17 Jan Rising Sparks: Joe Li, Biomedical Imaging
Principal engineer in the Beckman Center for Light-Sheet Microscopy on the humble path towards the perfect instrument
The quest for perfection and a thirst for constant learning have driven Joe Li to make cutting-edge and highly customizable microscopy a reality for research teams around the world.
“I refer to it as a disease,” says Joe, a principal engineer in the Beckman Center for Light-Sheet Microscopy, directed by Morgridge investigator Kevin Eliceiri and affiliate investigator Jan Huisken. “I have to try to make something perfect and I’m always thinking about how I can make the system a little better.”
That system is dubbed Flamingo, a portable, shareable, light-sheet microscope that turns out breathtaking images. Joe worked on the team that developed the microscope under Huisken’s leadership.
Light-sheet microscopy uses a noninvasive sheet of light that gives scientists the ability to image samples over hours and days from every angle, providing a trove of data quickly.
A Madison native, Joe earned bachelor’s degrees in electrical and computer engineering and computer science and a master’s in business administration at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Joe, who worked in private industry and as a consultant before joining Morgridge seven years ago, spends much of his time customizing the device to serve the highly specialized needs of collaborating scientists working on varied projects. Seven of the instruments are in use nationally, including two at Morgridge and two at UW–Madison.