Cryo-EM: The Next Generation (+)

As noted in our Fall 2015 article “Viral Videos (And Bacterial Ones, Too)”, Grant Jensen, professor of biophysics and biology, has trained 11 researchers over the last decade in the use of cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM); many of them have gone on to build and run cryo-EM labs of their own in various corners of the globe. Here, we talk to a few of those he has trained about their time in the Jensen lab. #ViralVideos


Ariane Briegel

“I joined the laboratory of Grant Jensen in 2005. At the time, electron cryotomography was still largely unknown in the field of microbiology, but during my time at Caltech, I witnessed the dramatic change in the cryo-EM field as it became the method of choice for many structural biology questions.

“I also experienced the growth of the Jensen group from the small lab of an assistant professor to the large and established lab that Grant is running today. Also during my time here, I closely followed all the steps of his developing career, from his first grant applications, his preparation for tenure, and finally becoming an HHMI investigator and a full professor.”

This month, Briegel—who was a research scientist in the Jensen lab—will be starting a tenured professorship at Leiden University in the Netherlands.


Elitza Tocheva

Assistant professor at Université de Montréal

“I worked alongside world-class scientists in an exciting research environment during my time at Caltech. The opportunities in Grant Jensen’s lab were endless, and I got to explore novel areas of microbiology and develop my own scientific ideas. It is that freedom and independence that were the best schooling for becoming a principal investigator.”


Lu Gan

Assistant professor of biological sciences at the National University of Singapore

“Grant not only prepared me to run a lab but also to secure a faculty position. He provided intensive training and clear communication in how to identify, think about, and focus on the most important questions in biology. These skills are critical, because there are too many interesting questions for a junior faculty member to pursue; only a few of them can bear the ripest fruit. Also, given how much our research depends on high-end instrumentation, I also find it valuable to reflect on how Grant dealt with the usage and allocation of instrument time. Currently, we are in a shared-usage cryo-EM facility that is managed by Jian Shi, who is also a Jensen-lab alum. He runs this facility similar to how Grant did, so I think our new high-end instruments are being used effectively.”


Morgan Beeby

Lecturer in structural biology at Imperial College in London

“I felt really privileged and excited to join Grant’s lab in 2008, just as the cryo-EM field began to explode. Grant’s enthusiasm and focus were infectious and really inspired me to start my own lab at Imperial College in London. I still have fond memories of the Caltech environment and enjoying the fantastic panorama of the San Gabriel Mountains from campus. I also fondly recall Grant’s exclamation of ‘hot dog!’ You really knew you’d caught his attention if your results elicited that!”