide molecular specificity, nanometer-scale resolution, and ultrafast speed across larger volumes of tissue. The proposed research plan investigates the physical and engineering principles underlying optical imaging in complex biological materials, and utilizes these principles to develop new biophotonic tools for next-generation light microscopy.

Shu Jia“This is interdisciplinary research between engineering, biology, and medicine, so in the lab we have researchers from physics, electrical engineering, optics, and computer science,” said Jia. “We’ll develop it and collaborate with biologists to tackle the problem.”

In the long-term, the proposed program is expected to not only provide groundbreaking insights for brain study, but also open up many new pathways to a broad range of biomedical research, and enable discoveries that will address the challenges of human well-being.

“The collaborative and cross-cutting research in Professor Jia’s lab is at the heart of what we strive for here at Stony Brook,” said Fotis Sotiropoulos, Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “We look forward to the many engineering breakthroughs that will come from his lab as a result of this grant over the next five years.”

Previously, Professor Jia also received funding from DARPA and NSF in 2016 to support his next-generation optical imaging research. The Jia Laboratory aims to attain a better understanding of the molecular basis for the functions of tissues and organisms. To achieve the goal, the group investigates the physical and engineering principles underlying single-molecule imaging in complex biological materials, and utilizes these principles to develop new biophotonic methods for super-resolution microscopy. These methods include optical physics, optical wavefront engineering, single-molecule biophysics, adaptive optics, phase microscopy, large-data processing, advanced instrumentation, and nano-fabrication.

First trained as an applied physicist and electrical engineer and later as a bioimaging expert, Professor Jia is passionate about advancing imaging technology with new physical concepts and engineering design. He received his PhD in electrical engineering and PhD minor in physics from Princeton University and was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University from 2010-2014. Professor Jia has been an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering since 2015.

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