William E. Moerner

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William E. Moerner
WE Moerner.jpg
Born William Esco Moerner
(1953-06-24) June 24, 1953 (age 61)
Pleasanton, California
Residence American
Nationality American
Fields Chemistry, applied physics, biophysics
Institutions Stanford University
Alma mater Washington University in St. Louis, Cornell University
Doctoral advisor Albert J. Sievers
Notable awards Wolf Prize in Chemistry (2008)
Irving Langmuir Award (2009)
Peter Debye Award
Nobel Prize in Chemistry (2014)

William Esco Moerner (born June 24, 1953) is an American physical chemist and chemical physicist with current work in the biophysics and imaging of single molecules. He is credited with achieving the first optical detection and spectroscopy of a single molecule in condensed phases, along with his postdoc, Lothar Kador.[1][2] Optical study of single molecules has subsequently become a widely used single-molecule experiment in chemistry, physics and biology.[3] In 2014 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.[4][5]

Dual color localization microscopy SPDMphymod/super-resolution microscopy with GFP & RFP fusion proteins

Early life and education[edit]

Moerner was born in Pleasanton, California,in 1953 June 24 the son of Bertha Frances (Robinson) and William Alfred Moerner.[6] He was a boy scout, with the Boy Scouts of America and became an Eagle Scout.[7] He attended Washington University in St. Louis for undergraduate studies as an Alexander S. Langsdorf Engineering Fellow, and obtained three degrees: a B.S. in physics with Final Honors, a B.S. in electrical engineering with Final Honors, and an A.B. in mathematics summa cum laude in 1975.[8] This was followed by graduate study, partially supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, at Cornell University in the group of Albert J. Sievers III.[9] Here he received an M.S. degree and a Ph.D. degree in physics in 1978 and 1982, respectively. His doctoral thesis was on vibrational relaxation dynamics of an IR-laser-excited molecular impurity mode in alkali halide lattices.[10] Throughout his school years, Moerner was a straight A student from 1963 to 1982, and won both the Dean's Award for Unusually Exceptional Academic Achievement as well as the Ethan A. H. Shepley Award for Outstanding Achievement when he graduated from college.[11]

Career and work[edit]

Moerner worked at the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California, as a Research Staff Member from 1981 to 1988, a Manager from 1988 to 1989, and Project Leader from 1989 to 1995. After an appointment as Visiting Guest Professor of Physical Chemistry at ETH Zurich (1993–1994), he assumed the Distinguished Chair in Physical Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego, from 1995 to 1998. In 1997 he was named the Robert Burns Woodward Visiting Professor at Harvard University. His research group moved to Stanford University in 1998 where he became Professor of Chemistry (1998), Harry S. Mosher Professor (2003), and Professor, by courtesy, of Applied Physics (2005).[11][12][13] Moerner was appointed Department Chair for Chemistry from 2011 to 2014.[14] His current areas of research and interest include: single-molecule spectroscopy and super-resolution microscopy, physical chemistry, chemical physics, biophysics, nanoparticle trapping, nanophotonics, photorefractive polymers, and spectral hole-burning.[12] As of May 2014, Moerner was listed as a faculty advisor in 26 theses written by Stanford graduate students.[15] As of May 16, 2014, there are 386 publications listed in Moerner's full CV.[16]

Recent editorial and advisory boards Moerner has served on include: Member of the Board of Scientific Counselors for the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB);[17] Advisory Board Member for the Institute of Atomic and Molecular Sciences, Academica Sinica, Taiwan;[18] Advisory Editorial Board Member for Chemical Physics Letters;[19] Advisory Board Member for the Center for Biomedical Imaging at Stanford.;[20] and Chair of the Stanford University Health and Safety Committee.[14]

Awards and honors[edit]

Moerner is the recipient of a number of awards and honors. They include: National Winner of the Outstanding Young Professional Award for 1984,[21] from the electrical engineering honorary society, Eta Kappa Nu, April 22, 1985; IBM Outstanding Technical Achievement Award for Photon-Gated Spectral Hole-Burning, July 11, 1988;[16] IBM Outstanding Technical Achievement Award for Single-Molecule Detection and Spectroscopy, November 22, 1992;[16] Earle K. Plyler Prize for Molecular Spectroscopy, American Physical Society, 2001;[22] Wolf Prize in Chemistry, 2008;[23][24][25] Irving Langmuir Award in Chemical Physics, American Physical Society, 2009;[26][27] Pittsburgh Spectroscopy Award, 2012;[28] Peter Debye Award in Physical Chemistry, American Chemical Society, 2013;[29][30] the Engineering Alumni Achievement Award, Washington University, 2013;[31] and the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2014.[32][5]

His honorary memberships include Senior Member, IEEE, June 17, 1988,[16] and Member, National Academy of Sciences, 2007.[33][34] He is also a Fellow of the Optical Society of America, May 28, 1992;[35][16] the American Physical Society, November 16, 1992;[36] the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2001;[37] and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2004.[38]

Personal life[edit]

Moerner was born on June 24, 1953, at Parks Air Force Base in Pleasanton, California. From birth, his family called him by his initials W. E. as a way to distinguish him from his father and grandfather who are also named William.[11] He grew up in Texas where he attended Thomas Jefferson High School in San Antonio. He participated in many activities during high school: Band, Speech and Debate, Math and Science Contest Team, Bi-Phy-Chem, Masque and Gavel, National Honor Society, Boy Scouts, Amateur Radio Club, Russian Club, Forum Social Club, Toastmasters, "On the Spot" Team and Editor of Each has Spoken. Moerner and his wife, Sharon, have one son, Daniel.[39]


