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Introducing the Penn State College of Medicine cryo-EM facility

With the College of Medicine’s newly expanded cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) facility, the most leading-edge microscope technology is now available for use.

A head-and-shoulders professional photo of Matthew Swulius

Matthew Swulius, PhD

The Titan Krios (Thermo Fisher) is a state-of-the-art cryo-transmission electron microscope that is fully equipped for high-throughput data collection of the utmost quality possible. It has the ability to determine the atomic structure of a single protein or view molecules interacting in their cellular context. With expertise in both single particle analysis and cryo-electron tomography, faculty directors Matt Swulius, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, and Kenneth Lee, PhD, assistant professor of cellular and molecular physiology, are available to provide guidance, training or data collection for researchers at the College of Medicine.

“Cryo-EM is an essential resource for cell and structural biologists alike,” Swulius said. “This addition to our EM arsenal will allow researchers to capitalize on this new technology, while providing modern cryo-EM training for early-career scientists and students.”

A professional head-and-shoulders photo of Kenneth Pak Kin Lee

Kenneth Pak Kin Lee

A neuroscientist by training, Swulius is using cryo-electron tomography to study the structure of neuronal branches growing in culture and to better understand the cellular processes of neurological development and disease.

“Determining atomic structures of biological molecules using X-ray crystallography requires well-ordered crystals, and this is often a monumental challenge for membrane proteins,” Lee said. “The single particles analysis approach sidesteps the need to obtain crystals and gives us access to high-resolution structural information of membrane proteins, many of which are clinically important drug targets. Our state-of-the-art cryo-EM facility offers the technologies that make this possible.”

Lee is a structural biologist who uses single-particle cryo-EM as a tool to dissect the mechanisms of membrane proteins involved in important fundamental biological processes and diseases, including chronic pain and neurodegenerative disorders.

Faculty, staff and students interested in learning more about cryo-EM and how it can be applied in their laboratories’ projects should contact faculty co-directors Swulius or Lee at or, respectively.

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