UNC School of Medicine’s Wesley Legant named Beckman Young Investigator

Wesley Legant, PhD, assistant professor in the departments of Pharmacology and Biomedical Engineering, earned this prestigious early career award for his work developing new fluorescence microscopes for rapid three-dimensional imaging.

UNC School of Medicine’s Wesley Legant named Beckman Young Investigator click to enlarge Wesley Legant, PhD

May 29, 2019

Wesley Legant, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology and the UNC/NCSU Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering, was named as a Beckman Young Investigator with a grant to support his research project titled, “Intelligent Microscopes to Observe and Interact with Dynamic Biological Specimens.”

Legant is one of 10 investigators selected nationally from a pool of over 300 applicants. A second UNC-Chapel Hill researcher – Frank Leibfarth, PhD, assistant professor of Chemistry in the UNC College of Arts and Sciences – was also selected as a Beckman Young Investigator this year. Carolina is the only university with two Beckman Young Investigators this year.

Legant’s lab creates fluorescence microscopes for rapid 3-D imaging to improve current observations of living organisms and push forward new research in cell biology. As part of the Beckman Young Investigator grant, Legant will develop new machine learning algorithms to analyze microscope data in real time as it is being acquired. By feeding this analysis back to microscope control, he aims to develop a new class of instruments that will be able to perform complex experiments and ultimately manipulate living cells at microscopic length scales.

Legant, who is also a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, said, “The scientific instruments developed by Arnold O. Beckman, including the pH meter and the first oxygen sensors for infant incubators, fundamentally changed how scientists perform research in the lab and also shaped how we think about science as a whole. Beckman specifically recognized that a new tool can have broad reaching impact across many scientific fields. As an engineer and scientist, I’m really excited about this award. It will allow us to design a new class of microscopes and provide the flexibility to explore applications that range from how tumor cells grow and invade to how organisms develop over time.”

The initial two-year grant is for $300,000 with the possibility of renewal for two more years at the same amount.

The Beckman Young Investigator Program provides research support to the most promising young faculty members in the early stages of their academic careers in the chemical and life sciences, particularly to foster the invention of methods, instruments and materials that will open up new avenues of research in science. It is funded by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation.

UNC School of Medicine contact: , 984-974-1915

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