  1. ^ Reich,Ziv and Kapon,Ruti. 2010. "Foreword by the Guest Editors." (Special Issue dedicated to Prof. Moerner's Achievements.) Israel Journal of Chemistry 49 (3-4), April 2010. DOI: 10.1002/ijch.201090002
  2. ^ W. E. Moerner and L. Kador, "Optical Detection and Spectroscopy of Single Molecules in a Solid," Physical Review Letters 62, 2535 (1989). DOI:10.1103/PhysRevLett.62.2535
  3. ^ Gräslund, Astrid, Rudolf Rigler, and Jerker Widengren. 2010. "Single Molecule Spectroscopy In Chemistry, Physics and Biology: Nobel Symposium number 138". Springer Series in Chemical Physics, v. 96. Heidelberg [Germany]: Springer, 2010. 572 p. DOI:10.1007/978-3-642-02597-6
  4. ^ "Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2014." Nobelprize.org (accessed October 8, 2014).
  5. ^ a b "Professor W.E. Moerner wins the Nobel Prize in Chemistry." Stanford Report, October 8, 2014 (accessed October 8, 2014).
  6. ^ Dignitymemorial.com
  7. ^ http://scoutingnewsroom.org/blog/eagle-scout-william-e-moerner-shares-nobel-prize-chemistry/
  8. ^ Engineering Alumni Achievement Award, Washington University, 2013 (accessed May 1, 2014).
  9. ^ Academic Family Tree. Accessed May 9, 2014.
  10. ^ Moerner, W. E. 1982. Vibrational relaxation dynamics of an IR-laser-excited molecular impurity mode in alkali halide lattices. Thesis (Ph. D.)--Cornell University, Jan., 1982. 591 pages. Worldcat.org
  11. ^ a b c Kan, L., & Lin, S. H. (2011). Wolf Prize in chemistry : an epitome of chemistry in 20th century and beyond. Singapore: World Scientific. p. 556.
  12. ^ a b Stanford University. Department of Chemistry. Faculty. W. E. Moerner. (accessed May 15, 2014).
  13. ^ Stanford University. Department of Applied Physics. W. E. Moerner
  14. ^ a b W. E. Moerner | Stanford University Profiles (accessed May 15, 2014).
  15. ^ Stanford Searchworks. Accessed May 9, 2014.
  16. ^ a b c d e Full CV for W. E. (William Esco) Moerner (accessed May 15, 2014).
  17. ^ NIBIB Board of Scientific Counselors (accessed May 14, 2014).
  18. ^ Institute of Atomic and Molecular Sciences, Academica Sinica, Taiwan, Advisory Board (accessed May 14, 2014).
  19. ^ Chemical Physics Letters Editorial Board, Advisory Editorial Board Member (accessed May 14, 2014).
  20. ^ Center for Biomedical Imaging at Stanford. People(accessed May 15, 2014).
  21. ^ Eta Kappa Nu. Outstanding Young Professional Award. Past Award Recipients.(accessed May 1, 2014).
  22. ^ Earle K. Plyler Prize for Molecular Spectroscopy & Dynamics. (accessed May 1, 2014).
  23. ^ The 2008 Wolf Prize in Chemistry (accessed May 1, 2014).
  24. ^ Hayley Rutger. 2008. "Professor William E. Moerner awarded Wolf Prize in Chemistry." Stanford Report, February 6, 2008.
  25. ^ Kan, L., & Lin, S. H. (2011). Wolf Prize in chemistry : an epitome of chemistry in 20th century and beyond. Singapore: World Scientific. pp. 553–577.
  26. ^ 2009 Irving Langmuir Prize in Chemical Physics Recipient (accessed 1 Mary 2014).
  27. ^ "W.E. Moerner wins chemical physics prize." Stanford Report, October 15, 2008.
  28. ^ Pittsburgh Spectroscopy Award, 2012 (accessed May 1, 2014).
  29. ^ "ACS 2013 National Award Winners." C&EN 90 (34): 53-54 (August 20, 2012).
  30. ^ ACS Peter Debye Award in Physical Chemistry (accessed May 1, 2014).
  31. ^ Engineering Alumni Achievement Award, Washington University, 2013 (accessed May 1, 2014).
  32. ^ "Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2014." Nobelprize.org (accessed October 8, 2014).
  33. ^ Mark Schwartz and Lisa Trei. 2007. "Five professors among new members elected to National Academy of Sciences." Stanford Report, May 3, 2007.
  34. ^ Prashant Nair. 2012. "QnAs with W. E. Moerner." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Apr 24, 2012; 109(17): 6357. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1204426109
  35. ^ Optical Society of America. Fellow Members Directory. (Members and registered users may search for current Fellow Members on-line in a directory.) Moerner is listed a Fellow for 1992 (accessed May 14, 2014).
  36. ^ APS Fellows (accessed May 1, 2014).
  37. ^ "Three Stanford professors elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences." Stanford Report, May 2, 2001.
  38. ^ Mark Shwartz. 2003. "Five professors join the ranks of noted science fellows." Stanford Report, November 5, 2003.
  39. ^ Thomas Jefferson High School Alumni Association - Blog: Mustang Spotlight on W. E. Moerner '71 (retrieved September 16, 2013).isad

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