Follow the progress QSTORM research as it happens!

This unusual blog has multiple authors, including investigators and students from each of the four QSTORM university research labs.

> See Teams to learn more about the bloggers and their labs.

NSF News features Jessica’s iTunes Podcast

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On Friday, September 12, the National Science Foundation’s NSF 360 News Service featured a Museum of Science iTunes podcast with Jessica Winter.  In the podcast, Jessica speaks with QSTORM’s Karine Thate about her latest efforts to commercialize quantum dot technologies through the development of a new nanomanufacturing process combining electrospray and self-assembly.  The new process will enable Jessica to scale up production of her customized micelle-encapsulated quantum dots and “mag dots” for use in biomedical diagnostics.  The effort is an outgrowth of Jessica’s prior work, including the QSTORM collaboration, and is funded through NSF’s Scalable Nanomanufacturing program (Award #1344567 to Ohio State University, with a sub-award to the Museum of Science).  The podcast was produced by Karine Thate and Susan Heilman at MOS in July.   (Maybe NSF 360 will also soon pick up Karine’s podcast interview with Peter Kner, recorded in August.)

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Ge presents at IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Conference

Recently, Ge presented the following QSTORM research at the 36th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Conference in Chicago, IL.

“Cell Penetrating Peptide Mediated Quantum Dot Delivery and Release in Live Mammalian Cells”
Jianquan Xu, Yiyi Yu, Hao-Chih Lee, Qirui Fan, Jessica Winter, Ge Yang*

Quantum dots (QDs) are semiconductor nanocrystals whose unique fluorescence properties make them desirable biological imaging probes. However, reliable and efficient cellular delivery of QDs remains technically challenging. To address this problem, we developed a cell penetrating peptide (CPP) based approach that delivers QDs into mammalian cells with high reproducibility and efficiency and minimal cytotoxicity. To understand the delivery mechanism, we analyzed related cell uptake pathways. We followed internalization and endosomal release of CPP conjugated QDs (CPP-QDs) and found that although endocytosis (micropinocytosis) was the predominant pathway, some CPP-QDs were internalized through direct permeation of the plasma membrane. Internalized QDs could be released from endosomes to the cytoplasm if conjugated with an endosomolytic peptide (HA2), but most of released particles either were re-captured by lysosomes or aggregated in the cytoplasm. Together, our results provide insights into mechanisms of CPP mediated cellular delivery of quantum dots for intracellular imaging as well as therapeutic applications.


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Peter reveals his microscopy secrets in a Museum podcast

As we continue to share the QSTORM story with museum audiences, I interviewed Peter for our Current Science & Technology podcast series. In the podcast, Peter describes some of the challenges researchers face in biological imaging, explains how the STORM technique addresses those problems and talks about how adding QDs into the mix could lead to even better resolution for viewing molecular processes inside living cells. Check it out!

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Making QSTORM more accessible to visitors who are deaf & hard-of-hearing

One of our goals at the Museum is to make science and engineering research accessible to as many people as possible. That can be a challenging task since you never know who will be sitting down in the audience for a stage program. Museum visitors in the audience are incredibly diverse – representing all ages from young children up to grandparents, with varying backgrounds, cultures, and education levels – and can include people with and without disabilities.

In designing the “Making Molecular Movies with QSTORM” stage presentation, we tried to make it as accessible as possible to museum visitors by following Universal Design Guidelines. These guidelines include repeating and reinforcing main ideas, making multiple ways of engagement (e.g. using several analogies), and providing physical and sensory access to all parts of the program (e.g. large, clear, high contrast visual images and props). Last year, we also added captions to the presentation video .

Recently, we took our accessibility efforts a step further and the QSTORM project participated in the Museum’s “Sign Language Saturdays” in May/June 2014. Each Saturday, four different museum programs were interpreted in American Sign Language (ASL), including several presentations of “Making Molecular Movies with QSTORM”. These events were marketed to individuals who are deaf/hard-of-hearing (DHH) to encourage them to visit the museum. Surveys were handed out museum visitors to explore the impact of the ASL interpretation, what they learned, and what could be improved.

ASL interpretation during the QSTORM stage presentation.

ASL interpretation during the QSTORM stage presentation.

