Research Interests

W. E. Moerner's research has spanned the areas of spectral hole-burning for optical storage, mechanisms of photorefractivity in organic materials, single-molecule spectroscopy and microscopy in polymeric and biophysical systems, and photonic properties of nanoscale metallic antennas. His group is perhaps best known as being the first to optically detect and measure the spectrum of a single molecule in the condensed phase in 1989. The low-temperature, high-resolution single-molecule spectroscopy of the early 1990's evolved into room temperature biomolecular studies in the late 1990's, and his group was the first to detect and characterize blinking and photoswitching effects for single copies of the green fluorescent protein (GFP) as well as F?rster resonant energy transfer between two GFP emitters. Other biophysical problems of interest have included the orientational behavior of single kinesin motors, diffusion in the plasma membrane, and observation of the directed motion of single proteins in a living cell to determine the subwavelength shape of cellular structures. Professor Moerner's current efforts include development of new single-molecule fluorophores for cellular imaging beyond the diffraction limit, exploration of biological chaperonins as they assist protein folding, and novel trapping devices capable of overcoming Brownian motion to allow extended study of single biomolecules in solution.

Membership Type


Election Year


Primary Section

Section 14: Chemistry

Secondary Section

Section 29: Biophysics and Computational Biology