Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron science facility, has appointed Professor Peijun Zhang as inaugural director of its new centre for electron bioimaging (eBIC).
eBIC contains advanced microscopes which allow users to investigate the structures of a diverse range of proteins and protein complexes, viruses and other pathogens, and individual cells, exploiting techniques that are rarely available at home laboratories.
Prof Zhang will be overseeing the growth of this exciting venture, which sees Diamond expanding the set of techniques on offer to users in recognition of the fact that, increasingly, a combination of advanced methods is needed to understand biology at the molecular level.
Commenting on her appointment, Peijun said: “eBIC is a vital resource for the international science community and I anticipate seeing a real range of discoveries coming out of this centre in the years to come.”
“I will position this centre as one of the leading cryo-EM facilities in the world. We have state-of-the-art technology and we’re fully prepared to push the field of structural biology forward. I’m delighted to join the team behind this exciting project, and I’m confident that we can drive the science and technology development that will make eBIC a real hub for electron bio-imaging.”
Prof Zhang brings a broad range of expertise in cryo-EM to the post. After completing a PhD at the University of Virginia, Prof Zhang went on to postdoctoral roles with the National Institute of Health, before moving to the University of Pittsburgh in 2002 where she held the position of Associate Professor.
There she specialised in human pathogens, including HIV and bacterial infection, exploiting cryo-EM to study large protein complexes and macromolecular assemblies. With a truly holistic approach to research, Peijun is interested in combining structural information from cryo-EM with biochemical and physiological analysis and computational modelling to create a broader understanding of the molecular machinery behind protein complexes.
With extensive experience in cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), Professor Zhang’s considerable expertise in structural biology makes her well-placed to support the different groups that come from all over the world to use the eBIC facility.
eBIC currently contains two high-end Krios cryo-electron microscopes, providing scientists with state-of-the-art instrumentation and expertise. Two further microscopes are planned for installation within the next 6 months.
Professor Dave Stuart, Director of Life Sciences at Diamond Light Source, said: “Most individual departments don’t have access to instruments like those available at eBIC, so it’s a really important tool for the UK science community. What’s more, the centralisation of these instruments near the UK synchrotron generates a real synergy between the different techniques on offer at Diamond.
“Ultimately, eBIC represents a unique combination of scientific infrastructure on the world stage: synchrotron science and electron microscopy in one place. That’s something very special.”
Along with state-of-the-art facilities, the centre will provide training courses for structural and cell biologists, and remain cutting edge though strong, in-house research.
eBIC was located at Diamond following the award of a £15.6 million grant from the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), and is due to be officially launch in Spring 2017.