UT scientists defeated Harvard University in international competition

Scientists of UT Institute of Physics won first place among 36 research groups in an international competition for creating super-resolution microscopy software in the 3D microscopy category. Second and third place in this category went to the teams of Harvard University.

UT was represented in the competition by scientists and doctoral students of the Institute of Physics: Ardi Loot, Marko Eltermann, Andreas Valdmann, Mihkel Kree and Martti Pärs.

Institute of Physics Senior Research Fellow in Molecular Photonics Martti Pärs explained the context of microscopy: “The resolution of regular microscopy is limited by the diffraction of light which means that it is not possible to see objects which are smaller than the wave length of light. Super-resolution microscopy enables results that are 10 times better than this fundamental limit if you activate fluorescent molecules one by one.”

According to the team, super-resolution microscopy has two major advantages compared to regular microscopy. “Unlike a regular microscope where the output is the image which we are interested in, super-resolution microscopy relies on complicated image processing algorithms and the aim of the competition was to design these algorithms and the corresponding software. The winner was the team whose software could reconstruct the actual spatial location of the molecules most precisely,” said doctoral student Ardi Loot who was responsible for the software development in the team.

Loot described that a higher resolution and 3D image enables to use super-resolution microscopy to conduct entirely novel research which could not be done before: “The Nobel Prize was awarded in 2014 for developing super-resolution microscopy and it is widely used in chemistry and biology, for example, to study the fine structure of cells. The knowledge from this will definitely contribute to developing new and better medication.”

The idea to participate in the competition came from Martti Pärs who is one of the initiators of super-resolution microscopy at UT Institute of Physics. “The decision to participate was easy because in addition to a fascinating topic and useful contacts, the designed software will be used at the Institute of Physics to analyse the results from super-resolution microscopes,” said Loot. 

Research groups from numerous renowned universities participated in the competition and the results were announced at the annual conference in Lausanne in August. Team member Loot stressed that their successful participation was only possible thanks to the different work groups of Physicum that came together and their efficient cooperation.

Additional information
Ardi Loot, UT doctoral student of Physics
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