Today at Berkeley Lab

Next Meeting of Lab Integrated Bioimaging Initiative on April 4

If you’re involved in biological imaging at Berkeley Lab, then you might want to put the next meeting of the LBNL Integrated Bioimaging Initiative on your calendar. It will take place April 4 at 4 pm at Potter Street’s room 141, with the Molecular Foundry’s Bruce Cohen discussing next-generation nanocrystals for imaging, and the Life Sciences Division’s Manfred Auer presenting his research on multimodal imaging of bacterial communities.

The newly minted initiative launched Feb. 2 when about 70 people from across Berkeley Lab convened at Potter Street for an all-day workshop. They included researchers from the Earth Sciences Division, Genomics Division, Physical Biosciences Division, Computational Research Division, Materials Sciences Division, Life Sciences Division, the Molecular Foundry, the Advanced Light Source, and more.

Why such a diverse group? The initiative is designed to integrate the wide breadth of imaging expertise and technology at Berkeley Lab, and to take better advantage of these capabilities. Another goal is to identify and solve current and future challenges in bioimaging across different spatial and temporal scales, and imaging modalities.

“This initiative builds on the Lab’s recognized strength in bioimaging. By bringing together researchers from across the scientific divisions we’ll be able to address emerging problems in energy, environment and health,” says Paul Adams, deputy director of the Physical Biosciences Division.

The premise behind the initiative is that nothing in biology works in isolation—and neither should the people who image biological phenomena.

“This is really about bringing the biologists, imaging technologists, and computational scientists who conduct bioimaging experiments under one virtual roof,” says Gary Karpen, division director of the Life Sciences Division and a co-lead of the initiative with Damir Sudar, who is also with the Life Sciences Division. “By breaking down these silos, we can move beyond a parts list to an integrated understanding of how biological components work together in space and time.”

Adds Sudar, “This requires imaging the same sample from multiple scales, and then integrating all of the information together—a new approach to bioimaging that the initiative will help create.”

The initiative is relevant to a wide swath of Berkeley Lab’s research portfolio, which underscores the extent to which bioimaging has become central to some of today’s biggest scientific challenges. It’s used to advance cancer and Alzheimer’s research, biofuels development, carbon sequestration, and scientists’ understanding of the carbon cycle, to name a few examples.

Indeed, the initiative covers the spectrum of bioimaging scales and technologies at Berkeley Lab, from using X-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance imaging to study molecular structures, to cryo-electron microscopy for multi-protein complexes, to confocal microscopy to image whole cells and tissue. It also encompasses environmental processes that span hundreds of meters, such as radar and seismic imaging of the Earth’s subsurface.

Bridging scales isn’t the only goal of the initiative. Different imaging modalities also provide different kinds of information about a sample, such as its chemistry, structure, and function. Each type of information is useful, but when several modalities are brought together, a more complete picture emerges of how a molecule, cell or organism works in the real world.

At the heart of the initiative is the concept of co-design, in which everyone involved in each step of a bioimaging project—from sample preparation to imaging to data analysis to visualization—is also involved in designing the project. In practice, this means biologists, imaging technologists, and computational scientists collaborate on the best way to proceed before an experiment begins.

To seed this new kind of collaboration, space has been set aside at Potter Street to enable biologists and imaging and analysis experts from several divisions to come together and work on an experiment, from start to finish. The space includes light microscopy equipment as well as office and conference space. Atomic force microscopy equipment will also soon be added.

Ultimately, Karpen, Sudar and the multi-divisional organizing committee hope to grow the initiative into an integrated bioimaging center at the Bay Campus in Richmond, where biomaging experts from Berkeley Lab and throughout the Bay Area can collaborate on state-of-the-art imaging experiments.

For more information on the initiative and upcoming talks, visit Send questions and comments to