Winfried Denk becomes a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO)

Acknowledgement of outstanding achievements in microscopy

May 08, 2014

The European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) stands for cutting-edge research in the life sciences. Today, 50 years after its foundation, the organization counts more than 1600 of the world's most renowned scientists as its members. Once a year, these members elect new members, who distinguish themselves through excellent research and extraordinary achievements. This year, Winfried Denk, director at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, was named a new EMBO member. The physicist enhances and develops microscopes in order to visualize neuronal activity and connectivity in the intact nervous system.

Biological processes are based on activities and modifications on a molecular and cellular level. In order to understand such activities in detail they need to be observed where they take place – within the surrounding tissue. This is possible with the aid of optical microscopy. Along with the development of fluorescent dyes, microscopy is today one of the most important technologies in biological research. With these dyes, individual cells, their components or specific cellular processes become visible under the microscope.

Winfried Denk and his team developed new and advanced methods of microscopy for biological and medical research. One of their successes is the co-development of the Multiphoton Microscope. Under this microscope, the strong light scattering, which especially occurs in the brain tissue and causes problems with normal light microscopes, is significantly reduced. Another of his successes was the development of a three-dimensional scanning electron microscope. In this automatic process, an electron microscope scans the surface of a piece of tissue slice by slice. The tissue block is later on reconstructed in three dimensions in the computer.

Winfried Denk studied physics at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich and the Eidgenössische Technischen Hochschule (ETH) in Zurich. He moved to the Cornell University of Ithaca (USA) for his PhD thesis. Subsequently, Winfried Denk worked at the IBM Research Lab in Rüschlikon (Schweiz) and the Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill (USA). In 1999, he was appointed director of the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg. Since 2011, he is director at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried. Winfried Denk has received numerous awards for his work, among others the Leibniz Prize of the DFG and the Kavli Price in Neuroscience, which comes with a prize-money of one million US dollars.

The European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO)

The EMBO supports talented researchers at all stage of their career and promotes the national and international scientific exchange. The aim is to create a European research environment in which scientists can strive to their best.

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