2017 Distinguished Scientist - Biological Sciences
David W. Piston
David W. Piston is the Edward J. Mallinckrodt Jr. Professor of Cell Biology & Physiology, Physics, and Bioengineering at Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Piston received his training in physics with a bachelor degree from Grinnell College, followed by M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Illinois. His doctoral research was performed with Enrico Gratton, and he subsequently completed a postdoctoral research fellowship in Applied Physics with Watt Webb at Cornell University. During his time at Cornell, two-photon excitation microscopy was invented, which led Dr. Piston into biomedical research. From 1992 to 2014, Dr. Piston was on the faculty at Vanderbilt University. He was a Beckman Young Investigator Award (1993), NIH Study Section Chair (2004-2006), a member of the Searle Scholars Advisory Board (2006-2012), and is currently the Associate Editor for Cell Biophysics of the Biophysical Journal. His diverse research group focuses on the understanding the molecular mechanisms that underlie hormone secretion from islets of Langerhans in the pancreas. Driven by this biomedical focus, the lab develops and applies novel fluorescence microscopies to improve temporal resolution and increase information content. These approaches include multi-color fluctuation spectroscopy, light sheet microscopy, hyperspectral imaging, and correlative light and electron microscopy. To optimize these methods, his lab also develops novel biosensors, largely based on the Green Fluorescent Protein and its relatives. His lab combines these new approaches and probes to allow quantitative measurements of constituent islet cell behaviors in situ at various points along key signaling pathways for glucose homeostasis.