Acosta receives prestigious Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation award

August 8, 2017

Victor Acosta

Victor Acosta

Congratulations to Victor Acosta, UNM Physics & Astronomy assistant professor and CHTM faculty member, upon receiving a Beckman Young Investigators Award from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation for his research project,“Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy on a Diamond Chip.” The award is in the amount of $750,000 and will begin September 1, 2017, distributed over four years.

The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation gives entirely to science, with support for education and research. It looks to fund emerging researchers with innovative ideas, to support out-of-the-box thinking and projects that aim to revolutionize their scientific fields. Acosta presented a poster on the research and accepted the award in person at the 2017 Beckman Symposium, held August 3-5 in Irvine, CA.

Project synopsis

Imagine a microscope that doesn’t just take optical images, but also magnetic resonance images of individual cells that reveal their underlying molecular composition without altering them in any way.

Acosta’s research group, the Quantum Nanophotonics and Biosensing Team, is developing a new type of magnetic resonance sensor. The sensor is based on laser interrogation of diamond nanostructure, to detect the type and behavior of complex molecules in their natural environment.

This can be applied to the rapid analysis of proteins and metabolites in cell systems biology, as well as for diagnosis and fundamental studies of malaria through its magnetic signatures.

Detection of biomolecules at 10,000 times greater sensitivity than current devices

The nanophotonic magnetic resonance spectroscopy platform is capable of detecting minute quantities of biomolecules. The specific detection of biomolecules plays a central role in modern life science including cell systems biology, high throughput drug screening, and clinical oncology.

The sensor is structured to increase the total contact area with the sample, causing a boost in the Nanophotonic Magnetic Resonance (NMR) signal and reduction in acquisition time. This allows for sensitive detection of sub-nanoliter volumes of trace samples under a wide variety of environmental conditions. In addition, this technique is capable of being employed in low magnetic fields to detect nuclear quadrupole resonance (NQR), making it possible to detect extremely small trace quantities of analytes (e.g. nanograms of powder).

Beckman Foundation logo

The Beckman Young Investigator Program was established in 1991. It is intended to provide research support to the most promising young faculty members in the early stages of their academic careers to foster the inventions that will open up new avenues of research in science.

Victor Acosta with the 2017 Beckman Young Investigator award recipients at the Beckman Symposium

Victor Acosta with the 2017 Beckman Young Investigator award recipients at the Beckman Symposium

Learn more about the research:
Nanoscale physics research team performs magnetic resonance spectroscopy on a diamond chip