ECE Faculty Spotlight: Peter Kner

“I think biology will become more quantitative and this will lead to more advances in drug discovery and vaccine design and other areas of bioengineering.” -Dr. Peter Kner

Hometown: New York City

What did you study in college and where did you earn your degrees?
I studied physics and electrical engineering at MIT. Then I got a PHD in physics at UC Berkeley.

What other professional experience do you have?
Before going to graduate school, I worked in Germany at Daimler Benz for a year. Then, after graduate school, I worked at a Silicon Valley startup for five years, then I was a postdoc at UCSF for another five years before coming to UGA.

What brought you to UGA?
After working in Silicon Valley, I decided I wanted to be a professor. I got a job offer from UGA.

What are your research interests and what motivated you to pursue this area of study?
I am interested in optics. My research now focuses on developing new imaging techniques for biologists. We focus on techniques for achieving very high resolution (<200 nm) in model organisms that are of interest in biological research.

What current or new research projects do you currently have happening in your lab?
We have just received a new R01 grant from the NIH to develop three-dimensional fluorescence microscopy with 80 nanometer resolution! We are very excited to receive this funding and excited about the research. This will be a very exciting project with a lot of interesting optics development, optomechanical design, and software development for instrument control and image processing. We are looking for new students and postdocs to work on the project.

How long have you been an instructor in engineering and what inspires you to teach or do research in your field?
I have been teaching at UGA since 2009. I enjoy thinking about engineering problems and interacting with students.

What research accomplishment are you most proud of and why?
I’ve been involved in developing a new type of microscopy, structured illumination microscopy, that has been proving very useful in biology research.

What skills do you think are most important for students to succeed in engineering and what methods do you use to ensure the students you engage with learn the skills they need?
I think perseverance and engineering problem solving skills are key to being successful. I like to get students to think through complex problems.

What and/or who encouraged you to become a professor in engineering?
I had a great physics teacher in high school who had worked in aerospace before becoming a teacher. He showed us some blueprints for a jet engine.

What advances in science and engineering do you anticipate in the next 5 years?
I think biology will become more quantitative and this will lead to more advances in drug discovery and vaccine design and other areas of bioengineering.

What is one of your favorite places in Athens?
I love the concert series at the performing arts center. I’ll go see all sorts of things.

What is one of your most embarrassing moments in engineering?
As a graduate student, I broke an expensive piece of equipment. Not my greatest moment, but I didn’t let it stop me.

Dr. Peter Kner can be found on the second floor of iSTEM 1 in office 2040B. (The photo above is a 3D SIM image of a plant root hair).

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