Nobel Prize Chemistry for 3D imaging of frozen biomolecules5 October 2017
This year the Nobel Prize for Chemistry has been awarded to the founders of cryo-electron microscopy, a technique used to determine the structure of biomolecules in their natural form. The winners are the Swiss Jacques Dubochet, the American Joachim Frank and Britain's Richard Henderson. Colleague in the field and TU/e professor Nico Sommerdijk says the distinction is highly deserved.
Professor Nico Sommerdijk is the scientific director of the Center for Multiscale Electron Microscopy at TU/e. He says he is elated to see the Nobel Prize awarded within his specialist field. “It is also very well-deserved; these three gentlemen are the undisputed founders of this field.”
The field of cryo-electron microscopy emerged, believes Sommerdijk, with the discovery by Dubochet that by freezing samples containing biomolecules – such as proteins - quickly, they can be preserved in their original state in a form that allows inspection with electron microscopes. “This made it possible to produce the first high-resolution images of biological materials. But you can also use the technique to analyze synthetic materials, as we do here in the lab.”
Joachim Frank, the second Nobel Prize winner, took Dubochet's discovery further, explains Sommerdijk. “He was a pioneer in the field of single-particle reconstruction; if you have a sample with a large number of identical molecules, in all kinds of orientations, you can derive a 3D image of that molecule. Both Frank and Henderson made significant contributions to the visualization of proteins in three dimensions.”
In addition, Henderson was also able to achieve such high resolutions that you can recognize all the individual amino acids from which the proteins are built, says Sommerdijk. This makes it possible, he explains, to see how the long chain of amino acids is 'folded' to form a functional protein. He stresses what a great step forward this was. “Until the discovery of cryo-electron microscopy, you could only say something about the structure of the proteins by using X-ray diffraction, for which the protein is crystallized. But many proteins don't want to crystallize, and certainly not in their natural form. And you want to know that form in order to establish how proteins interact with other molecules. This knowledge is important, for example, in the development of medicines.”
For a while now, TU/e student Guido Buntinx and his friend Christophe Westerveld (student of Zuyd University of Applied Sciences) have been attracting a lot of attention with their 'electric beer crates'. Limburg's regional TV station and the TV news program Editie NL also got wind of their creative initiative. The short internet videos showing them riding along on the public highways have been watched multiple times.
The Department of Applied Physics needs to make significant savings: one million euros on a total annual budget of nine million. This was announced last week Wednesday by Departmental Dean Gerrit Kroesen at a staff meeting. The draft reorganization plan must be ready by the end of November and, says Kroesen, compulsory redundancies cannot be ruled out. The Departmental Council is holding talks today with the Departmental Office.
The fourth day of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia has come to an end and Solar Team Eindhoven is clearly leading the Cruiser Class. Despite earlier transport problems and the limited window for testing on site, TU/e solar car Stella Vie is performing in the outback “far beyond expectations”. With some 900 kilometers to go, a third world title seems almost a dead cert for the team from Eindhoven - but this is no time for complacency.
At this university there are students who are not taking any classes, but they are still forced to pay the full sum of their tuition fee. How is that? When you take a look at what they are doing instead of following courses, their reasons become clear. They form one of the most important cornerstones of the TU/e, they are the student board members and part of student teams.
Some rooms in De Plint in Luna are not yet ready to use and so the associations are having to put the brakes on some of their activities. The building contractor has run into delays and current expectations are that everything will be ready by early November. There is evidently so much stuff in the Bunker that it can't all be stored in Luna. Bar Potential hopes to open its doors around New Year's. The cultural associations have just moved from the Bunker to Luna.