Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Physiology & Biophysics
Ph.D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2005
(Analytical, Biological, and Physical Chemistry)
The Vaughan research group is an interdisciplinary group focused on the development of new chemical probes and optical instruments for biological imaging. We also use these new tools, along with established approaches, to study how macroscopic order emerges from molecular building blocks in biological systems. Group members gain experience in advanced bioimaging techniques, spectroscopy, synthesis, and instrumentation, and will apply many of these in innovative biological studies.
A key technology of the group is super-resolution fluorescence microscopy, which uses photoswitchable fluorophores to determine the distributions of biomolecules in cells at a resolution of 25 nm or better and is a major improvement over the traditional ~250 nm resolution of conventional fluorescence imaging.
Partial overlay of a conventional image (left) and a super-resolution fluorescence image (right) of a region of a cell which has been fixed and immunostained for two different forms of tubulin. While the conventional image has ~250 nm resolution, the super-resolution image has ~30 nm resolution. The inset molecule highlights a new phosphine-fluorophore adduct developed to achieve high-quality two-color STORM imaging
One research area in the lab will seek to develop new fluorescent probes which, in combination with ultrastable microscopes, will allow super-resolution fluorescence imaging at the molecular scale (≤ 4 nm, or roughly the size of a small protein) and robust live-cell super-resolution imaging. We approach fluorescent probe development with the mindset that these same fluorescent probes may also find powerful applications in other fluorescence imaging applications, fluorescence- based sensors, and smart materials.
A second major area of research in the lab applies super-resolution fluorescence microscopy along with traditional approaches to study selected biological problems in organelle morphogenesis. How do cells and sub-cellular organelles get their distinctive shapes, how do these structures in turn give rise to their specialized functions, and how are they restructured to meet the changing needs of an organism?
Vaughan, J.C.; Dempsey, G.T.; Sun, E.; Zhuang, X. "Phosphine quenching of cyanine dyes as a versatile tool for fluorescence microscopy." J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2013, 135, 1197-1200.
Vaughan, J.C.; Jia, S.; Zhuang, X. "Ultra-bright Photoactivatable Fluorophores Created by Reductive Caging." Nature Methods 2012, 9, 1181-1184.
Dempsey, G.T.; Vaughan, J.C.; Chen, K.; Bates, M.; Zhuang, X. "Evaluation of Fluorophores for Optimal Performance in Localization-based Super-resolution Imaging." Nature Methods 2011, 8, 1027-1036.