Dr. William E. Moerner, American Nobel Prize winner, Chemist, Researcher & Musician: Madeline’s Monthly Musical Tips Blog/Article for March 2020

Our Radio Show and blog celebrates the life and work of Dr. William E. Moerner, American Nobel Prize winner, Chemist, Researcher, Professor & Musician.

March is music in our schools. Included are two articles on the power of classical music for education and healing. Our article of the month is “From Protégé to Leader & Mentor: Connecting With Others” by Madeline Frank, Ph.D.

Radio Show Feature Question for March 2020: How does Classical Music play a part of Dr. William E. Moerner’s life as an American Nobel Prize winner, Chemist, researcher, professor, and musician and what musical instruments does he play?



Early Years:

William E. Moerner was born on June 24, 1953 to Bertha Frances Robinson Moerner and William Alfred Moerner.  (He was called W.E. to distinguish from his father and grandfather.)

W.E. was born at Parks Air Force Base in Pleasanton, California. He was raised in San Antonio, Texas to a “warm and loving family that believed in hard work and education.”


He says, “My father’s mother Florence had a fine voice for singing, and my years singing with her and my father in the Woodlawn Methodist Church choir laid the foundation for my love of music to this day.”

He says, “It was during the grades 7–9 at Longfellow Junior High School that additional key interests blossomed. I played clarinet and then bassoon in the orchestra, and I sang with a wonderful guitar/folk music group named the Acadians. I also served on the stage crew during assembly events to satisfy my desire to know how things were working behind the scenes.”

Repairing cars with his father:

“These years also included me helping my father repair things, especially cars. I remember one time we were changing the oil in his car, and I dutifully removed the plug to drain the oil into a pan, put the oil away, and then carefully started pouring oil into the fill hole on the top of the engine without replacing the plug first! This kind of silly mistake was met with hilarious laughter from me and my father, the right way to deal with a simple error. How else does one really learn, without trying and making errors now and then? Learn from the mistake and move on! I also won the Grand Prize at the 8th grade science fair by measuring the viscosity of various motor oils using timed flow out of a calibrated pipette.”


University & Graduate School:

William E. Moerner in 1975 earned his B. S.in Physics, B.S. in Electrical Engineering, and A.B. in Mathematics at Washington University. At Cornell University in 1978, he earned his M.S. in Physics and in 1982 his Ph.D. in Physics.


1981 to 1995: Dr. Moerner worked at IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California in research where he “made the first of two major discoveries that were key to his role in his Nobel-winning work.”



Dr. Moerner, “The physical science community at IBM Research was led by George Castro, Ed Engler, and Jerry Swalen,  I had the opportunity to interact with several great laser spectroscopists, including Gary Bjorklund (who taught me laser FM spectroscopy, the ultrasensitive method used later to detect a single molecule).” He also worked with “top chemists Grant Willson, Robert Twieg, and many others.”


Singing in Gilbert and Sullivan Society: Marriage & Children:

Dr. Moerner: “In 1982, I decided to join the Gilbert and Sullivan Society of San Jose to pursue my musical interests, and to get out of the lab to meet people (women, to be more exact). After my partner in the operetta Gondoliers dropped out, the Director, Ruth Stein, paired me with her daughter, Sharon Stein, who had just graduated from Oberlin College and was working 72 hour shifts as a counselor at a facility for abused children. She was a perfect partner, friendly, talented, smart, and vivacious. We quickly fell in love! Sharon turned out to be the eldest of the “G&S” family of San Jose, in that her mother, and her father, Michel Stein, both physicians, directed and produced many, many shows as they helped found the group some years before.”

“We were married in her parents’ back yard in 1983. Sharon then pursued a Master’s in psychology at San Jose State University followed by a Ph.D. at the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology in Menlo Park, California.” In 1991 their son Daniel was born.

Dr. Moerner: “It has been a glorious and thrilling time to see Daniel grow from an incredibly bright boy to a brilliant and caring man.”



In 1995, “Dr. Moerner joined the chemistry faculty at the University of California, San Diego.”   By accident he made a second discovery. “He and a colleague, Robert Dickson, were looking at cells tagged with a green fluorescent protein. Instead of staying brightly lit, the tags turned on and off, fluorescing at different wavelengths of color depending on how they were manipulated.”

Moerner said. “They are like little beacons, or flashlights, telling us where the structure is and in precise detail going far beyond the optical limit of diffraction.”  This discovery “led to an entirely new way of looking at living cells.”

