Cohen Lab

Physical tools to study molecules, cells, and organisms

We invent new physical tools to probe biological structures. Then we use our tools to make new measurements. We choose problems by looking in unexplored regimes of time and space; we combine protein engineering, lasers, nanofabrication, microfluidics, electronics, biochemistry, and computers to generate data; and we apply statistics and physical modeling to understand the data.



Research Areas


Previous projects

Optical chirality, trapping single molecules, microbial and molecular motion in mucus, photochromic FRET, nonequilibrium van der Waals forces.



CaViar in fish (9/2014)

Jen's paper on simultaneous voltage and calcium imaging throughout development of the embryonic zebrafish heart just came out! The CaViar reporter combines a gCaMP-based calcium indicator and an Arch-based voltage indicator. The supplementary movies will make your heart go pitter-patter.

Cohen lab open house (9/17/2014)

Can you spare a neuron? The Cohen Lab is hosting their open house Weds. Sept. 17, 6 pm in the Mallinckrodt Department Center (2nd floor, 12 Oxford Street). All are welcome!

eFRET GEVIs make a flashing rainbow (8/2014)

Peng and Yongxin's paper describes a new approach to voltage imaging: they use voltage-dependent fluorescence resonance energy transfer (electrochromic FRET) from a fluorescent protein to a microbial rhodopsin to make multicolored genetically encoded voltage indicators (GEVIs). Now we can light up neurons in technicolor!

Pleasant Surprises (8/2014)

Adam won three nice prizes: The Blavatnik Award for Young Scientists, an NIBIB Nagy New Investigator award, and the Pure Chemistry award from the American Chemical Society. Special thanks to the many students and postdocs whose hard work these awards recognize!

All-optical electrophysiology (6/2014)

Congratulations to Daniel, Yongxin, and the whole team for their major paper on all-optical electrophysiology, published in Nature Methods.  Watch supplementary movies 4 - 6 to  make your neurons light up!

Bringing Bioelectricity to Light (6/2014)

Veena and Adam wrote a review in Annual Reviews of Biophysics describing how one should think about electrophysiology measurements when the actuators and reporters are transmembrane proteins rather than physical electrodes.  Bioelectric phenomena are wondrous and varied!

Weintraub Award to Daniel Hochbaum (2/2014)

Daniel Hochbaum has been awarded the Harold M. Weintraub Graduate Student Award for outstanding achievement during graduate studies in the biological sciences.  Not bad for a physicist!

Absolute Voltage (2/2014)

Jen and Veena discovered how to measure absolute membrane voltage via rhodopsin photocycle dynamics.  Read about it in Biophysical Journal.  See also a nice commentary from John Spudich.  Cheers to Jen and Veena!

A flash of memory! (1/2014)

Veena and Daan's paper on Flash Memory came out in JACS.  They showed how one could store a long-lasting photochemical imprint of neuronal activity in a microbial rhodopsin. This suggests a path to whole-brain neural recording, though there's still a lot of work to do.

Spiking HEKs (1/2014)

We made a line of non-fluorescent HEK cells that produce spontaneous electrical spikes in confluent culture.  They produce beautiful waves and spiral patters of electrical activity.  Shocking!  These are great for testing prospective fluorescent voltage indicators.  The paper is in PLoS One. Congratulations Jeehae and Kit!

Welcome to Xin and Yoav (12/2013)

Two new postdocs joined the lab.  Yoav comes from the lab of Adi Mizrahi at Hebrew U.  Yoav will be looking at optical electrophysiology in mouse brains.  Xin Tang comes from the lab of Taher Saif at UIUC.  Xin will study bioelectric and biomechanical effects outside the nervous system.  Welcome both!

Doctor! Doctor! (10/2013)

Congratulations to Jen and Min Ju for defending their PhD theses! Jen's topic was "Dynamics in Biological Soft Materials," and Min Ju's was "Trapping and Manipulating Single Molecules of DNA". We will miss you both! 



©2012 Adam E. Cohen