Universiteit Leiden

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Learning together about electron microscopy

Chinese and Leiden scientists came together in Leiden to study the intricacies of modern visual techniques.

From 17 to 19 October, a seven-person Chinese delegation visited the Leiden research facility NeCEN. In workshops and excursions, both parties exchanged knowledge about one of the most modern microscopy techniques currently available for biological samples: cryo-electron tomography (CryoET).

Specialized knowledge

NeCEN opened its doors in Leiden in 2012 for scientists and companies. For three-dimensional CryoET imaging, NeCEN has two very modern Titan Krios microscopes and the corresponding equipment for processing data. There aren't many of these advanced microscopes in use worldwide, and a lot of specialized knowledge is needed to operate the devices.

Cryo-electron tomography is booming in China, says NeCEN operations manager Susanne Roodhuyzen; Tsinghua University has three Titan Krios microscopes, which they successfully use. The Chinese university considers it to be a technology of the future.

Strong Leiden base in tomography

The aim of the workshop was therefore to learn from each other. 'Leiden has a strong foundation and a long history in tomography. Tsinghua wanted to learn more about Leiden and about NeCEN.' More specifically, the Chinese delegation was interested in the work of Bram Koster, professor at the LUMC and NeCEN scientific director until 1 November. Koster is a pioneer in the field of Cryo Correlative & Light Electron Microscopy and CryoET. During the workshops he spoke about technological developments in the field of hardware within his research group.

Chinese expertise: recording data

The visit was also very instructive for NeCEN, according to Ludo Renault, head of the NeCEN facility. 'The Chinese colleagues are very advanced in recording data on the Titan Krios microscopes. This is due to their integration, optimisation and software development. The Tsinghua computing infrastructure and data storage is also very strongly embedded. We can learn a lot from that in Leiden.'

'We look back on a successful workshop with enthusiasm. Bram Koster was invited to give a lecture at Tsinghua University and we shared best practices. Moreover, we spoke about the exchange of staff and students, and about joint training and cooperation projects that could result from this', Roodhuyzen concludes.

Partner University

Leiden University and Tsinghua University in Beijing are partner universities, for example jointly organising student exchanges and Summer Schools. Also the Faculty of Science has agreements with Tsinghua, for example in combined research portfolios.


Global interest in NeCEN

NeCEN has the reputation of being a centre of excellence and is part of iNEX  and Instruct, making subsidised access possible. In addition to the Chinese university Tsinghua, NeCEN has received delegations from Indonesia, Taiwan and Japan. There are also regular visitors from all over the world to learn about NeCEN's operation and best practices. Being an open-access facility, NeCEN attracts interest from both the academic world and the business community.

Also in October, NeCEN organised the 2nd Instruct Workshop on CryoEM Best Practices. Speakers and participants from all over Europe, as well as from Australia and Brazil, shared their experiences.

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