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Friday, 10 October, 2014

An important jigsaw piece to the Nobel prize

Credit JKU Linz

Prof. Thomas Klar
(Credit: JKU Linz)

In 1999 this year´s Nobel laureate in Chemistry, Stefan Hell, disproved the dogma of the resolution limit of light microscopy. First author of the decisive publication was Thomas Klar, who later moved to the LMU München and became one of NIM´s first Junior Principle Investigators.

By developing a super-resolved fluorescence microscope, Professor Stefan Hell did surpass the limitations of optical microscopy, an achievement for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry at the beginning of October. In 1994, the scientist was the first to publish theoretical proof of the method’s feasibility. Five years later, Hell – then group leader at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen – was able to also provide experimental evidence for its viability. Since 2002, the scientist has been heading the Institute’s NanoBiophotonics department and is one of its directors.

120-year-old dogma refuted

The decisive paper was published in 1999. It was titled “Subdiffraction resolution in far-field fluorescence microscopy” with Thomas Klar, at the time one of Stefan Hell’s PhD students, as first author. The then PhD student is now professor and heads the Institute of Applied Physics at the University of Linz, Austria. He has fond memories of his time in Göttingen: “First and foremost I am very grateful that I had the privilege of being part of the team that broke the 120-year-old dogma of the diffraction limit for microscopy. I very well remember the feeling I had when, for the first time, I measured a point-spread function which was smaller than Abbe’s stipulated diffraction limit.”

Education at the LMU

Thomas Klar spent an important part of his scientific career at the LMU Munich, where he studied physics and wrote his diploma thesis at the Chair of Photonics and Optoelectronics headed by Professor Jochen Feldmann. After having received his PhD in Göttingen, he returned to Munich where he spent another six years as scientific assistant. During that time, Thomas Klar witnessed the establishment of the “Nanosystems Initiative Munich (NIM)” cluster of excellence and was one of the first young scientists promoted by NIM.

The subject of his PhD thesis accompanies the physicist until today. “This particular field of research is very captivating and spurs you on to new deeds,” explains Thomas Klar. “In Linz, we are working for example on further developing the principle of STED microscopy so we can also print below the diffraction limit in optical lithography.”


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