Electron microscopes are transforming our knowledge of the world. Using beams of electrons to magnify structures up to 10 million times their actual size, these powerful instruments allow researchers to examine objects at levels of detail that were once unimaginable.
Cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) is the Nobel Prize-winning method researchers are using to better understand structures previously too large or complex to be studied, such as viruses and protein complexes. Scientists now have the ability to accelerate the path to new treatments and therapies for diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s, as well as cancers, AIDS, malaria, Zika and more.
Dramatically lowering the EM learning curve
In an effort to assist researchers in getting the most from their data and help train people on cryo-EM instruments, Thermo Fisher and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) teamed up to offer Cryo-Electron Microscopy (EM) University, part of the EM-Learning platform, which is a first-of-its-kind online training program designed to help researchers of all levels become proficient in the use of these powerful instruments.
Funded by a three-year grant from the National Institute of Health and with lectures from Professor Grant Jensen from Caltech, Cryo-EM University is an extension of Thermo Fisher’s Cryo-EM School, originally a nine-week program at Leiden University in the Netherlands. While the in-person program was effective, Thermo Fisher decided to transform the curriculum into an online program consisting of both theoretical instruction and practical hands-on training to improve the flexibility of the course and reduce the number of hours researchers need to spend in the laboratory.
By attending Cryo-EM University, participants can get both the theoretical and practical training they need as their schedules allow. They can also dramatically lower their learning curve on how to use an electron microscope to become more proficient on the instrument.
Cryo-EM University is a part of the EM-Learning platform, designed to help researchers gain a fundamental knowledge of cryo-EM, get tips and tricks to overcome sample preparation challenges, and obtain practical advice on the cryo-EM workflow.
Demand for learning more about cryo-EM has been higher than ever since Jacques Dubochet from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, Joachim Frank from Columbia University in New York, and Richard Henderson from Cambridge in the United Kingdom, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their development of this method in 2017.
The curriculum includes over 75 hours of instruction divided into a “learning” and “workflow” section. The “learning” section of the program includes 10 modules that show participants how to set up and use every part of the electron microscope including the accelerator, the condenser and projection lenses, and detectors and cameras. Participants will also learn how to prepare samples for exploration using electron microscopes and how to collect data using Thermo Fisher’s single particle analysis software. The end of each module includes questions that participants can answer to test their knowledge before advancing to the next one.
After completing the learning section, participants are encouraged to watch 45 minutes of “workflow” videos that demonstrate the step-by-step process of using an electron microscope. These steps include, preparing a sample, freezing it, mounting the sample under the microscope and collecting the data from the generated image. The workflow section serves as a review of all the steps required for using a cryo-EM electron microscope.
Designed for novices to experts of all ages
Designed for researchers of all levels, EM University has attracted a wide range of participants since the program was first made available in November 2018. The program is getting tremendous response globally. The curriculum continues to serve as an educational platform to help the next generation of cryo-electron microscopists.
To register for Cryo-EM University, please log in on em-learning.com. Please note that the instruction videos are also available as step-by-step guide via our FREE Scientific Workflows App for iOS and Android operating systems. The free (lite) version is accessible via the link on the login screen of the App.
Stay tuned for future blog posts that discuss different aspects of the program.
Thijs Bressers is a Customer Experience Manager at Thermo Fisher Scientific.