Moving to Stanford University in 1998:

Moerner designed and constructed his new lab and became Professor of Chemistry. In 2002, he became the Harry S. Mosher Professor of Chemistry, “followed by Professor, by courtesy, of Applied Physics in 2005. From 2011-2014 he “served as the Chair of the Chemistry Department.”

Moerner “focused on single-molecule imaging, spectroscopy, trapping, and related areas of biophysics, nanophotonics, and materials. By keying in on fluorescent light Moerner and his co-winners were suddenly able to see much smaller molecular structures.”

Dr. Moerner, “With light, you can’t observe details smaller than less than half a micron. You can go to factors of 10 or more below that level using fluorescence.”

Dr. Moerner said while teaching at Stanford University, that he “believes making music is often a prerequisite to breaking down barriers in science.”

He says, “A number of my best students (maybe 50%) have strong music skills, something we enjoy during our annual holiday parties. Certainly, arts training is a necessary part of a broad education, because we all need to appreciate the arts to see the variety of ways in which our emotions can be expressed. My musical experiences have always tapped into a deep part of my soul in a very personal way. I enjoy the harmonies, the intricacies, and the intellectual challenge, which all probably connect to the rules and structure of science and mathematics, but I also have an emotional connection to music.”



In 2014 Dr. Moerner won his Nobel Prize for Chemistry “for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy.”



Dr. Moerner speaks of his family life on winning his Nobel Prize: Dr. Moerner: “In every way, I have been extremely fortunate in my life in that I have been able to pursue my passions in science and in my personal life with general good health. For thirty-one years to the present, my wife has been my steadfast companion and rock of support, and I cannot thank her enough. My son, a deep thinker specializing in philosophy, has been a true joy and fellow music lover throughout, and I am very happy that he could experience Stockholm as well. My parents and Sharon’s parents did not live to see my Nobel Prize, but their love and support were truly instrumental in this accomplishment. I look forward to continuing my career as a perpetual student, not willing to fit into any specific box and continuing to learn new areas of science.”


Dr. William E. Moerner is an American Nobel Prize winner, Chemist, Researcher, Professor and lifelong musician. He continues his research to look for more discoveries to help mankind.


“From Protégé to Leader & Mentor: Connecting With Others” by Madeline Frank, Ph.D.

We stand on the shoulders of our mentors. No matter what your occupation or interest; there have been people who have “taken you under their wing” to help you grow.

When you begin something new, it is your mentor’s belief in you that keeps you going until your own belief in you kicks in.

I began as a protégé at the age of 8, studying with William Whitson, who was a Concert Violinist and military officer. He smiled and showed me how to hold the violin and bow, where to place my fingers on the string, and how to make a sound on the instrument by pulling the bow across the strings. He did this by modeling how to play for me and then having me try it.

He also taught me how to read the notes on the musical page which is parallel to reading a book and taught me at my first violin lesson to play the theme of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Ode to Joy.

Mr. Whitson’s encouragement was the fuel that kept me going during my moments of frustration.

Many years later at 17, I had the honor of playing at the world-famous Carnegie Hall. That journey would never have been possible without the investment my mentor made in me.

My first leadership role was that of a teaching assistant at Virginia Commonwealth University at 17 years of age. Even though many of the students were older than I was, I taught the same way Mr. Whitson taught me, wearing a smile, demonstrating how to hold the violin and bow, and having them try it. I walked around the room to help improve each person’s hold on the violin and bow and gave them encouragement. Just as Mr. Whitson believed in me, I believed in them.

One student was 6 foot 2 with huge hands he was trying to wrap around his violin. After showing him how to pull his left arm down and hold his hand by bending his thumb slightly, he was able to play a few notes. This was his lightbulb moment!

While I was teaching, I was continuing in my protégé role studying violin with my Professor.

That school was a stepping stone for studying at the Juilliard School. While studying at the Juilliard School, I played Principal viola in the 92nd Y Orchestra. My leadership role was playing solos with the orchestra and leading my section. This job gave me a stipend to pay my rent.

Herman Silver, 75, was a member of our viola section. He was an amazing amateur violist who played beautifully. During the weekends, he was passionate about playing chamber music in his home with New York City’s best musicians. You could feel the excitement dripping from his pores.

Herman loaned me the music for each concert two weeks in advance. He loved sharing his passion for chamber music with the next generation and having world class musicians lead the way. Herman was an encouraging, inspiring, and motivating mentor.

