School of Science and IAS Nobel Prize Popular Science Lectures

Developing Cryo-electron Microscopy for the High-resolution Structure Determination of Biomolecules in Solution - 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry


Jacques DUBOCHET, Joachim FRANK and Richard HENDERSON are awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2017 for their development of an effective method for generating three-dimensional images of the molecules of life. Using cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), researchers can now freeze biomolecules midmovement and portray them at atomic resolution. This technology has taken biochemistry into a new era.

About the speakers

Prof. Bik-Kwoon Yeung Tye is Visiting Professor at the HKUST. She was born and raised in Hong Kong. She left Hong Kong after high school for the United States, where she lived until her retirement from Cornell University in 2015 before returning to her roots. She received her education and training from Wellesley College (BA, 1969), University of California at San Francisco (MSc, 1971), MIT (PhD, 1974) and Stanford University (Postdoc, 1974-1977). Her interest in genetics and DNA research started when she was a PhD student jointly supervised by Joel Huberman and David Botstein at MIT. Her PhD thesis investigated the DNA packaging pattern of phage P22 by physically mapping the DNA ends of insertion mutants of phage P22 using electron microscopy. Her interest in DNA replication began with her postdoctoral training with Bob Lehman at Stanford, where she discovered that short Okazaki fragments were generated by aberrant DNA repair in E coli. After taking the Yeast Genetics Course at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, she embarked on her independent research career investigating the mechanism of eukaryotic DNA replication at Cornell. Her first project was to screen for yeast DNA replication initiation mutants that exhibit an ARS-specific minichromosome maintenance (MCM) defect. She has been studying those MCM mutants ever since. The MCM protein family was later shown to form the catalytic core of the replicative helicase. Together with Dr. Yuanliang Zhai, they established the DNA Replication Group at HKUST to study the high-resolution structures of MCM-associated replication complexes in yeast by cryo-EM.

Dr. ZHAI Yuanliang is currently a Research Assistant Professor of Life Science and an IAS Junior Fellow at HKUST. He received his PhD degree in Biochemistry from HKUST in 2010. Subsequently, he worked as a postdoctoral fellow under the supervision of Prof Bik Tye from 2011 to 2013. Since spring 2013, Dr Zhai has been a Research Assistant Professor of Life Science at HKUST. He joined the IAS as a Junior Fellow in 2015. His research focuses on molecular mechanisms of organization and regulation of eukaryotic DNA replication by using genetics, biochemistry, and advanced imaging approaches, including super-resolution localization microscopy and cryo-EM.

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