Instruct ULTRA

4th Instruct Best Practices in Cryo-EM Workshop


On 12 – 13 October 2020, scientists from around the world convened online for Instruct-ERIC’s annual Best Practices in Cryo-EM Workshop. Now in its fourth year, the Instruct-ULTRA-funded workshop enables those involved in running high-end cryo-EM facilities to discuss and share best practice. The workshop is open to EM facility scientists, managers and computing specialists from both academia and industry.

This year, the Best Practices in Cryo-EM Workshop was hosted by the Astbury Biostructure Laboratory at the University of Leeds (Instruct Centre UK). Usually, the workshop is held in-person but due to the restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the decision was taken to hold a virtual event instead. Nevertheless, Rebecca Thompson, Deputy Director of the Astbury Biostructure Laboratory, arranged a stellar programme, with two afternoons packed with talks from experts in the field of cryo-EM. Speakers presented on a range of topics, including of facility management, sample preparation, computational pipelines, and image processing, with attendees able to submit questions throughout.

Rebecca Thompson introduces the Astbury Biostructure Laboratory at the University of Leeds.

On the morning of 13 October, core staff from cryo-EM facilities were invited to participate in breakout sessions, which provided a forum for discussion on best practice. Users were able to attend two of four sessions, selecting from training in cryo-EM, EM data collection pipelines and microscope operation, processing pipelines and software, and safe and sustainable operation of EM facilities post-COVID.

Although the Best Practices in Cryo-EM Workshop was the first of its kind to be held online, the event received overwhelmingly positive feedback, with attendees commenting on the ‘great program’, ‘fantastic speakers’ and ‘flawless’ management of the event. In fact, hosting a virtual workshop enabled over 270 participants from across the world to hear talks and participate in discussions on the latest developments in the field of cryo-EM, expanding its reach far beyond previous in-person meetings.

At the end of the workshop, EMBL was announced as the host of the 5th Best Practices in Cryo-EM Workshop in 2021. Whilst it is hoped that it will be possible to hold the next workshop in-person, the success of this year’s meeting has set a great precedent for remote or hybrid meetings in the future.