2017 Truman Fellow
Adam Backer received his Ph.D. in computational and mathematical engineering at Stanford University. He earned his B.S. in engineering and physics from Brown University and M.Phil. in engineering from Cambridge University. Adam had received important recognition during his academic career including: a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship (NDSEG), a Simons Math +X Graduate Fellowship, and a Craig Fellowship for graduate study at Selwyn College, Cambridge. Adam’s research seeks to develop cutting-edge imaging systems for application to the life and physical sciences. How can traditional methods, such as optical microscopy, be redesigned and re-imagined to better leverage the formidable computational capabilities and image analysis algorithms available to today’s scientists and engineers? During Adam’s Truman Fellowship, he is constructing a hyperspectral fluorescence lifetime imaging (HyFli) microscope capable of rapidly imaging single cells with sub-wavelength resolution. This novel imaging technique will be used for rapid detection of infectious diseases, as well as high-throughput screening of photosynthetic organisms for biofuels production. In addition, Adam is collaborating with researchers at University of New Mexico and Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam on projects involving unconventional optics for image acquisition and display, and novel single-molecule microscopy techniques respectively. Adam’s research touches on several important areas for Sandia and aligns with the Detection at the Limit and Engineering the Abiotic, Biotic Living Systems Research Challenges. Sandia’s work toward understanding biological responses to pathogens and Adam’s proposed technology will result in a new, mission-relevant methods capable of advancing Sandia’s landmark hyperspectral imaging technology.
Since beginning his Fellowship, Adam has been highly impressed with the resources, opportunities and intellectual challenges available to him at Sandia National Labs. According to Adam: “Never before in my life have I known so many different experts in so many different fields! Every day at Sandia is truly an opportunity to learn about something completely new.” Adam joined the Bioenergy and Defense Technology department (8631) in November 2016, with Jim Carney as his manager and Jerilyn Timlin as his mentor.”