Similar to what we’ve found in prior evaluation of this program, overall, visitors find the presentation interesting and easy to understand. We also asked if the ASL interpretation impacted visitor experience (positively or negatively). Half of the visitors reported no impact from the ASL interpretation, and 38% of visitors reported that the ASL interpretation added to their experience (this figure includes many visitors who are not deaf or hard-of-hearing). Of the visitors who were DHH, they all reported making use of the ASL interpretation and they all rated the presentation as “easy” or “somewhat easy” to understand. Two visitors reported that the ASL interpretation detracted from their experience – specifically noting that the interpreter blocked their view of certain parts of the presentation from time to time. Another noted that I blocked the interpreter from time to time as well. We could address this concern by giving more thought to where an ASL interpreter would stand, and better choreographing the blocking for the presenter.


Lastly, the survey results included many comments that show the presentation continues to both teach and engage museum visitors about current science research. Here’s a sample of quotes from the surveys:

“Very good presentation. Good for kids to learn the advanced frontier of science.”
“Thank you! My 12 year old loves engineering / bio science. Great presentation – he enjoyed this a lot!”
“Excellent. Interpreter kept up very well. Great presenter. Good enthusiasm.”
“Great presentation/visualization. Good for kids also.”

This experiment with ASL interpretation was successful for us, and we plan to continue to make use of the ASL interpretation going forward – specifically for special events, like NanoDays, and during community days targeted at the DHH community.

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An interview with Jessica about becoming a nanotech entrepreneur

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessica recently for one of the Museum’s Current Science & Technology podcasts. In the podcast, Jessica describes her path from nanoparticle engineer to entrepreneur, and how she’s taking her new inventions to market. She discusses potential uses for her nanoparticle technologies, the founding of Core Quantum Technologies, the development of the business plan, and the challenges of scaling up her quantum dot manufacturing process. Check it out!

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Farewell and Thanks!

Hi Everyone,

As Beth has informed the team already, I have left the Brainerd lab to go back to school. In the fall, I will be a student at VanArts Media Institute, learning 2D and 3D animation. I’m not sure specifically what career I am pursuing, but I hope to work on projects that combine science and art. (See a short sample below).

Working on QSTORM has been such a great educational experience. Over the last year, I learned how to stain muscle cells with fluorescent antibodies and image them using the confocal. I also had the opportunity to test and troubleshoot both commercial and QSTORM team Qdots immunohistochemistry protocols for confocal and STORM imaging. Most importantly, I gained insight to the patience, creativity and collaboration that goes into scientific research.

Thank-you everyone for such a wonderful year, and best of luck with QSTORM. I look forward to reading about new progress!



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  1. Karine says:

    How exciting, Nati! Good luck with this new adventure.


  2. Carol Lynn says:

    Thanks for all your contributions to QSTORM, Nati! Best wishes from all of us!

Posted in Brainerd Lab Notes, Team Blog | 2 Comments

News from Georgia – a QSTORM baby!

Hello everyone,

Jianquan’s wife gave birth to a baby girl last Friday!



  1. Jessica says:

    Thanks Peter! Congrats Jianquan! I hope you enjoy time with your family and that everyone is happy and healthy.


  2. Ge says:

    Congratulations, Jianquan!

    -Ge Yang

  3. Karine says:

    Best wishes from Karine and Carol Lynn!

  4. Jianquan says:

    Thank you all!

    Best Regards,

Posted in Jianquan Notes, Kner Lab Notes, Team Blog | 4 Comments

News from Gang and Ge

On the heels of our successful outreach event for chinese middle school students at the Museum of Science (see our recent post), we heard from Gang Ruan, a former QSTORM-er, who is organizing a exchange trip for another group of chinese students. Gang participated in the first half of the QSTORM project while a Research Scientist in Jessica’s lab, and he left the US in late 2012 to take a faculty position at the College of Engineering of Nanjing University in China. Gang is enjoying his work in Nanjing, and this summer, he is leading a team of 9 undergraduate students from Nanjing on a US ‘summer camp’ where they will explore engineering design, biomedical engineering, interactions with physicians, along with a little sightseeing. They will spend 2 weeks at OSU – including making a visit to Jessica’s lab – and are thinking of making a trip to Boston (and the Museum of a Science) as well.

