Spectroscopy Magazine Announces the 2022 Emerging Leader in Molecular Spectroscopy

Lu Wei, PhD, an assistant professor of chemistry at the California Institute of Technology, has won the 2022 Emerging Leader in Molecular Spectroscopy Award, which is presented by Spectroscopy magazine.

Lu Wei, PhD, an assistant professor of chemistry at the California Institute of Technology, has won the 2022 Emerging Leader in Molecular Spectroscopy Award, which is presented by Spectroscopy magazine. This annual award recognizes the achievements and aspirations of a talented young molecular spectroscopist, selected by an independent scientific committee. The award will be presented to Wei at the SciX 2022 conference this fall, where she will give a plenary lecture and be honored in an award symposium.

Wei’s work focuses on the development and application of stimulated Raman scattering (SRS) microscopy for bioanalysis, spectroscopy-informed design of vibrational imaging probes, and sample-engineering strategies. Wei has already made several seminal contributions in the field of nonlinear Raman spectromicroscopy, to push the next frontier of nonlinear biological Raman imaging.

Wei received her PhD in 2015 from Columbia University. During her PhD work, Wei pioneered a bio-orthogonal chemical imaging platform that coupled stimulated Raman scattering (SRS) with small bio-orthogonal probes and allowed noninvasive imaging of metabolic dynamics in live cells and tissues with high spatial and temporal resolution, for investigations of cellular metabolism.

She further developed a super-multiplexed optical imaging strategy that exploited a unique pre-resonance SRS excitation region and achieved remarkable sensitivity with up to 24-plex imaging.

Since starting her independent career at the California Institute of Technology in 2018, Wei has been working to develop next-generation Raman microscopy to achieve unprecedented resolution, sensitivity, and multiplexity with improved molecular precision and quantification for complex bioanalysis. One of her key contributions is the development of super-multiplexed and super-resolution vibrational microscopy for subcellular structure–function phenotyping in a complex cellular and tissue environment. Toward this end, she devised a sample-engineering label-free super-resolution SRS imaging strategy and obtained the first multiplexed imaging to within a spatial resolution of 100 nm. In parallel, she also pioneered the development of advanced vibrational probes (such as a photoactivatable and photoswitchable Raman probe), which is a significant component for achieving super-multiplexed and super-resolution vibrational microscopy.

Wei has also pioneered a selective deuterium strategy that allowed the first in situ live-cell quantification and spectral analysis of aggregate composition from native polyQ aggregates, the key hallmark for Huntington’s disease. In addition, she further developed and applied subcellular Raman spectromicroscopy with data mining cross-correlation to transcriptomics and lipidomics for Raman-guided subcellular pharmacometabolomics for metastatic melanoma.

Wei has published 28 papers with 1913 citations and has given 30 oral presentations at scientific conferences. She is a reviewer for multiple journals, including, among others, Nature Communications, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Chemical Science, Angewandte Chromatographie, ChemComm, the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, the Journal of Physical Chemistry B, Small, Langmuir, ACS Omega, Theranostics, Optics Express, Optics Letters, and Biomedical Optics Express.

She is also the organizer of a symposium planned for the 2023 Fall ACS conference on optical spectroscopy and microscopy across biological scales.

Wei has also won several other honors and awards. She was named a Sloan Research Fellow in Chemistry in 2022 and a Heritage Medical Research Institute Investigator at Caltech in 2021. She was twice named a Scialog Fellow: in 2021, for advanced bioimaging, and in 2018 for chemical machinery of the cell. She also received the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, the Amgen Early Innovator Award, a Blavatnik Regional Awards for Young Scientists, in chemistry, from the New York Academy of Sciences, and an American Chemical Society PHYS Division Young Investigator Award.

For information about how to nominate a candidate for the 2023 award, please see the call for nominations.