News feature: Putting our Science Technology Platforms under the microscope

14 August 2017

 Lucy Collinson

Our 14 Science Technology Platforms (STPs) give researchers access to state-of-the-art equipment, technical advice and practical instruction.

Run by separate skilled teams, STPs are core facilities which offer access to high-end, complex equipment and centralised resources for all research groups at the Crick. Scientists in the STPs and research groups work together to design, carry out and analyse experiments, often at the forefront of what is possible using the latest technology.

Lucy Collinson, Head of the Electron Microscopy STP, explains how her team supports the work of the Crick.

What does the election microscopy STP add to the research process?

In essence, we provide the equipment and expertise necessary to image the structure of molecules, cells and tissues at high resolution. Every imaging experiment is different, and so our team collaborates with the research scientists to design workflows unique to each research project.

I'd describe our facilities as world-leading. All our instruments are cutting edge, and some of our team members are designing and building new types of microscope that would be the first of their kind in the world.

What are the advantages of having all these facilities under one roof?

Clearly, it wouldn't be practical to embed such specialist expertise and costly resources in each lab, so it makes both financial and operational sense to offer it as a centralised technology. Our team comprises nine people - seven electron microscopists and two physicists.

Although we are now technologists, we're also practical, experienced scientists with PhDs in different fields, and we're able to bring a different but complementary focus to projects across the Crick.

How do you work with researchers?

Lucy Collinson 2

Researchers come to us when they need a specialist technique to answer a biological question. We get together and when they've explained their science and their question, we'll advise on the appropriate technique - and then we'll all work together to design the necessary experiments. Right now we're working on around 80 projects with Crick researchers.

This puts us in the privileged position of being able to take an overview of Crick science and identify emerging patterns. When we see three or four projects all looking at a similar issue, we can put those teams in touch with each other so they can share experiences, which can aid discovery.

What are the latest developments in your field?

In recent years, the STP environment has delivered a huge range of innovations, from automated 3D electron microscopy of cells and tissues to integration of light and electron microscopes for correlative microscopy.

We cover a tremendous range of different projects. For example, we're currently working with several Crick groups on malaria, investigating how parasites invade red blood cells and how various mutations would stop that from happening.

We're also working with research groups on the structure of protein and DNA molecules, how cancer cells spread, how immune cells function and how tuberculosis bacteria infect human cells.

This article has been taken from A new home for science and discovery, our annual review for 2016/17. A pdf of the review can be found here.

 

  • STPs are core facilities which offer access to high-end, complex equipment and centralised resources for Crick research groups.
  • The election microscopy STP provides the equipment and expertise necessary to image the structure of molecules, cells and tissues at high resolution.