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Single-Molecule Science

This is a fascinating book about exploring “the ability to observe and track individual molecules and monitor molecular interactions in living cells” to understand the mechanisms of life at the building-block level. The research described in the book relies on complex optical imaging techniques at the intersection of engineering, physics and optics, with primary applications in biology.

It references optical techniques like single-molecule fluorescence and super-resolution microscopy, atomic force microscopy and optical and magnetic tweezers, and it includes protocols for preparing biological specimens, as well as discussions of platforms for data processing.

For someone without a biology background, the acronym soup can be intimidating at times, especially since the authors sometimes revert to the spelled-out meaning without reminding the reader about the acronym. Maybe not surprising for such a new topic, the foreword and introductory chapter make up about a quarter of the relatively slender book, seeming to crowd out the eight actual technical chapters.

The contents are split into four sections, the final one including only one chapter. As expected for a book on imaging techniques such as this one, there are several microscope photographs and photos of devices and circuits, along with charts and diagrams, many of them in color. A few mathematical equations are also used, but the challenges for the reader are more on the biochemistry and biology side than in complex mathematics.

References are abundant in each chapter and as recent as 2019. The book also has a comprehensive index. The lack of assignment problems should not limit its use as a textbook because the coverage is most suitable for a graduate class focused on research.

Review by Bogdan Hoanca, University of Alaska Anchorage, USA.

The opinions expressed in the book review section are those of the reviewer and do not necessarily reflect those of OPN or its publisher, Optica (formerly OSA).

Publish Date: 22 September 2022

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