EMBL Imaging Centre kickstarts training with workshop for undergraduates

The five-day workshop displayed the incredible range of electron microscopy techniques and their potential for aiding future research

Three women are seen in front of a computer, with the electron micrograph of a woodlouse visible on the screens
Anna Steyer (in the back), Cryo-Electron Tomography Specialist, guides two of the workshop participants through preparing a scanning electron micrograph of a woodlouse. Credit: Kinga Lubowiecka/EMBL

The new EMBL Imaging Centre (IC) completed its first on-site training workshop, marking the first of many opportunities to aid capacity-building in imaging techniques in Europe. The EMBL IC, which first opened to external users in September 2021, aims not only to facilitate widespread use of cutting-edge microscopy methods, but also to train users in new imaging technologies and workflows.

The five-day-long workshop, which introduced four students from the University of Heidelberg to the basics of volume electron microscopy, took place from 6-10 December 2021. Volume electron microscopy is a powerful set of techniques that allows scientists to visualise samples with comparatively large volumes in 3D and at high resolutions. The course discussed both transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) techniques. Recent developments in both fields have led to groundbreaking opportunities in imaging of proteins, cells, and tissues at an ultrastructural level, allowing new insights into complex systems.

“I got hooked on electron microscopy at the end of my university studies,” said Anna Steyer, Cryo-Electron Tomography Specialist at EMBL IC who was the chief instructor at the workshop. “I discovered during my PhD that providing services is really where my heart is, and EMBL is a place where this is prioritised.” Steyer developed the present workshop to give students an overview of different electron microscopy techniques, while providing practical hands-on experience of the entire process workflow.

Scanning electron micrographs showing close-up views of insect or arachnid body parts
Some of the images captured by the participants during the workshop. Credit: EMBL Imaging Centre/EMBL

During the course, participants were led through both theoretical and practical exercises. While the former provided them with the theoretical background to understand different techniques, the latter allowed them to directly practise preparing samples, as well as acquiring, analysing, and visualising data.

“I feel extremely privileged to not only have been given access to such fantastic machines, but to have been taught and looked after so well. I truly could not have asked for a more informative and accommodating course,” said Ella Doveton, a workshop participant.

“Training the scientific community on the latest imaging technologies is one of the core missions of our teams at the EMBL Imaging Centre,” said Simone Mattei, Electron Microscopy Team Leader at the EMBL IC. “The workshop organised by Anna is a fantastic example of how we can support young scientists in approaching new imaging methods, and it is just the first event of a broad series of training activities that we are currently organising for the future. By providing advanced courses and workshops, we also aim at becoming a training hub for the next generation of imaging specialists, thus promoting knowledge exchange and transferring our acquired expertise to other national and local facilities.”

The first open user call for EMBL’s Imaging Centre is currently open. Full information is available on the EMBL Imaging Centre homepage.

Tags: course, electron microscopy, heidelberg, imaging centre, microscopy, research infrastructure, service, training, workshop


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