We also heard that Ge was promoted to Associate Professor at Carnegie Mellon University in the department of Biomedical Engineering and the Lane Center for Computational Biology. Congratulations, Ge!

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How do you say QSTORM in Mandarin?

Yesterday, we hosted a unique international outreach event at the Museum of Science. We’d been contacted by Pei Zhang, the Executive Director of the US-China Scitech Education Promotion Association, who had organized an educational trip for a group of 60 middle school students from China. Since the QSTORM project features several Chinese researchers/students, she thought it be great to include the “Making Molecular Movies with QSTORM” as part of their visit to the Museum of Science – and we were able to arrange for a live online chat and Q&A session in Mandarin with Ge in Pittsburgh!


The students are from the Nanjing Xuanwu Foreign Language School in Nanjing, China. Their trip to the US was to explore and experience science education opportunities here – visiting labs at Harvard and MIT, and seeing the Museum of Science Boston, to explore chemistry, biology and engineering.

The students were very attentive and interested throughout the presentation, but the highlight was definitely the live chat in Mandarin between the students and Ge after the show. Ge was able to share a little bit about his research career path from China to the US, and also fielded questions about all aspects of the QSTORM project – from how the quantum dots worked, to what wavelengths of light they were using for STORM, to how this type of imaging could answer Ge’s research questions about some of the cellular mechanisms related to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.




Pei reports: “The Museum of Science day was a total blast. Thank you very much for the great presentation yesterday. It was BEYOND my expectations. The talk in Mandarin with Prof. Yang was really helpful for students to pick up more information from the presentation. We definitely want to do more in the future!”

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Museum visitors like hearing about the QSTORM quest!

Since our initial evaluation of the “Making Molecular Movies with QSTORM” presentation last summer, we’ve continued to check in with visitors on occasion to make sure they were still enjoying the show and learning from it. So, over the last year, we’ve collected additional visitor feedback forms every few months. Here’s an update on our visitor evaluation:

Secondly, we’ve gotten very positive audience response on this show. Visitors seem to be enjoying the presentation – they are excited to hear about this type of current research project and they are eager to learn more. They frequently stick around after the presentation to ask questions or tell me how much they enjoyed the show. As wonderful as this feedback is, we wanted real data to give us a better picture of whether or not the presentation was hitting the mark. So, for the last couple of weeks, we’ve been conducting visitor evaluations – a short audience feedback survey to find out what people like about the show. I will be continuing these surveys into the future, but here’s a few of the highlights so far:

# of surveys: 142

– 41% of respondents are kids/teens, the remainder are adults.
– 97% found the presentation interesting (73% rated it as “Very Interesting”, and 24% rated it as “Moderately interesting”)
– 86% found it easy to understand (41% rated it as “Very Easy to Understand”, and 45% rated it as “Somewhat Easy to Understand”)
– 76% reported that they were likely to visit the website (33% said “Very Likely” and 43% said “Somewhat Likely”)

These results are very similar to our survey results from last summer (with a few percentage points), which indicates that visitors continue to enjoy the presentation and find it interesting and engaging.

When asked “What were the main take-away points for you?”, many visitors described the imaging challenge we face when trying to visualize very small structures inside cells, or mentioned quantum dots and/or STORM technology as a way to improve imaging. Visitors also picked up on the interdisciplinary nature of research – with several visitors noting the importance of collaboration.

When asked “Were there any parts of the presentation that you particularly liked?” the most frequently mentioned aspects of the show were:
– the quantum dot-linker-gold nanoparticle demonstration
– demonstration of real quantum dots with UV light
– the Superhero animation
– the Inner Life of the Cell animation
– the visuals/images
– the presenter/presentation style (thanks!)
– the analogies (Eiffel Tower)
Several visitors also remarked that they liked “all of it!”.

When asked “What questions do you still have about QSTORM?”, visitors often noted that they had no questions. Others questions fall into a few different categories:
– How the linker molecule works
– Other applications for QDs or this imaging technology (specifically for medicine)
– How the QDs get a specific part of the cell
– Will the team be successful? (and are there other options for funding?)
Several visitors mentioned that they would go to the website to find out more.

We continue to be very pleased with audience response to this presentation – and think this style of presentation, which focuses on the specific researchers and the challenges they face in their quest to find out something new, could serve as a model for other presentations we create.

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