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

Honoring the BER-supported Structural Biology Center and its Director, Andrzej Joachimiak

A man uses tools to work on a large piece of equipment.

Argonne Distinguished Fellow Andrzej Joachimiak brings a protein crystal into focus on the Structural Biology Center’s beamline at Argonne National Laboratory’s Advanced Photon Source. [Photo courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory.]

After nearly 27 years providing researchers with access to X-ray macromolecular crystallography (MX) for protein characterization, the Structural Biology Center (SBC) at Argonne National Laboratory’s Advanced Photon Source (APS) collected its last dataset on April 17, 2023, as a year-long APS upgrade project began.

Instrumental in SBC’s highly productive history is Andrzej Joachimiak, who served as the center’s director since September 1997. Under his leadership, SBC’s 19-ID beamline was among the most productive MX beamlines in the world and has earned the center a current H-index of 217, a metric which indicates that 217 of its publications each were cited more than 217 times.

SBC research focused on proteins relevant to BER missions, especially plant, fungal, and bacterial proteins, and on improving hardware and software for data collection at synchrotron beamlines. The BER resource served the broader biological community with astounding productivity, helping researchers deposit 6,380 structures in the Protein Data Bank and publish 2,800 papers. It supported 2,782 unique users and more than 3,200 projects.

In 2009, researchers who used SBC resources, as well as the National Synchrotron Light Source, earned the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work visualizing ribosome structure and function using MX at a resolution never before possible.

“Argonne was the first place where scientists could visualize this extraordinarily complex combination of macromolecules at the atomic level,” Joachimiak said in a 2009 article. “These studies could not have been done without synchrotron light sources and X-ray crystallography, and the APS is one of just a few places in the world where this research can be done.”

Post-upgrade, Joachimiak will continue to contribute his vast expertise in structural biology and X-ray science.

The $850 million investment from the DOE Office of Science’s Basic Energy Sciences program will modernize the synchrotron storage ring and increase the brightness of X-rays up to 500 times, enabling larger-scale experiments and providing answers to as-yet unimagined research questions.