Wei Min: The 2023 SPIE Biophotonics Technology Innovator Award

The SPIE Biophotonics Technology Innovator Award recognizes extraordinary achievements in biophotonics technology development that show strong promise or potential impact in biology, medicine, and biomedical optics
11 January 2023
Wei Min at work in his lab.
Min in his Columbia University laboratory, working with a stimulated Raman scattering (SRS) microscope.

Wei Min is a professor of chemistry and biomedical engineering at Columbia University, with a focus on developing novel optical spectroscopy and microscopy technologies for biomedical challenges. As a postdoc in Xiaoliang Sunny Xie’s group at Harvard University, Min played a leading role in the development of an imaging technology called Stimulated Raman Scattering (SRS) microscopy. Based upon the fundamental quantum optics and laser spectroscopy, SRS microscopy is unique among optical imaging modalities in its distinctive capability to visualize the distributions of chemical bonds in living cells and animals with high-resolution three-dimensional optical sectioning. This new microscopy represents a quantum leap over the conventional techniques, as it solves the poor resolution and water interference problem of infrared absorption microscopy, overcomes the poor sensitivity of spontaneous Raman microscopy, and, just as importantly, it circumvents the obstacles of Coherent Anti-Stokes Raman Scattering (CARS) microscopy that Xie’s lab worked on for more than 15 years. As such, SRS microscopy is now the best method in the field for label-free imaging in live cells, animals, and humans. Min not only co-invented SRS instrumentation, but also pushed its sensitivity to the ultimate single molecule level. He has employed SRS to open up major biomedical applications including metabolic imaging of small biomolecules (such as lipids, glucose, and drugs) and super-multiplexed (up to 100 colors) profiling and imaging.

Min currently serves as conference chair for the SPIE conference on Advanced Chemical Microscopy for Life Science and Translational Medicine. He has also served on the program committees for SPIE conferences on High-Speed Biomedical Imaging and Spectroscopy, Visualizing and Quantifying Drug Distributions in Tissue, and Multiphoton Microscopy in the Biomedical Sciences. His work has gained him several awards including the Coblentz Society’s Craver Award, the Physical Chemistry Division of the American Chemical Society’s Early-Career Award in Experimental Physical Chemistry, and the Pittcon (Pittsburgh Conference) Spectroscopy Achievement Award.

“Professor Wei Min is exploring uncharted territory in chemical biology and cellular metabolism,” says Louis E. Brus, Samuel Latham Mitchell Professor of Chemistry at Columbia University. “He demonstrated that in-situ stimulated Raman spectroscopy and imaging of living cells can be a unique tool. As a student he first showed that stimulated Raman scattering microscopy is a powerful physical platform for chemical imaging. Working independently since 2010, he developed vibrational tags as a general chemical strategy for imaging small biomolecules inside living cells, tissues and organisms with good sensitivity, specificity, and biocompatibility. His most recent work, creating and synthesizing ‘pre-resonant’ tags, shows amazing progress. His SRS images of live cells reveal unprecedented relationships and detail in spatial structure and chemical dynamics. The biological applications he has pursued have opened new avenues for fundamental research in biochemistry, biophysics, and neuroscience. He has given an amazing number of invited talks in the past five years, as the international community begins to appreciate the power of his method and approach.”

Meet the other 2023 SPIE Society Award recipients.

Read more about Wei Min and the SPIE Biophotonics Technology Innovator Award.

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