Salk Institute
Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center
Hu  Cang

Hu Cang

Assistant Professor
Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center
Frederick B. Rentschler Developmental Chair

Advances in optical engineering now routinely provide researchers with an unprecedented ability to control, manipulate and detect light. Simultaneously, modern manufacturing and fabrication technologies allow unprecedented insights into a new and virtually uninvestigated nano-world. The Cang Laboratory in the Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center is focused on taking advantage of both these advances to further enhance our ability to manipulate light as a tool to investigate the basic function of biological systems.

One of our primary research aims is to extend the theory of geometric optics to the nanoscale. The goal of this theoretical work is to design a new and novel lens system whose optical resolution will no longer be limited by the wavelength of light. In principle, this "super lens" will enable an optical microscope to reach the same resolution levels as that of an electron microscope. Previously, our group has designed and fabricated novel nano-structures for biological and medical applications. These have included novel nanoparticles that have enhanced the contrast of Spectroscopy-Optical Coherence Tomography (S-OCT), a technique that holds potential as a diagnostic tool for early cancer detection. In addition, our group has fabricated optical antennas that harvest photons from dye molecules, enhancing their brightness by nearly a factor of 1,000. We hope to use these special antennas to monitor conformational changes in a single protein molecule in real-time. We also plan to integrate these optical antennas with our previously developed single-molecule tracking technology to measure how single proteins function and how they are synchronized with other proteins within the complex three-dimensional environment of a living cell.

Lab Positions

We are seeking students or postdocs to join efforts in the development of novel nano-photonics tools for biological and medical studies. Candidates with experience in any of the following areas are highly desired: experimental optics, theoretical or computational optics, and molecular biology or biophysics. Please contact Dr. Hu Cang ( for more information.


  • BS Chemistry, University of Science and Technology of China, China
  • MS Electrical Engineering, Stanford University
  • PhD Chemical Physics, Stanford University

Awards and Honors

  • National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director's New Innovator Award, 2015
  • Ray Thomas Edwards Career Development Award, 2013 - 2016
  • Annual Review of Physical Chemistry Award, 2005
  • Franklin Veatch Memorial Fellowship, Stanford University, 2002-2003

Selected Publications

  • Hu, Y.; Nan, X.; Lippincott-Schwartz, J; Cang, H. Accelerating 3B microscopy with cloudy computation. Nature Methods 2013, (10), 96-97.
  • Hu Cang; Anna Labno; Changgui Lu; Xiaobo Yin; Ming Liu; Christopher Gladden; Xiang Zhang, Probing the distribution of electromagnetic field of a 15nm sized hotspot by single molecule imaging. Nature 2011, (469), 385
  • Cang, H.; Xu, C. S.; Montiel, D.; Yang, H., Guiding a confocal microscope by single fluorescent nanoparticles. Opt Lett 2007, 32, (18), 2729-31.
  • Cang, H.; Wong, C. M.; Xu, C. S.; Rizvi, A. H.; Yang, H., Confocal three dimensional tracking of a single nanoparticle with concurrent spectroscopic readouts. Applied Physics Letters 2006, 88, (22).
  • Cang, H.; Sun, T.; Li, Z. Y.; Chen, J. Y.; Wiley, B. J.; Xia, Y. N.; Li, X. D., Gold nanocages as contrast agents for spectroscopic optical coherence tomography. Optics Letters 2005, 30, (22), 3048-3050.

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