Mar 19, 2019 · 3 min read

CZI Awards $17 Million to Bring More Engineering Expertise to Biomedical Imaging

New Imaging Scientists Program Supports Better Tools, Increased Collaboration Between Optical Engineers and Biomedical Researchers

Super-resolution light microscopy allows scientists to view the details of living cells. Photo provided by CZI Imaging Scientist Aaron Taylor of the University of Michigan.

Today, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) announced $17 million in funding and its selection of 17 CZI Imaging Scientists — engineers, physicists, mathematicians, computer scientists, and biologists with expertise in technology development. The imaging of molecules, cells, and tissues remains central to both biomedical research and clinical practice, yet progress in the imaging field has been slowed by inadequate software and limited sharing of advanced microscopy methods. 

These Imaging Scientists will work at imaging centers across the United States and interface between biology, microscopy hardware, and imaging software to accelerate progress in the imaging field, enabling biologists to leverage modern technology for microscopy data. Read our Medium post to learn more about the Imaging Scientists and their work.

“Microscopy is a critical tool that allows researchers to actually see biology and life happen instead of just inferring from disparate data points,” said CZI co-founder Priscilla Chan. “Our hope is that microscopy will help scientists identify the causes and effects of diseases. We need to keep advancing these tools to make big breakthroughs in understanding disease. One of the ways we’re helping to accelerate scientific progress is by creating connections that otherwise wouldn’t have existed—it’s our hope that by bringing together biologists, clinicians, and engineers, we can drive important advances in the field.”

In September 2018, CZI issued an open request for applications for the Imaging Scientists program. Today’s recipients represent 17 imaging centers across the United States, including five medical imaging centers. Selected Imaging Scientists bring interdisciplinary expertise from fields such as engineering, computer science, physics, chemistry, and biology. View the full list of the CZI Imaging Scientists award recipients.

“To move the imaging field forward, scientists need better tools to view living systems and analyze the large amounts of data that result,” said CZI Head of Science, Cori Bargmann. “That’s why we’re thrilled to support these expert Imaging Scientists. They innovate to develop new technologies, collaborate to bring those methods to a wide audience, and educate other scientists in new methods and best practices.”

A forest of nerve cells (axons, dendrites, and dendritic spines of neurons) in the brain, provided by CZI Imaging Scientist Srigokul Upadhyayula of UC Berkeley (spring 2019). Photo by Gao, Asano, Upadhyayula et al, Science 2019.

During the past decade, technical advances in imaging dramatically increased the resolution of light microscopy and electron microscopy. Yet many of these new microscopes have not been commercialized, and software for analyzing these new kinds of data lags behind the advances made in hardware. Improved technological tools and increased interaction between technology experts and biologists will allow biomedical science to push forward even more quickly to cure disease.


About the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
Founded by Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg in 2015, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) is a new kind of philanthropy that’s leveraging technology to help solve some of the world’s toughest challenges — from eradicating disease, to improving education, to reforming the criminal justice system. Across three core Initiative focus areas of Science, Education, and Justice & Opportunity, we’re pairing engineering with grant-making, impact investing, and policy and advocacy work to help build an inclusive, just and healthy future for everyone. For more information, please visit

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