New Biochemistry Optical Core manager joins department as campus resource

Photo of Peter Favreau.
Biochemistry Optical Core manager Peter Favreau.

Peter Favreau joined the Department of Biochemistry in July as the new manager of the Biochemistry Optical Core (BOC). The research core is housed in Biochemistry but serves as a resource for all campus researchers using or interested in using microscopy in their research.

Favreau joins the BOC from the Morgridge Institute for Research, where he was a postdoctoral scholar in the lab of biomedical engineering professor Melissa Skala. The project he worked on investigated cancer drug screening. In the Skala Lab he utilized multiple microscopy techniques to help physicians find the right drugs for cancer patients.

“By the end of my postdoc, I knew I was interested in working with people who have science questions that can be answered with microscopy,” Favreau says. “That is why I am so excited to have joined BOC and what I look forward to working on with researchers across campus.”

Microscopy image.
Image of an organoid, which are recreations of tumors that can be grown in a dish. Image by Peter Favreau.

The BOC houses three microscope systems that allow scientists to see many of the most basic interactions in cells, without being limited by resolution or light. The history of the shared facility in the department goes back to 2012, when the Department of Biochemistry made a commitment to invest in expanding its imaging capabilities and serve as a core campus facility.

The idea behind a core campus facility is so that individual faculty don’t have to worry about having their own funds to purchase microscopes or having staff with the needed expertise to use the microscopes. Across campus, the facility currently assists scientists from numerous disciplines — about 173 different researchers from 71 faculty members labs in 23 unique departments across five colleges overall.

“I am looking forward to building on the success of BOC by growing both our technology and user base,” he says. “I’m hoping to expand our outreach efforts even more and help more scientists learn about what we do. I also look forward to asking around the community what kinds of scientific questions they like to ask and try to acquire the technology they’d need.”

Photo of Favreau teaching and pointing at a powerpoint slide with an image on it.
Favreau is also interested in outreach. Here he is at an event hosted by the Morgridge Institute for Research where he helped Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) high school students understand cancer drug screening.

As a musician as well, he is interested in drawing on his creative side to recognize the artistic elements in microscopy. He was involved in science outreach to the public at Morgridge and sees the facility and its microscopy focus as another great avenue to expose members of the broader community to important science.

The Department of Biochemistry also hosts other core facilities, such as the National Magnetic Resonance Facility at Madison (NMRFAM), Biophysics Instrumentation Facility (BIF), and Cryo-Electron Microscopy Research Center. Favreau says this research environment opens numerous opportunities for synergies and collaborations utilizing multiple techniques.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the machinery of protein interactions, cells, and tissues, which all take place underneath the world we see with just our eyes,” he says. “I look forward to helping scientists from across campus answer their questions in this area using microscopy. Researchers should always feel free to email me or just stop into my office to discuss a project.”