Heterogenous Cryo EM Reconstruction
In collaboration with Prof. John (Jack) E. Johnson at The Scripps Research Institute, we have worked on computational problems in the structural biology of viruses since about 1990. The current focus is on single-particle cryo electron microscopy (cryo EM). This technique collects transmission electron microscopy images on a large number of individual instances of the particle. Since the information from different particles is not mixed (as it is in x-ray crystallography or nuclear magnetic resonance), it is possible to study the heterogeneity of the particles. We have developed a statistical description of the heterogeneity and algorithms and software for estimating the heterogeneity from the image data. We are currently working to improve the algorithms and software in order to achieve higher spatial resolution in the 3-D information that is obtained. We are currently trying to take a more fundamental physics-oriented approach for the case where the heterogeneity is due to statistical physics motions of the particles in the ensemble. Eleven Ph.D. students have completed thesis research in the area of computational structural biology and the work is currently being continued by Christina L. Lau who is a Ph.D. student in ECE.
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