2011 – Nancy Kedersha

“Nancy Kedersha’s color images open our eyes to the smallest components of life. Through her work she has pushed cell biology into new scientific, pedagogical and aesthetic realms. With the aid of a confocal microscope, she has turned biological data into an artistic experience.”

Harvard Medical School cell biologist and researcher Nancy Kedersha (b. 1951), PhD, has been recognized for her groundbreaking contributions to refining available fluorescence imaging techniques in order to distinguish various types of cells and their functions through the use of light and color.

What prompted her inquiry to enhance imaging techniques was the discovery she made in the mid-1980s with cell biologist colleague Leonardo Rome of the cell vault or organelle, a previously unknown arched or dome-like structure within a cell. In order to better understand the structure’s cellular context, Kedersha embarked on the daunting task of differentiating and documenting the multitude of antibodies and other substances in a cell that cause individual molecules in the cell to glow green, red or blue when subjected to fluorescence imaging technology. By combining different substances, Kedersha succeeded in producing multiple tones from the three primary colors, which helped distinguish healthy cells from cancerous ones and dormant cells from active ones in various stages of division.

Dr. Kedersha has also published several articles in leading scientific periodicals that feature her own full-color confocal microscope images, which are integral to research findings. Kedersha’s images have also been widely featured in popular science magazines, weekly news magazines, science textbooks and exhibitions aimed a broad public audience.

Kedersha is also Director of the Confocal Core Facility at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School.