CU Boulder’s New $5 Million Microscope Is So Big They Have To Build A Room Around It

The University of Colorado Boulder has bought a new 2,000-pound, 8-foot-tall microscope for biomedical and life science research.

The school says the $5 million cryo-electron microscope can reveal intricate cellular architecture at ultra-high 3D resolution. It is headed to the university now, but it is so large the biochemistry department needs to remodel a room to make it big enough for the equipment.

“Structural biology, being able to determine the structures of biological complexes, has tremendous implications for understanding life and how life works and even for health benefits and discovering drugs,” said James Goodrich, chair of the CU biochemistry department. “Being able to advance the field at CU Boulder, that is, move into this new age of structural biology, will not only allow us to remain leaders in this internationally but actually could impact things like human health ultimately.”

The Titan Krios Cryo-Electron Transmission microscope will be up and running sometime in the fall, according to Goodrich. It will be the first of its kind in the state. Goodrich said the department hopes the instrument will draw researchers from around the state and region.

“Once it's assembled and functional, researchers will actually put what's referred to as electron microscope grids in the instrument and then the instrument will hit those grids with electrons,” he said. “There's a very expensive and high-resolution camera that collects the data. And from that data, researchers can then assemble models for the proteins or molecules.” 

The microscope was funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Seventeen university labs already plan to use the microscope in their research on studying things like DNA structure. Goodrich said students will also have the opportunity to use the microscope in their research.