Award for Light Microscopy

For outstanding scientific achievements applying or developing new forms of light microscopy.

Winners receive complimentary registration to a relevant RMS meeting where they will be presented with their award. They may be invited to produce an article for infocus magazine

2025 Winner

Ilaria Testa.jpg

Dr Ilaria Testa, Science for Life Laboratory, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden

Ilaria is an internationally-recognised multidisciplinary researcher who has made outstanding contributions to the field of super-resolution optical imaging.

She started her own group – SciLifeLab - in 2015 following the award of a competitive ERC Starter fellowship at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, where she now holds an Associate Professorship. She has led her team in the creation of new and exciting fluorescence nanoscopy technologies aimed at improving the speed and resolution of the light microscope while remaining sufficiently gentle for live cell imaging. 

Ilaria’s application of innovative super-resolution microscopy methods in cell biology has been particularly impressive. She has developed new ways to measure rotational diffusivity in cells using photoswitching mechanisms, and has provided new insights into synaptic vesicles endocytosis, as well as revealing new information on the endoplasmic reticulum, which is notoriously difficult to image in living cells.

Ilaria has an impressive list of publications with an exponential trend in citations. She has also provided open source methods to help lower the barrier to entry to super-resolution light microscopy, including freely available software frameworks for image acquisition, reconstruction and analysis

Ilaria was listed as one of the Top 100 innovators by Photonics100 2024, a global platform providing commentary and analysis on topics of interest for the Photonics industry. 


  • All awards are open to applicants worldwide.
  • The award will normally be made to nominees who have engaged in independent research for less than 10 years. 

How to submit a nomination:

  • Applicants may self-nominate or be nominated by a colleague or collaborator.
  • Applications and nominations should be submitted to Jade Sturdy.
  • Applicants should submit a curriculum vitae and a letter stating which section award they wish to be considered for.
  • Nominators should submit a curriculum vitae for the nominated candidate and a statement (maximum length 1 page) outlining the merits of the candidate and their suitability for the specific award (please note - if you wish to nominate someone without notifying them of the nomination, a shorter CV i.e. a bio from LinkedIn will be accepted).  
  • Nominated candidates will be contacted after the closing date to confirm that they are happy for their nomination to be considered.
  • In each case the relevant science section will consider applications.

Previous Winners 

2023 - Professor Christian Eggeling 2023 - Professor Christian Eggeling

Professor Christian Eggeling, University of Oxford, UK; Friedrich-Schiller University Jena, and Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology Jena, Germany

Christian has made outstanding scientific achievements applying or developing new forms of light microscopy.

Among his many achievements, he has developed a new kind of optical microscopy technique to investigate molecular dynamics of lipids in the plasma membrane of living cells - with unprecedented spatial resolution. He has applied Fluorescence-Correlation-Spectroscopy (FCS) on a super-resolution Stimulated-Emission-Depletion (STED) microscope, which enabled the disclosure of anomalous molecular diffusion dynamics previously hidden by the limited spatial resolution when FCS is employed on conventional diffraction-limited microscopes.

A unique feature of the STED microscope is that its observation spot (and thus spatial resolution) can be tuned by the intensity of the additional STED laser of that microscope. By probing the diffusion characteristics of molecules for different STED laser powers (i.e. different observation spot sizes) it is possible to decipher the diffusion mode of the molecules under study, revealing hindrances with molecular scale resolution. In recent years Christian has significantly improved this STED-FCS approach, now allowing the simultaneous observation of diffusion modes at different spatial positions. This has led him to a series of novel discoveries on the diffusion and interaction characteristics of lipids in the plasma membrane of living cells.

Christian has published many important articles in high-ranked journals (h-index 79) and has appeared as an invited and keynote speaker at multiple international conferences. In addition, his position as the scientific director of the Wolfson Imaging Centre Oxford, has brought him recognition for driving such novel advanced (super-resolution) microscopes into application and making them accessible to less-experiences users.

Christian’s achievements in applying or developing new forms of light microscopy are outstanding, as are the discoveries he has been able to make as a result this work.

2021 - Professor Philipp Kukura 2021 - Professor Philipp Kukura

Philipp is a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford. Throughout his career to date, he has demonstrated remarkable ingenuity, productivity and a boldness to push the limits of what the biophysics community generally believes can be done with optical techniques. His work is opening up entirely new possibilities in the way we use light microscopy in the life sciences. After breakthroughs in spectroscopy and nano-optics, before he began his current role as a group leader, Philipp and his group have now developed a completely new way of measuring mass using a light microscope - mass photometry.

