3D Imaging of Molecular Structures

Hannah Hull
September, 2021

The primary focus in the field of structural biology is to determine the structures of the molecules in our cells and figure out exactly how they work. Dr. Scott Stagg, FSU researcher and chemistry/biochemistry professor, uses a special technique called cryo-electron microscopy (CryoEM) to create three-dimensional structures of these molecules to better learn how they make bonds, break bonds, assemble and disassemble. The Stagg Lab focuses on the protein complex COPII and how it acts like a molecular machine to move molecules like antibodies and fats from where they are made inside cells to the outside, a process that is vital to life.

Dr. Stagg and his team collect terabytes of data of these biomolecules using an electron microscope, then computationally determines the relative angles of these molecules to restore the resolution to an atomic level. They use the high-performance storage offered at the Research Computing Center (RCC) to manage this data and the processors accessing it simultaneously. 

“The computational process of determining all of these angles is very expensive especially because we have millions of images of individual molecules. We use the RCC to process this massive amount of data,” states Stagg. “We have this resource at the RCC that we can count on, that is reliable, and we can access it when we need to.”