Skip to main content

World-leading Cryo-electron Microscopy Image Processing Course at Birkbeck

Birkbeck's Department of Biological Sciences hosted the EMBO Practical Course in Cryo-EM Image Processing in September.

Graphic model of the motor protein dynein-2 in blues, green and purple.
Image credit: Katerina Toropova and Anthony Roberts

The EMBO (European Molecular Biology Organisation) Practical Course in Image Processing for Cryo-electron Microscopy took place from 6-16 September at Birkbeck. The course was developed by Professor Helen Saibil and Professor Elena Orlova nearly 20 years ago and has been funded by EMBO almost from the start.

This year, the course was run virtually to allow students and teachers to attend safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. The course allowed post docs, academics and industry professionals to benefit from the experience of world-leading scientists working with this method for studying macromolecular structures.

The ISMB (Institute of Structural and Molecular Biology) a joint BBK-UCL research institute, is internationally recognised as a centre of excellence for cryo-EM. In 2017, when Richard Henderson gave his speech for the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, alongside fellow prize winners Joachim Frank and Jacques Dubochet, he recognised the significance of cryo-EM training that had been developed by Helen Saibil.

Helen Saibil comments on the significance of the EMBO course: "For me, what is most important about the course is the huge enthusiasm of the participants and teachers. And seeing some of the students develop into leaders in the field, like Giulia Zanetti!"

Dr Giulia Zanetti, previously an attendee and now involved as a co-organiser, comments: "I participated as a student to this course in 2005, during my PhD, and it was a fantastic learning experience, which definitely helped me progress with my project and my career. It was a great honour to be able to help organise the course this year, and hopefully for years to come."

In 2018 the Department of Biological Sciences installed a state-of-the-art Titan Krios cryo-electron microscope, capable of producing up to 4TB of data a day. This data gives researchers insights into the structures and workings of biological molecules and assemblies, making it possible to design drugs and treatments for diseases. Research at Birkbeck using cryo-EM has contributed to medical strategies to combat cancer, dementia, antibiotic resistance and malaria.

Further Information

European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO)

More news about: