The dye whisperer: Meet the chemist giving biologists worldwide new colors

You can never have enough photons.

Biologists, they always want more, says Luke Lavis, a dye chemist with Howard Hughes Medical Institute. And, he lets slip under a smile, they’re “super picky.”

Still, biologists appreciate his work. While Lavis’ fellow chemists might be inclined to see his latest series of molecular dyes as “incremental” advances, biologists are jumping at the chance to use them, he says. A dye ever-so-slightly brighter can make the difference between seeing a single protein’s true wiggly movements within a cell—illuminating hidden details of our basic biology—and seeing a useless, fluorescent blur.

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