Classic lasers employ semi-conductors to generate a laser beam. But the fact that biological cells can also be used as a laser medium is a recent insight that caused quite a stir some years back: Inspired by luminous jellyfish, the physicist Malte Gather used a green fluorescent protein that is produced by bacterial cells to intensify optical signals, a technique that transforms living cells into miniscule lasers. It is discoveries like this that make the young field of nanobiophotonics what it is. At the intersection of biophysics, material physics and medicine it investigates the foundations for applications, for example in new materials or medical diagnostics and therapy. Malte Gather is currently working on biocompatible applications of OLED technology of the type embedded in smartphone displays, which have the potential the potential to heal neurodegenerative diseases of the eye.
He will head the newly-founded NanoBioPhotonics Research Centre at the University of Cologne and amalgamate work conducted in the material and life sciences.
Nominating University: University of Cologne
Prof. Dr. Malte Gather
was born in Germany and has held a professorship at the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of St Andrews in Scotland since 2013. Having studied physics at Imperial College London and the University of Cologne, where he received his doctorate from the Department of Chemistry in 2008, Gather initially became a Research Fellow at the University of Iceland in Reykjavík before relocating to Harvard University, Boston, USA, for three years. In 2011, he returned to Germany to assume a junior professorship at TU Dresden. Gather has been granted many fellowships and awards, including an ERC Starting Grant in 2014.