Structural and Computational Biology

The Unit pursues an ambitious research programme in integrated structural and computational systems biology bridging between various spatial and temporal scales.

The Unit currently consists of 12 groups covering a broad methodological spectrum that allows tackling problems at different ranges of spatial and temporal resolution from single amino acids to organismal communities and ecosystems in line with EMBL’s current scientific programme ‘Molecules to Ecosystems’. Molecular structures and dynamic information obtained by X-ray crystallography, NMR and high-resolution single-particle electron microscopy are integrated into the cellular context by electron tomography and correlated light microscopy. Dedicated large scale biochemistry, proteomics, metabolomics, chemical biology, biophysics, next generation sequencing and cell biology approaches complement these structural biology activities enabling new research directions. Coordinated experimental activities are synergistic to a large computational biology programme, which integrates the different information layers to be able to work towards comprehensive descriptions of biological functions at different spatial scales.

Within the Unit, there is a continuing interplay between groups with expertise in different methodologies. This reflects our belief that a combination of structural and functional studies is the most rewarding route to an understanding of the molecular basis of biological function, and that computational biology is essential to integrate the variety of tools and heterogeneous data into a comprehensive spatial and temporal description of biological processes. Beyond its respective core technologies, each group reaches out into different areas. In addition, several groups based in other Units have shared appointments with the Unit. Several service activities are setup around major technologies, for example, the Unit provides access to high-throughput crystallisation, cryo-EM and NMR instrumentation.

The SCB Unit is very well equipped for experimental and computational work. Experimental facilities include: crystallisation robot and automated crystal visualisation; 800 MHz and 700 MHz NMR spectrometers; several transmission cryo-electron microscopes, including two Titan Krios and one Talos Arctica equipped with direct detectors; and a focused-ion-beam milling and scanning electron microscope (FIB/SEM). The Unit also has facilities for single-molecule light microscopy, high-throughput mass spectrometry for metabolomics, metabolic imaging, biophysical characterization, as well as for large-scale growth of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. The computing environment offers access to considerable computing resources including an in-house cluster with >10.000 CPU cores and petabytes of storage.

Unit support

Groups and teams in this unit

Bork group

Deciphering function and evolution of biological systems

Dodonova group

Organisational principles and 3D architecture of archaeal chromatin

Duss group

Assembly mechanisms of protein–RNA complexes at the single-molecule level

Eustermann group

Exploring the chromatin landscape by cryo-electron microscopy

Mahamid group

In situ structural analysis of phase separation and molecular crowding

Müller group

Molecular mechanisms of transcriptional regulation in eukaryotes

Zaugg group

Personalised genomics to study genetic basis of complex diseases

Zeller team

Understanding human microbiome perturbations in the context of personalised health and disease

Visiting groups

The following groups have been formerly active. Visiting group leaders maintain strong ties with the Laboratory, and some of the groups' members may still be carrying out research on site. These groups do not accept any applications for new positions.

Structural and computational biology

Research jobs

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The 74 research groups at EMBL are organised into nine units spanning six European sites.