Access to infrastructures

Beamlines P12, P13 and P14 are in operation. Data collection can be performed in person or via remote or mail-in access.

Rolling Proposals submission open
Rolling proposals for 2024 can be submitted for MX and X-ray Imaging. To apply for beamtime, submit a proposal via the EMBL user portal.

EMBL Hamburg operates an integrated life science infrastructure on the DESY campus in Hamburg Bahrenfeld, providing users with a pipeline of expertise and state-of-the-art facilities from bench to beamline and further to the structural interpretation.

EMBL Hamburg operates three beamlines at the PETRA III synchrotron ring, two for macromolecular X-ray crystallography and one for small angle X-ray scattering on biological macromolecules. Academic access to the beamlines is available to all research groups, and is prioritised on scientific grounds only. All proposals for beamline access are evaluated by the Project Evaluation Committee.

EMBL beamlines also offer possibilities for mail-in and remote access. Users are encouraged to contact the beamline responsibles for further details.

The Sample Preparation and Characterisation (SPC) facility supports users on the beamline and in addition offers expertise to check and improve the samples that are submitted to the crystallisation facility and the SAXS beamline.

EMBL Hamburg also offers a variety of computational services, including facilities for remote computing on the EMBL Hamburg computer cluster and software packages developed at EMBL Hamburg for downloading.

Contact the EMBL Hamburg User Office for further general information.

View the PETRA III operating schedule.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the principal steps to submit a proposal?

Before starting the proposal, please be aware that the scientist submitting the proposal (main proposer) must hold a PhD and each co-proposer needs to have created an account.
After you have logged in, the proposal submission is divided in three stages:

  1. Filling in the Beamtime Application Form. This is all web-based and you need to supply information in separate tabs: General Information / Societal Theme / Beamlines Request / Proposers / Laboratory Support Facility / Sample Environment / Sample Description / Experience and Publications.
  2. Filling in the Experiment Method Form. You reach the web page with this form via the link in the right hand column of the “Proposals in Progress” table. Your proposal will appear in the table after you have successfully saved the Beamline Application Form. The Experiment Method form is available as a Word template and all sections must be completed: Aims / Method / Results expected / References. Tables and figures can be added if required. The completed form should then be uploaded in PDF format.
  3. The Sample Information and Safety Sheet can also be reached from the right hand column of the “Proposals in progress” table. For each sample, you will need to enter the following: Description of the sample / Handling and Equipment / Experiment Data.
screen shot from the Beamtime Application Form
How do I know if the proposal was successfully submitted?

You must VALIDATE the proposal while working in the tab “Proposals in progress”. The list of proposals to be validated appears under the section titled “These proposals have not been completed and/or submitted”. Validation of a proposal includes a check for completeness and assignment of a tracking number. You will receive confirmation and the number by email. If you have successfully validated your proposal but have not received the confirmation, please contact us at smis@embl-hamburg.de.

What are “Proposals with Final Number”?

After you have validated the proposal and prior to the evaluation process, the beamline responsible will check the technical feasibility and finalise the proposal. At this stage, the proposal is allocated a final number (MX NN or SAXS NN). Please note that finalising the proposals is performed by the EMBL staff – no action from you is required.

Can I use my existing EMBL Hamburg username, password, proposal numbers and texts for submitting proposals?

If you are a current SMIS user (i.e. you have submitted a proposal to EMBL after 2012), you may use the existing credentials, numbers and use previous proposals as templates (duplicate) in the “Proposals with Final Number/Previous proposals” section. For the pre-2012 proposals filed in the old system (not SMIS) this is unfortunately not possible. Please register as a new user.

Is it possible to group different project proposals (possibly from different groups and for different methods) in a 'BAG'?

We now offer the possibility to submit a BAG (Block Allocation Group) proposal for beam time.  BAG proposals allow groups of users (eg. local, regional or national research consortia) to submit their projects in one proposal and share the resulting beam time. Beam time awarded to BAG proposals will normally be allocated in regular blocks across the year in order to optimise and accelerate access to beam time.

Investigators are strongly encouraged to file joint BAG proposals with other colleagues. Moreover, individual groups with three or more projects must submit them within a BAG proposal and not as multiple single proposals from the same group.

To submit a BAG proposal, please complete the online beam time application form on the EMBL user portal. Before submission, you will need to complete the BAG Description, with a list of the projects which will be worked on by each Principle Investigator within the BAG, and the sample sheets, listing the samples related to the different projects.

My 'Draft Proposal' has disappeared. How can I recover it?

You can restore your draft version by clicking on a proposal type (MX or SAXS) as if you were initiating a new proposal. A pop-up window will then advise you that a draft version is stored and by clicking “Restore Draft” button, the form will be re-filled with your draft data.

Is there funding available for accessing EMBL beamlines in Hamburg? How does it work?

EMBL Hamburg is an Instruct ERIC centre. To apply for funding, please submit a proposal on the respective website. Once the Instruct proposal has been approved, please submit a beamline application proposal through the EMBL portal https://smis.embl-hamburg.de. There, you can select that the proposal is approved by Instruct and upload the body of the proposal. If needed, please contact the user office for further information.

We did not manage to submit a proposal before the last deadline. Are proposals accepted during the year?

Rolling proposals are accepted throughout the year (the evaluation usually takes about two to three months). The acceptance and scheduling of beamtime will depend on the score and on the availability of the user slots.

In SAXS, is it possible to measure both regular samples with the robot and also the samples using the online FPLC system?

Yes, this is possible. Switching between the robotic and the FPLC operation takes about ten minutes.

How does the "mail-in" service for SAXS work?

Due to overbooking of the beamline, faster access may be achieved via the mail-in option.

For SAXS proposals, you may select the mail-in option for your project. After the beamtime for mail-in access has been allocated, the samples and matching buffers should be mailed to EMBL Hamburg with appropriate instructions for the sample handling and measurements.

Mail-in projects may be service-only (you receive the data) or collaborative projects with one of our staff (you receive the data, analysis, interpretation and modelling).

Are mail-in SAXS FPLC/HPLC experiments possible?

The mail-in SAXS option is mostly for standard batch measurements with fully-prepared samples which require minimum handling. However, a limited number of constructs can also be sent to P12 for in-line SEC/IEC-SAXS. The proposed FPLC/HPLC-SAXS experiments must be discussed in detail with the responsible scientist and sufficient quantities of the sample and elution buffer(s) must be provided. Both service-only (you receive the SAXS data and limited spectroscopic information) and collaborative projects (you receive the data, analysis, interpretation and modelling) are possible. However, if additional biophysical characterization is required (SEC/IE-SAXS combined with MALLS/DLS, etc) or you elect additional access to the SPC infrastructures (mass-spec, CD, FTIR, etc), the project will be considered collaborative.


If you have questions or need assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact or visit the EMBL Hamburg User Office on the 1st floor of building 48e on the DESY campus.

Email: useroffice(at)embl-hamburg.de

Tel: +49 40 89902-183 / -311


EMBL Hamburg
c/o DESY
Building 48e, room L108
Notkestr. 85
22607 Hamburg