Illuminating science with a rainbow of proteins

Known as a Nobel Laureate for his research on the Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP), Roger Tsien revolutionized the world of biology and brought some colour into the world of science. The news of his passing has left me with a heavy heart. I will be forever grateful for his work on fluorescent proteins and the technology of biosensors that grad students and scientists have used in their research.



Fluorescent proteins derived from Aequorea GFP or Discosoma RFP, expressed in bacteria, and purified. – “Improved monomeric red, orange and yellow fluorescent proteins derived from Discosoma sp. red fluorescent protein”: N. C. Shaner, R. E. Campbell, P. A. Steinbach, B. N. G. Giep- mans, A. E. Palmer, R. Y. Tsien, Nat. Biotechnol. 2004, 22, 1567 – 1572.

I still remember it like yesterday when I caught a glimpse of Roger Tsien walking out of the elevator while in San Diego. Amidst the crowd of people it felt like everything paused: I was star-struck by his presence – thinking I can’t believe it’s him! The Nobel Laureate himself walking right in front of me. I had a few of his photos on my presentations on biosensors but now I got to see him with my own eyes. It was such a memorable experience that will always highlight my time as a grad student.

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He transformed biology as we know it today and his legacy will live on through the technology his lab has generated. You’re lucky if you were able to attend one his lectures – something I wish I could have done.

You will always make my cells glow and keep my research bright.

Missed but never forgotten.


Cover Image: A San Diego beach scene drawn with an eight color palette of bacterial colonies expressing fluorescent proteins derived from GFP and the red-fluorescent coral protein dsRed. The colors include BFP, mTFP1, Emerald, Citrine, mOrange, mApple, mCherry and mGrape. Artwork by Nathan Shaner, photography by Paul Steinbach, created in the lab of Roger Tsien in 2006.