Dr. Watanabe has built a widely respected career around materials characterization using various electron microscopy methods, such as X-ray and energy-loss spectrometry techniques, in analytical electron microscopes (AEMs) and atomic-resolution high-angle annular dark-field (HAADF) imaging in scanning transmission electron microscopes (STEMs).

He obtained his Ph.D. in Metallurgy from Kyushu University in 1996, after which he moved to the United States to join David Williams’ research group at Lehigh University as a postdoctoral fellow. There, he developed the zeta-factor method for quantitative X-ray analysis, which he continued in 1998 as an associate professor at the Research Laboratory for High Voltage Electron Microscopy at Kyushu University.

Returning to Lehigh University in 2001, Dr. Watanabe continued to hone and expand his analytical electron microscopy expertise. He developed multivariate statistical analysis (MSA) for spectrum images of X-rays and energy-loss electrons, which is ubiquitously implemented in current microanalysis software packages (along with his zeta-factor method for EDS). From 2007–2008 he joined the National Center for Electron Microscopy (NCEM) facility at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to assist in the development of the Transmission Electron Aberration-corrected Microscope (TEAM) instruments. He is currently a Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Lehigh University and is an Associate Director of the Materials Characterization Facility in the Institute of Functional  Materials and Devices at Lehigh.

He received the KFJ Heinrich Award from the MAS in 2005, the Kazato Prize from the Kazato Research Foundation in 2008, and the Seto Award (the Society Award) from  the Japanese Society of Microscopy in 2011.

Dr. Watanabe has shown a strong commitment to educating and serving the next generation of electron microscopists. He has been a lecturer and one of the organizers of the Lehigh Microscopy School since 2001. He has been a lecturer at other microscopy schools, including the Arizona State University Winter School on High Resolution Electron Microscopy since 2008 and the Nano Science Education Program in Osaka University, Japan since 2015. Dr. Watanabe served as President of the MAS from 2016–2018 and became an MAS Fellow in 2019. He also served as Physical Science Director of the Microscopy Society of America (MSA) from 2020–2022 and became an MSA Fellow in 2020.