Our research

Our group is interested in fundamental and applied experiments in x-ray optics, in the development of new methods and instrumentation in x-ray microscopy, and in the application of x-ray microscopy to problems in biology, environmental science, and materials science.

X-ray fluorescence maps and 28 nm resolution ptychographic image of an algae imaged in a frozen hydrated state [Fig. 5 of Deng et al., Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 112, 2314 (2015)].

By using a new generation of nanofocusing optics, and the thousandfold increase in sensitivity that x-rays provide for studying trace elements, we are able to gain new insights into the role of metals in enabling biotic growth and thus carbon uptake in the world's lakes and oceans, in the role of zinc in early stages of egg development following fertilization, and in the subcellular localization of nanoparticle-based cancer therapeutics. These studies often involve interdisciplinary collaborations with expertise beyond that which a single speciality provides.

Our Setting

Our group is based in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Chemistry of Life Processes Institute at Northwestern University's Evanston campus. Several members of our team come from the Graduate Program in Applied Physics.

We work closely with the Microscopy, Imaging, and Optics groups in the X-ray Science Division at the Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne National Laboratory (Jacobsen is an Associate Division Director in the X-ray Science Division). The APS is a 7 GeV synchrotron light source that is the nation's premier source of high brightness hard x-ray beams for photon science. Our strong connection with the APS, as well as other Argonne facilities such as the Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM) and the Mathematics and Computer Science Division (MCS), gives us access to rich and unique research personnel and resources beyond what any university campus has to offer. Argonne is about 39 miles/63 km from Northwestern; students go back and forth in their own cars or by using the Northwestern-supported carpool service.

We are grateful for research support from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Argonne's portion of the Department of Energy Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program, and from the Office of Science in the US Department of Energy (DoE) through the APS.