At Herman’s concerts we performed with concert violinist, Toscha Samaroff who had been a student of Leopold Auer. Toscha, 75, played the difficult first violin parts to both Mendelssohn’s Octet and Spohr’s Octet. Toscha was an extraordinary leader playing with a beautiful tone and lovely phrasing. I played both first viola parts in these works with Herman playing the second parts in a beautiful steady manner. Playing with Toscha Samaroff and Herman Silver was a marvelous experience I will long remember. They encouraged and inspired others to play at their top level of performance.

My leadership style today is as a leader who is both a teacher and mentor to my team members helping them improve and grow.

Great leaders are people developers, building strong relationships with others. They encourage, inspire, and motivate their protégés and team members. They do this by modeling the work and believing in the people they lead. This is my leadership style.

What three things do great leaders, teachers, and mentors have in common?

1) They want to develop people. They build strong relationships in an atmosphere of growth and learning.

2) They care about others and want to help them reach their goals by encouraging, inspiring, and motivating others.

3) They help their protégés or mentees build healthy self-images by believing in them before they do.

We stand on the shoulders of our mentors. How can you keep their legacy continuing for the next generation?

By stepping up and being a leader and mentor who motivates, encourages, and inspires others to reach their top level of excellence! © 2020 Madeline Frank

If you need a speaker contact Madeline at: [email protected]



“Documentary Examines Power of Music to Heal the Brain” (Jan. 21, 2020) by Kevin Gould and Christine Long from the Montreal. ctvnews. “Award-winning director Isabelle Raynauld has spent the past five years investigating the influence music has on the brain in everyone from military veterans, to cancer patients, to premature infants.”



 “8 Reasons You Should Listen More To Classical Music” by Robert Locke.

“At Northumbria University (UK), research team performed some experiments on students’ brain functioning when doing tests while they listened to Vivaldi’s Spring concerto. They were answering faster and better than when they listened to the sadder Autumn concerto. The conclusion was that brain activity is improved when listening to pleasant and arousing stimuli.”

“If a loved one suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s, it is well worth noting the studies showing how music can help them to regain memories and enormously improve their quality of life. Watch the video here of a man who was brought back to life by listening to the music he loved in the past.”

Dr. Oliver Sacks, “People with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias can respond to music when nothing else reaches them. Alzheimer’s can totally destroy the ability to remember family members or events from one’s own life—but musical memory somehow survives the ravages of disease, and even in people with advanced dementia, music can often reawaken personal memories and associations that are otherwise lost.”



“The Secret of Teaching Science & Math Through Music” by Madeline Frank, Ph.D. is available in book form, and newly updated as an e-book on Kindle, Nook, or iBook 


Barnes and Noble(Nook)



“Musical Notes On Math” by Dr. Madeline Frank teaches your child fractions and decimals, the fun easy way, through the rhythm of music, Winner of the Parent To Parent Adding Wisdom Award is available in book form, newly updated as an e-book on Kindle, Nook, or iBook.


Barnes and Noble(Nook)


Tips on how to use “Musical Notes On Math” 



 Madeline’s Midnight Melodies- Music From around the World”. This CD complements her books with a blend of dance music, gigues, tangos, ballet and favorites including “Danny Boy”, Puccini’s “O Mio Babbino Caro”, Debussy’s “Claire De Lune” and others. “Madeline’s Midnight Melodies” is music to relax by and to move by for music therapy.  “Madeline’s Midnight Melodies” CD is now available for purchase by downloading a song, downloading the album, or by CD by clicking below:

Download Your Copy Today!  Amazon | iTunes | CD Baby

Dr. Madeline Frank’s book “Leadership on a Shoestring Budget” is available through amazon. To order your copy of “Leadership On A Shoestring Budget”  as an e-book on Kindle click on the following link:


Wishing you and your family a Happy Saint Patrick’s Day from your Non-Invasive Medicine…Music Expert, Madeline

For over 30 years, Dr. Madeline Frank has helped children and adults overcome problems through Classical music. Madeline Frank, Ph.D., DTM is an award-winning teacher, author, researcher, speaker, conductor, and concert artist. She has found a scientific link between studying and/or listening to musical instruments and academic and societal success. Madeline Frank earned her Bachelor and Master’s degree from the Juilliard School of Music. Her education has included scholarships at the Juilliard School, Indiana University, and the University of Cincinnati and she has a violin performance diploma from the North Carolina School of the Arts. (C) 2020 Madeline Frank.