In my mind, the end of the year starts with the annual Cryo-Microscopy Group meeting and I look forward to catching up with friends and seeing what other are doing in the field of cryo-EM. The meeting this year was in in Birmingham at the school of materials and metallurgy. The meeting always tries to offer a varied programme with something for everyone and the opportunity for early career staff and student to participate in the event. This year was no exception, with a line-up that covered FIB-SEM, TEM and SEM. After a welcome by the CMG chair Raffa Carnazagia, the floor was given to Andreas Schertel (Carl Zeiss), who showed the audience how he has been using the cryo-FIB-SEM to image cellular ultrastructure in the native frozen state. I think the audience were pleasantly surprised to see just what images the technique can give and how the use of FIB-SEM in biology it continues to grow year on year.
Robert Cooke (Heptares) was invited to give an industrial perspective on the application of cryo-TEM to drug discovery. Even before the announcement of last year’s Nobel prize for the development of cryo-TEM this had already been flagged as an important topic. Robert outlined how cryo-TEM has been making an impact in this area in conjunction with x-ray crystallography and how it now features heavily in the suite of techniques used by pharma in the search for new drugs. This perspective was certainly different from the single particle talks that are often invited and I’m sure it was useful to see how things can be applied going forward. A huge part of the event is the support offered by the trade attendees and so the Technobytes session is an opportunity for the trade to talk directly to the delegates and bring new developments and products to people, prime them to follow up over lunch or just raise awareness generally. The final talk before Lunch was Guilia Zanetti (Birkbeck) who detailed the use of electron tomography and sub-tomogram averaging to study coat protein complexes. Guilia’s images were (as you’d expect) stunning and one of them was actually used to advertise the meeting in the form of a postcard.
The postcard for the CMG, using Guillia's Images (courtesy of G Zanetti and CMG)
The lunch break is crucial to the event as it gives the trade and delegates the chance to chat informally about their work, aspects of cryo-EM, recent new products and to renew friendships.
In years gone by the CMG had a poster contest, however, in 2011 the CMG replaced posters with the 2 minute ‘freeze-frames’ competition. The competition is open to anyone, but aimed at young researchers who are encouraged to share their work without the hassle of making an entire poster. It’s also really great for modern microscopy, which is full of colourful and often moving images and videos which would be wasted on a poster. This year there were only two entrants, previous years have seen as many as seven! Both entries were good and both gave a good presentation of work, however the winner was Louie Henderson of Imperial College. Second place went to Jonas Knudsen of University of Copenhagen, who is currently at the University of Bristol.
Louie Henderson and Jonas Knudsen battled it out for the top prize
Once the freeze-frames had concluded the afternoon continued with a talk from Andy Yarwood, who entertained the audience with tales of his life and career in (cryo) electron microscopy. Andy started with is early fascination with microscopes as a child and explained how seized the opportunity to use an electron microscope at the University of Birmingham, before his move to JEOL, as a global expert in cryo-EM. I think everyone enjoyed his relaxed style of delivery and many amusing stories. The final talk of the afternoon was from Ray Wightman of the Sainsbury lab. Ray explained how their SEM had been rarely used prior to the installation of a cryo-system and how this had radically changed how the instrument was regarded and how it had shown its true worth using the correct technique. Through the use of examples Ray was then able to show exactly how the cryo-kit was being used in botanical science and how it has sometimes raised interesting questions, which were not always easy to answer.
The meeting drew to a close with a word from the CMG chair, with a safe trip home wished to all and an open invitation to the 2018 meeting in Nottingham, which will be the 30th anniversary meeting of the group.
Dr Chris Parmenter,