Inside Salk - May 2011 - page 7

While the buzz about biophotonics
may
revolve around advancedmicroscopy and
the remarkable images it produces, the ability
to peer into the complex workings of a living cell
generates an avalanche of new data. A single
experiment can require hundreds of gigabytes,
so data management and image analysis are
crucial parts of theWaitt Center’s function.
The center also provides training in the dif-
ferent technologies so investigators understand
the possibilities and learn how to use the options
available to them. “The core trains us and
empowers us to use these tools whenever we
need them,” says
Satchidananda Panda
, an
assistant professor in Salk’s Regulatory Biology
Laboratory. “We feel like this is part of our lab.”
Perhaps themost important aspect of the
biophotonics core facility, however, is that it
encourages creativity by freeing researchers from
the responsibility of costly investment in tech-
nology for individual experiments. Traditionally,
at many other institutions, researchers decide
they need a particular instrument and then pay
for it out of their own funding, or the institution
provides it for them. In contrast, the biophotonics
core facility provides all Salk faculty with access
to amuch vaster array of advanced imaging tech-
nologies than they could acquire independently.
This is a transformative approach to research
because it allows investigators to formulate new
experiments theymay not have considered before
and gives them the freedom to explore without the
burden of developing, funding and learning to use
costly technology on their own.
“The core facility is not just a service; it’s a
collaborative environment, like the Salk Institute
itself, where people can do imaging-based cellular
research,” Fitzpatrick says. “We’ve worked hard to
create a facility where investigators come and say,
‘Here is the type of experiment that I want to do,’
andwe direct them to the right techniques and
technology, and work with them on training for
the imaging and also on data analysis.”
From image to discovery
Lightmicroscopy has come a longway since Jonas Salk observed poliovirus-infectedcells through his simplemicroscope (shown farthest left).
Today, Salk scientistsworkwith fully automatedmillion-dollarmicroscopes controlledby computers.
InsideSalk 05 |11
LeadStory
7
James Fitzpatrick
»
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Watch a video about biophotonics at:
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