Kurt Weiss joins biochemistry department as manager of Biochemistry Optical Core

Photo of Kurt Weiss at computer

Kurt Weiss joined the Department of Biochemistry in March as the new manager of the Biochemistry Optical Core (BOC). The research core is housed in the biochemistry department but is a resource for all campus researchers who are interested in using microscopy techniques in their work.

Weiss joins the BOC from the Morgridge Institute for Research, where he was an assistant scientist and former postdoctoral researcher. At Morgridge, he performed multi-scale imaging using light sheet microscopy in conjunction with tissue clearing, expansion microscopy, and live imaging with Jan Huisken and Kevin Eliceiri. Before that, he was a Ph.D. student in the Littleton Lab at MIT.

Composite photo of microscopy science images
Three microscopy images collected by Weiss during his time at Morgridge.

Weiss is excited to continue working at UW–Madison. As an undergraduate biochemistry major (B.S. ’05), he studied colon cancer in the lab of emeritus professor William Dove, and his postdoctoral years cemented his thoughts about working with campus researchers.

“UW–Madison is an amazing research campus,” Weiss says. “I like the energy and the breadth of the research and all the resources available. It’s a special place, and I’m looking forward to this [BOC manager] role.”

The BOC was formed in 2012 when the Department of Biochemistry committed to investing in expanding imaging capabilities in the department, throughout campus, and beyond. The BOC’s high resolution microscope systems allow scientists to use imaging modalities such as confocal microscopy, structured illumination microscopy (SIM), stochastic optical reconstruction (STORM) microscopy, and total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy to see basic interactions in cells without being limited by the resolution of light. The core facilitates imaging research for approximately 225 researchers across 24 departments and five colleges on the UW–Madison campus. Other core facilities hosted by the Department of Biochemistry include the Cryo-Electron Microscopy Research Center (CEMRC), the Midwest Center for Cryo-Electron Tomography (MCCET), the National Magnetic Resonance Facility at Madison (NMRFAM), and the Biophysics Instrumentation Facility (BIF).

Researchers throughout the biochemistry department are eager to bring Weiss on board, says Dan Stevens, a scientist at BIF and Director of Biochemistry Core Facilities.

“We’re excited to have Kurt join us,” says Stevens. “His background is ideal to help maintain continued cutting-edge excellence in the BOC, and his skillset is ideal to help bring new and useful microscopy techniques to the facility.”

The largest component of Weiss’ job as BOC manager will be to train facility users how to select and use microscopy techniques. He will also apply for external funding, build and maintain microscopes, and develop training tools and other resources. In his first few years managing the BOC, Weiss says he’d like to expand the breadth of equipment and techniques offered by the facility and bring new collaborations and groups to campus.

“I’ve always had a lot of interest in biochemistry and the molecular machines of cells, and I’m looking forward to getting down deeper into that scale of biology through some new, exciting collaborations,” Weiss says.

He also highlights ever-present scientific considerations that will receive his ongoing attention.

“Image acquisition and analysis in the life and medical sciences is constantly evolving, often making it challenging for researchers to identify optimal solutions. My goal as BOC manager is to chart a course that navigates which microscopy techniques people are using today while incorporating how cutting-edge technologies may be used in the future; I think that’s a big and important challenge,” Weiss says.

If you’d like to discuss how microscopy can be incorporated into your own projects, send Weiss an email or stop by his office — his door is open!

Written by Catherine Steffel, Ph.D. Photos of Kurt, credit: Robin Davies.