Peijun Zhang


Peijun is the Director of the electron Bio-Imaging Centre (eBIC) at Diamond Light Source.


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Peijun is the Director of the electron Bio-Imaging Centre (eBIC). Her research programme is aimed to obtain an integrated, atomistic understanding of the molecular mechanisms of large viral and cellular protein complexes and assemblies by developing novel technologies for high-resolution cryoEM, with advanced, complementary methods for biological analysis and computational modelling, as such large systems have challenged the limits of structural biology methods.

Her research at Diamond focuses on CryoEM technology development. Driven by biological inquiries, she aims to develop tools and cutting-edge technologies, such as those inspired by bottlenecks she has had to overcome and to apply these technologies to rapidly advance towards a clearer understanding of the intricate interplay between pathogens and host cells. These efforts will have a broad impact well beyond her own research.

Her other research activities involve human pathogens, such as HIV-1 and pathogenic bacterial cells. In particular, she is interested in HIV-1 capsid assembly, maturation and its interactions with host cellular factors that inhibit or enhance viral infectivity, as well as the remarkable bacterial chemotaxis sensory signalling arrays that are crucial for colonization and infection. Understanding the structural details of these large systems, at atomic level, is critical for developing new antimicrobial and antiHIV/AIDS drugs.

Video courtesy of the Wellcome Turst

eBIC and Cryo-electron microscopy at Diamond

Cryo-electron microscopy, or cryo-EM, is one of science’s most advanced techniques and has become an essential tool for the biological sciences. Operated under very cold conditions (at -200 °C using liquid nitrogen), it is helping to uncover even more about the minute, hidden elements in matter, leading to advancements in medicine, bio-engineering, and our fundamental understanding of the world around us. Its ability to quickly and simply illuminate large and complex components makes it a profoundly useful addition to the arsenal of techniques that scientists use to explore the molecular and atomic world and generate advances. Using cryo-EM, researchers can now capture freeze-frame images of dynamic biomolecules at high resolution. This technology has taken biochemistry into a new era. Better microscopes, electron detectors and computer programmes are pushing the technique further. This rapid progress is having a direct impact on drug discovery and medical treatments

At Diamond, scientists can access state-of-the-art cryo-EM facilities through the Electron Bio-Imaging Centre (eBIC), for both single particle analysis and cryo-tomography. Onsite cryo-electron microscopes are currently being used by scientists to study everything, from complex virus structures, to never before seen proteins.

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