Selvin wins 2020 Gregorio Weber Award for Excellence in Fluorescence Theory and Applications

Siv Schwink for Illinois Physics

Illinois Physics Professor Paul Selvin
Illinois Physics Professor Paul Selvin
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Physics Professor Paul Selvin has been awarded the 2020 Gregorio Weber Award for Excellence in Fluorescence Theory and Applications of the Biological Fluorescence Subgroup of the Biophysical Society. The award is endowed by the ISS (Instrumenzione Scientificia Sperimentale). ISS, located in Champaign, IL, designs and manufactures highly sensitive fluorescence and biomedical instrumentation for research, clinical, and industrial applications.

Named for Illinois Biochemistry Professor Gregorio Weber, a pioneer in the development of both the theory and the application of fluorescence techniques in biology and biochemistry, this award recognizes distinguished individuals who have made original and significant contributions to the field of fluorescence.

Selvin has developed ground-breaking fluorescence instrumentation and techniques at the intersection of physics and biochemistry, shedding new light on the properties and behaviors of biomolecules in living cells. Early in his career, he devised the lanthanide resonance energy transfer (LRET) technique to investigate the chemical properties and structural dynamics of DNA systems. The LRET technique, which offered a 100-fold improvement in signal-to-background resolution over conventional techniques, is now widely used by the pharmaceutical industry for drug discovery.

Selvin also developed the single-molecule FRET (fluorescence resonance
energy transfer) technique, with colleagues Johns Hopkins Professor Taekjip Ha and University of California, Los Angeles Professor Shimon Weiss. This breakthrough innovation took FRET to its ultimate sensitivity and is now widely used across the field of biophysics.

Selvin later developed a technique called FIONA (Fluorescence Imaging with One Nanometer Accuracy), which his group used for in vivo studies that elucidated the hand-over-hand locomotion mechanism of single-molecule myosin V, myosin VI, and kinesin. This technique brought into focus a new and deeper understanding of the biomechanics at work in living cells.

Currently, the Selvin group specializes in single molecule fluorescence studies of nerve receptors, shedding new light on communications occurring between individual synapses in neurons. For this work, his group developed innovative techniques to manufacture extremely small quantum dots, enabling penetration of the synapse and establishing new inroads in this subfield.

Selvin received his bachelor’s degree in physics in 1983 from the University of Michigan and his doctoral degree in physics from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1990. He held postdoctoral appointments at Cal Berkeley’s chemistry department from 1991 to 1993, and then worked in that department as a research chemist from 1993 to 1997. He was then a staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory from 1995 to 1997, before joining the faculty at Illinois Physics in 1997.

Selvin has been recognized with numerous honors, including the 1999 Young Fluorescence Investigator Award and the 2004 Michael and Kate Bárány Award for Young Investigators, both of the Biophysical Society. He received the 2000 Cottrell Scholar Award, the 2006 International Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in Biophysics, a 2010 Nikon Fellowship, and a 2014 Grass Imaging Fellowship.

Selvin was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 2004 and was elected to the General Council of the Biophysical Society in 2004. At Illinois, he was named a 2000 Beckman Fellow in the Center for Advanced Study; he was selected a Sony Faculty Scholar in 2004 and a University Scholar in 2006.

The award will be presented to Selvin during the annual meeting of the Biophysical Society on February 15, 2020, in San Diego.

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