The Cryo-EM revolution is officially underway at South Parks Road with COSMIC

The Cryo-EM revolution is officially underway at South Parks Road with COSMIC


Facility manager Dr Errin Johnson officially opens COSMIC by cutting a microscope-shaped cake (top) representing the star piece of COSMIC, FEI 300 kV Titan Krios G3 (bottom). Photo credit: Dr Errin Johnson

The official opening of the Central Oxford Structural Molecular Imaging Centre (COSMIC) was marked at the Dunn School on 9th of January following a two-day training workshop on EM data processing. COSMIC is the newly established cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) facility within South Parks Road’s Science Area that is directed by Professor Susan Lea and managed by Dr Errin Johnson.

The facility houses state-of-the-art electron microscopes: FEI 300 kV Titan Krios G3, FEI Arctica 200 kV, FEI Talos 200 kV and FEI Tecnai T12, and provides high performance computing for data processing and storage. COSMIC also has a dedicated team to train and support users, which will enable them to pursue structural biology research using cryo-EM locally within Central Oxford.

We are thrilled to open COSMIC to users and are looking forward to facilitating structural biology research at Oxford using our fabulous new suite of cryo-TEMs” Dr Johnson said.

Biological material such as proteins and viruses can be imaged with sophisticated microscopes called Transition Electron Microscopes (TEM). These microscopes, in principle, are similar to light microscopes except a beam of accelerated electrons (negatively charged particles) are used as a source of illumination. Electrons have a much shorter wavelength than that of visible light, photons, producing much higher resolution images. Cryo-EM is a technique used in particular for structure determination of proteins, whereby samples are frozen in non-crystalline ice and imaged at cryogenic temperatures using TEMs. Cryo-EM has been proven to have the power of solving structures at atomic resolution.

Prof Lea spoke to Voices from Oxford last November and discussed the revolutionary technique of cryo-EM, the recent Nobel Prize in Chemistry – awarded to Jacques Dubochet, Richard Henderson and Joachim Frank in 2017 for developing cryo-EM for high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules – Oxford University’s strong position in structural biology, and the reasons behind establishing COSMIC.

To watch Professor Lea’s interview, go to:

To read more about COSMIC see:


Written by Archna Shah

Wednesday, January 24, 2018 - 11