Published: 2020-09-02 14:24 | Updated: 2020-09-02 16:17

Lennart Nilsson Award 2020 is awarded to Jan Huisken

Jan Huisken, Director of Medical Engineering at the Morgridge Institute, Madison, Wisconsin, is a pioneer in light-sheet microscopy who has made significant developments to the technique.

Zebrafish embryo growing its elaborate sensory nervous system, captured in a light sheet microscope.
Zebrafish embryo growing its elaborate sensory nervous system, captured in a light sheet microscope. Photo: Liz Haynes, Mary Halloran, Henry He and Jan Huisken

Light-sheet microscopy, also called SPIM (selective plane illumination microscopy), has revolutionized live imaging in biology. In a light-sheet microscope, the sample is illuminated with a thin sheet of light. The light-sheet can be swept rapidly through the sample, and is used to generate a three-dimensional image with high resolution. A distinct advantage with this technique is that low light levels are used, which makes it possible to image living organisms during long time periods. The resulting three-dimensional images are often breathtaking in both beauty and scientific relevance, particularly when coupled with long time lapse imaging, and have led to stunning results in e.g. developmental biology during the past decade.

With a background in optics and laser physics, Dr. Huisken has contributed to the development of light-sheet microscopy techniques with several innovative experimental setups that have generated a major impact on the life sciences. Light-sheet microscopy is today established as a central microscopy technique for many researchers worldwide and is used in a broad range of applications, in particular within developmental and plant biology.

Prize motivation

Jan Huisken is awarded the 2020 Lennart Nilsson Award for his developments and creative use of selective plane illumination microscopy, also known as light-sheet microscopy. His ingenious efforts have enabled many new scientific breakthroughs and have permitted us to make observations of life that were previously not possible to imagine. His images and movies of living organisms are breathtaking, both in their scientific content and their artistic qualities.