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Why choose a career with cryo-electron microscopy?

Cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) is an advanced imaging technique used to visualize the structure of biological molecules at atomic resolution. Cryo-EM has become an essential tool in the field of structural biology, and the demand for skilled cryo-EM scientists is rapidly increasing.


Cryo-EM scientists are at the forefront of major discoveries not only in the life sciences but drug discovery. These skilled microscopists utilize their diverse backgrounds in various disciplines to tackle complex inquiries, aiming to unravel the intricate details of essential biological processes such as DNA repair, ribosome biogenesis, cell signaling, and cancer biology, while contributing to rational drug design at the atomic level. These scientists play a crucial role in experiment design, data analysis, and the creation of precise models for these biological processes. In addition, some cryo-EM microscopists actively contribute to the advancement of instrumentation and software used in data collection, analysis, visualization, as well as the translation of this data into three-dimensional structure models.

Cryo-electron microscopy career paths


One career path for a cryo-electron microscopist is in Academia. Cryo-EM is a valuable tool for research in the field of structural biology, cell biology, and biochemistry, and many universities and research institutions have established cryo-EM facilities. Cryo-EM scientists can work as faculty members, postdoctoral researchers, or research scientists in academic settings, conducting research on a variety of biological molecules and structures.



Another career path for a cryo-electron microscopist is in Industry. Cryo-EM is increasingly being used in drug discovery and development, particularly in the field of biologics. Cryo-EM scientists can work in research and development, quality control, or regulatory affairs in pharmaceutical companies, helping to develop new drugs and therapies.


Cryo-EM scientists can also work in government research institutions, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These institutions conduct research on a wide range of biological structures and molecules, and cryo-EM is an essential tool for many of these studies. Cryo-EM scientists can work in research, regulatory affairs, or policy development in government research institutions.

In conclusion, the career paths available for a cryo-electron microscopist are diverse and varied. With the increasing demand for skilled cryo-EM scientists in academia, the pharmaceutical industry, and government research institutions, there are many opportunities for professionals in this field to make significant contributions to the field of biology, drug discovery, and the life sciences.

Hear from cryo-electron microscopy scientists in the field

During interviews and podcasts, we heard from cryo-EM experts and rising stars in the EM community. Hear about their career development and advice for early-career scientists.

Dr. Montessart Samso’s career journey

Dr. Montserrat Samso is an Associate Professor in the School of Medicine Physiology and Biophysics at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Training resources

A merit badge is a proficiency qualification that allows for independent use of specified instrumentation and is cross-honored at the three US cryo-EM service centers.

These digital courses for the principles of both techniques contain videos, animations, and interactive simulations that cover the major components of the cryo-EM workflow.

Community resources

This mailing list provides information for the 3DEM community, including current job postings in the field. The 3DEM list is a primary communication source among experts in the field of molecular and cellular electron microscopy.

Find workshops, courses, symposiums, and projects and connect with the community.

Cryo-EM Centers

In the US, the NIH Common Fund has created three cryo-EM service centers and a network of four cryo-electron tomography-specific centers that provide access to cryo-EM instrumentation and periodic training programs. In Europe, Instruct ERIC and iNEXT-Discovery have extensive networks that offer access to cryo-EM instruments for cryo-EM, cryo-ET, and correlative imaging. In this webinar, we will discuss routes to access cryo-EM infrastructure and training.

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