BER Structural Biology and Imaging Resources
Synchrotron, Neutron, and Cryo-EM
U.S. Department of Energy | Biological and Environmental Research Program

About the Biological and Environmental Research Program

The Biological and Environmental Research (BER) Program supports fundamental research and scientific user facilities that advance U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) missions in scientific discovery and innovation, energy security, and environmental responsibility. BER seeks to understand the biological, biogeochemical, and physical principles needed to predict a continuum of processes, from molecular and genomics-controlled mechanisms at the smallest scales to environmental and Earth system change at the largest scales.

Biological and environmental interactions across vast spatial and temporal scales. Understanding and predicting how complex biological and environmental systems will respond to and affect critical Earth system processes requires measuring, simulating, and integrating biological, chemical, and physical components and their interactions across scales—from subnanometers to kilometers and nanoseconds to millennia. (Figure from BERAC 2017. “Grand Challenges for Biological and Environmental Research: Progress and Future Vision: A Report from the Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee,” DOE/SC–0190.)

Starting with the genetic potential encoded by organisms’ genomes, BER systems biology research aims to define the principles underlying plant and microbial systems as they respond to and modify their environments. Knowledge of these principles is underpinning innovations in renewable energy and insights into natural environmental processes. See BER’s Genomic Science program website for more details.

About BER’s Biomolecular Characterization and Imaging Science Portfolio

Knowing how cellular components, whole cells, or cell populations assemble, interact, and physically behave in time and space can provide clues about a biological system’s function. To advance this knowledge, BER supports the development of technologies for structural biology and biological imaging at subnanometer to micrometer resolution, as well as approaches for real-time, nondestructive visualization of living systems.

These activities and enabling capabilities are part of BER’s Biomolecular Characterization and Imaging Science portfolio within the Biological Systems Science Division (BSSD). The division seeks to align imaging and structural biology with genomic science capabilities and to leverage DOE’s unique beamline and computational infrastructure.

For structural biology, BSSD supports a suite of experimental research technologies, methodologies, and instruments at DOE synchrotron and neutron user facilities, operated by DOE’s Basic Energy Sciences Program, and BER’s Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory. Important recent additions to these capabilities are cryogenic electron microscopy and tomography, technologies that offer complementary high-resolution and three-dimensional options for imaging and structurally characterizing biological samples. BSSD also supports expertise at these facilities to help the BER research community use these tools to advance their research.

The Bioimaging Science Program within the DOE Biological and Environmental Research (BER) Program, sponsors research at national laboratories and universities that addresses grand challenges for biology. The program’s mission is to understand translation of genomic information into the mechanisms that power living cells, communities of cells, and whole organisms. The program’s goal is to develop new imaging and measurement technologies to visualize the spatial and temporal relationships of key metabolic processes governing phenotypic expression in plants and microbes.