Single-cell techniques have a long history of unveiling fundamental paradigms in biology. Recent improvements in the throughput, resolution, and availability of microfluidics, computational power, and genetically encoded fluorescence have led to a modern renaissance in microbial physiology. This resurgence in research activity has offered new perspectives on physiological processes such as growth, cell cycle, and cell size of model organisms such as Escherichia coli. We expect these single-cell techniques, coupled with the molecular revolution of biology's recent half-century, to continue illuminating unforeseen processes and patterns in microorganisms, the bedrock of biological science. In this article we review major open questions in single-cell physiology, provide a brief introduction to the techniques for scientists of diverse backgrounds, and highlight some pervasive issues and their solutions.