Electron imaging facility launches unique voucher program to promote research


The College of Biological Sciences has launched a voucher program for campus researchers to use the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology’s state-of-the-art electron microscope. Applicants can now request up to $5,000 in matching funds that will pay for time and services at the Electron Imaging Facility.

“Facilitating access to our Electron Imaging Facility will aid in the creation of long-term, externally funded research projects,” says Dean James Hildreth, whose office is sponsoring the program. “We hope that this seed money inspires our faculty to maximize the lab’s services.”

Located in the Briggs Hall basement, the facility is equipped with instruments to conduct a wide array of research projects that require visualization of interactions of objects at the molecular level. In addition, it provides local expertise for data analysis and experiment design.

Access to the facility is open to all members of the university community, through the payment of reasonable fees to cover the cost of the individual experiments.

The electron microscope is a very useful tool in biomedical research, where it has been used for purposes such as determination of cell architecture, diagnostic of pathological conditions and three-dimensional visualization of macromolecular complexes. In conjunction with x-ray crystallography, the electron microscope provides comprehensive information about the function of biologically important macromolecular complexes.

“From beginning of time, humans have sought to explore and understand the universe,” says Researcher Ruben Diaz-Avalos, who runs the facility. “Microscopes showed the existence of a fascinating world on a small scale, however, exploration with visible light has physical limitations that preclude the visualization of details at the molecular level.”

Today, electron microscopes use an alternate form of illumination—electrons—to produce images of matter with unprecedented detail, showing individual atoms in some cases.

The equipment available consists of two JEOL electron microscopes, one operating at 120kV and another one at 200kV. The 200kV has a field emission gun and the attachments and software necessary to handle cryo specimens, electron tomography or two-dimensional crystallography. In addition, both microscopes are equipped with high-resolution CCD cameras to facilitate the acquisition of digital images.

Applicants can apply for a voucher by following the instructions provided at its web site, www.mcb.ucdavis.edu/cryoem.