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Illinois professor named Packard Fellow

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department of chemical and biomolecular engineering

Charles Schroeder, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, has been named one of 16 Packard Fellows in science and engineering.

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10/24/2011 | Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor | 217-244-1073; eahlberg@illinois.edu

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — University of Illinois chemical and biomolecular engineering professor Charles Schroeder has been named a Packard Fellow in science and engineering. He is among 16 early career researchers honored by the David and Lucille Packard Foundation in 2011 for outstanding creative research.

Pushing the bounds of optical microscopy, Schroeder works to develop techniques and tools to study chemical and biological processes on a molecular scale. His group uses super-resolution imaging and tailored probe molecules to explore the dynamic behavior of cellular and nanoscale systems for applications in materials, biology, energy and optical imaging.

“The Packard award will enable his research group to do high-risk, high-return research that will advance the field of optical microscopy to reach the level of molecular-scale resolution, thereby enabling unprecedented studies of processes of living and non-living systems,” said Paul Kenis, professor and head of the department of chemical and biomolecular engineering.

Schroeder is pursuing several areas of research with the goal of improving optical imaging at very small scales. Current high-resolution techniques can image at 20 to 25 nanometers, but Schroeder hopes that his work with probes, traps and hybrid materials will allow researchers to “zoom in” to the molecular scale – a mere 1 to 5 nanometers.

The Packard Foundation recognized Schroeder for his work with fluorescent probes for ultra-high-resolution imaging. Probe molecules are like small tags that attach to a larger molecule that researchers are studying, allowing them to “see” the molecule and study its function. The latest fluorescent probes from Schroeder’s group are brighter and more stable than other available probes, and can be turned off and on with a laser.

The fellowship includes an unrestricted five-year, $875,000 award to support research of the recipient’s choosing. Schroeder’s award will fund the use of the new probes to study retroviruses and bacterial gene expression.

“We plan to apply these tools to study regulation of anaerobic metabolism with exquisite resolution in single bacterial cells,” Schroeder said. “If we stumble onto something that is exciting and promising, then this award gives us the freedom to explore new directions in research.”

Schroeder earned his doctorate from Stanford University in 2004, then completed postdoctorate fellowships at Harvard University and the University of California at Berkeley before joining the Illinois faculty in 2008. He also is affiliated with the department of materials sciences and engineering and the Center for Biophysics and Computational Biology at the U. of I.

Since its inception in 1988, the Packard Fellowship Program has named 473 fellows, including 12 U. of I. faculty members. Each year, new fellows are chosen from nominations submitted by the presidents of 50 top universities. The Packard Foundation is not the first to recognize Schroeder as one of the most promising young researchers in the U.S., as Genome Technology magazine named him “Tomorrow’s PI” in 2008.

Editor's note: To contact Charles Schroeder, call 217-333-3906; email cms@illinois.edu.
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