Mass photometry, the accurate and highly resolved measurement of the mass of individual biomolecules and their complexes in solution, is truly groundbreaking. It represents a single-molecule optical method that is both universal and specific - in that no labelling is required and the information obtained provides information on the identity and structure of the biomolecule. Moreover, the ability to study individual molecules removes ensemble averaging so that heterogeneity, which is of immense importance in biological function, regulation and intervention, can be directly assessed.

Since its introduction in April 2018, the group has explored the immense applicability of mass photometry for assessing sample purity for structural biology and in vitro science in general, expanded it to nucleic acids and membrane proteins, as well as demonstrating new approaches to quantifying protein-protein interactions. These studies, together with the fundamental concepts behind mass photometry, will likely make this discovery a truly outstanding one in the context of light microscopy.

These conceptual breakthroughs took place while also maximising the impact of the discovery. Only two months after the original publication, Philipp founded Refeyn Ltd. together with Justin Benesch, Daniel Cole and Gavin Young, with the mission to make the technology available to the broader research community. This demonstrates both the value of the underlying technology and a commitment to ensuring its wide dissemination and impact.

Chair of the RMS Light Microscopy Section, Professor Gail McConnell said: “It is with great pleasure that we award this medal to Philipp, whose many achievements make him uniquely suitable for the award. “He has brought forward a completely new application of light microscopy well beyond what we imagined possible only five years ago, with immense future potential in life science research and diagnostics in the future.”

2019 - Dr Suliana Manley 2019 - Dr Suliana Manley

Suliana Manley began her career as a group leader in a Tenure Track position, which she started in 2009 at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. She was recently promoted to a tenured associate professorship, in 2016. She is a physicist whose research has been shaped for the past 10+ years by a strong interest in biology. Her main interest is in developing super-resolution imaging, where she has made several major contributions to the field. As a postdoctoral fellow with Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz at the NIH, she first started working in the field of super-resolution imaging. There, she developed a multiplexed single molecule tracking method, single particle tracking PALM (sptPALM), in a collaboration with Eric Betzig’s group. 

At the EPFL, her group has developed several high-throughput technologies for super-resolution microscopy, including the first automation of a PALM setup to study bacterial cell cycle, and large field-of-view flat illumination. These methods have allowed important structural insights into the bacterial division machinery and revealed a novel structure formed by yeast Torc1 proteins.

2017 - Dr Jan Huisken 2017 - Dr Jan Huisken

Dr Huisken is an accomplished biophysical scientist who has contributed novel imaging tools that have enabled new and powerful observations of developmental and physiological processes.

Along with his co-workers, Dr Huisken introduced light sheet microscopy (or selective plane illumination microscopy) to the field of biological imaging in 2004. Since then, SPIM has replaced confocal and two-photon microscopy in many applications, and revolutionized in vivo whole embryo imaging.
Dr Huisken has pioneered sample preparation for long time lapse experiments and has expanded SPIM in a number of directions for a number of different applications, including a high-speed instrument for cardiac imaging. He has also exploited the bright-field contrast of unstained specimens to obtain in vivo tomographic reconstructions of the 3D anatomy of zebrafish.

Unlike most microscopy laboratories, each microscope that Dr Huisken builds is specifically designed to address a particular biological question that requires cutting-edge observations not possible on a commercial microscope.

2015 - Dr Susan Cox 2015 - Dr Susan Cox

During her career, Dr Cox has developed a new form of super resolution light microscopy called 3B – Bayesian analysis of Bleaching & Blinking, a method which analyses data in which many overlapping fluorophores undergo bleaching and blinking events, giving the structure at enhanced resolution, 3B significantly improves resolution of live specimens. Her contribution to localisation microscopy, using blinking and other probes, is outstanding.  Her software is now used world-wide to handle data from localisation methods of microscopy and she is becoming the clear voice of rational planning in this field, defining its limits and possibilities for the large number of people who are now entering it. Dr. Cox has used 3B and other superresolution imaging approaches to explore a variety of biological questions, including several related to podosome and RhoA signaling along the leading edge of crawling cells. Dr Cox now runs her own group at King’s College London and has continued to provide new directions for improving superresolution imaging techniques. Dr Cox is widely recognized for her contributions in this area by the broader scientific community and is very generous in providing her tools and knowledge-3B can now be readily downloaded, with Image J plugins and source codes for its performance and it has been noted by many how clear, concise and engaging Dr Cox’s lectures are.