Decades after the earliest single-molecule experiments, single-molecule fluorescence microscopy is now a workhorse method for probing subcellular biology. Along the way, technical developments in microscope engineering and design have continually led to advances in the type and amount of molecular-scale information that can be extracted from each precious collected photon. With this in mind, many single-molecule microscopists have found utility in guiding their microscope engineering with the mathematics of information theory. This approach has, for instance, led to the design of microscopes that can perform specific tasks like the measurement of 3D molecular position or orientation with better precision than is accessible with a standard off-the-shelf microscope. But what bounds our ability to improve microscope performance in this way? I will show that by couching the tasks of single-molecule fluorescence microscopy in the language of quantum parameter estimation theory one can gain great insights into this question. I will specifically present recent work in which I derive quantum information theoretic bounds for the task of estimating 3D position of a single fluorescent molecule1. I highlight cases in which existing microscope designs fall short of fundamental bounds and propose new designs that saturate the quantum optimum.
Professor Backlund received his B.S. in Chemistry with a minor in Math from the University of California, Berkeley in 2010. He then pursued his graduate studies at Stanford University as a Robert and Marvel Kirby Stanford Graduate Fellow, where he conducted research in the lab of W. E. Moerner. After earning his Ph.D. in Chemistry (with concentration in Chemical Physics) in 2016, he joined the lab of Ron Walsworth as a postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Atomic and Molecular Physics at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the Department of Physics at Harvard University. Prof. Backlund joined the faculty at UIUC in 2020.
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