Florida State University : Research in Review

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Biology's Big New Eye
Bryan Cuevas

Think of it as big and heavy, but fast and brainy.

The Titan Krios electron microscope—a state-of-the art robotic microscope soon to be acquired by FSU—is capable of producing Superman-swift 3D images of frozen biological specimens around the clock and then transmiting them over the Internet.

At 16-feet and weighing in at 1.7 tons (it's about as heavy as a mid-size SUV) the microscope can peer into the inner workings of the most complex molecules found in living cells, and with unprecedented speed and precision.

This rare instrument will make its home at FSU this year thanks to a $2 million High-End Instrumentation grant from the National Institutes of Health. The university will sweeten the pot with an additional $2.8 million to help buy the machine with funding set aside to support research."The instrument is cutting-edge in several ways," said Kenneth Taylor, a professor of biological science at FSU and the principal investigator on the grant application. "Not only is it robotic, collecting data continually without operation attention, in fact, it can be operated remotely."

Taylor is part of the university's Structural Biology Program within the Institute for Molecular Biophysics. The central mission of the program is to study the characteristics and behavior of huge biological molecules, primarily proteins.

The new microscope will catapult Florida State into the top ranks of structural biology imaging centers in the world, said Joseph Travis, biologist and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Only five such microscopes are installed or planned for near-term installation in the U.S. and abroad.

The microscope will serve as a crucial tool to FSU scientists who will use it to better study the biological foundations of HIV/AIDS, heart disease, hypertension and cancer.