WEHI: Construction and testing of a plunge freezing device for cryo-electron microscopy

Construction and testing of a plunge freezing device for cryo- electron microscopy at WEHI (2021-22)

Date close:
Sunday, 5th September 2021

This project is proudly funded and supported by WEHI.

WEHI,1G, Royal Parade, Parkville VIC 3052, Testing of protein samples prepared using the device will be performed at the shared Bio21 Facility adjacent to WEHI.
Description of the project:

Proteins and viruses intended to be visualised by cryo- electron microscopy are prepared by rapid freezing in liquid ethane. Using supplied components and plans, the team will assemble and program a vitrification device for routine use by WEHI structural biologists. The design comprises a published linear solenoid and piezo nebuliser design, and will be complemented by a temperature-controlled cryostat, with plans for the latter supplied by the Laboratory of Molecular Biology at the University of Cambridge. The project therefore involves two parts that can be considered separately. Part 1 is construction of the cryostat and control interface to maintain liquid ethane at a temperature close to its melting point (https://aip.scitation.org/doi/full/10.1063/1.4967864). Part 2 is construction of a combined spray freezer and mechanism to accelerate the sample into liquid ethane. Students are welcome to study the plans for the prototype (https://journals.iucr.org/d/issues/2019/12/00/ih5001/index.html). The Supplementary Material in this article provides a link to the Github site with the control scripts. A budget for the requisite materials has been approved. All materials and spares will be available well in advance of project start.

Project Aims:

1) A working, precision temperature-controlled cryostat to freeze biomolecules and viruses for cryo- electron microscopy.
2) A functional plunging device that can be operated with either a standard piston (supplied) or solenoid mechanism (project kit).
3) A control interface and sensors operated by a RaspberryPi.

Available to:
All Students
Information Technology
Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences
Employment Type:
Be an Australian or New Zealand citizen, or
Hold an Australian permanent resident/humanitarian visa, or
Hold an international student visa (Must be Melbourne placed during placement period)

Applications for this project are welcome from penultimate and subsequent year undergraduates, Masters and PhD students (coursework and research) who are currently enrolled full-time at Monash including for the period December 2021 to end of February 2022..

Selection and Required Criteria:

Your application will be reviewed by senior university members and assessed against the following criteria:

  • Quality of covering letter, resume and on-line application including spelling & grammar

  • Relevance of your degree to the project(s) you select

  • Skills, ability, knowledge and experience relevant to the project(s) you apply for

  • Quick Learners, adaptable and enthusiastic.

  • Career goals and ambitions

  • Successful interview with industry partner

  • Experience in electronic device assembly and/or programming in Python will be an advantage. (Since scripts for the function of the device are available, programming may be limited to modifications or troubleshooting; however, enhancements to device functionality are encouraged.)

  • The project would suit students of electrical or mechanical engineering, or IT specialists with an interest in device manufacture and function as well as control interfaces.

  • No knowledge of electron microscopy is required

Please note:

  • Scope for MITI projects are determined by the industry partners, this includes student disciplines and whether they require students at undergraduate, Masters or PhD level.

  • The final selection of the MITI project team will be made by the industry partner.

12 weeks
Max number of recipients:
Date close:
Sunday, 5th September 2021

WEHI is a leading independent medical research institute where the world’s brightest minds collaborate and innovate to make discoveries that will help us to live healthier for longer.
We bring together people with different skills and experience who are committed to long-term discovery. Our medical researchers have been serving the community for more than 100 years. We know that we can achieve better things bringing together diverse teams who work together for 10, 20 or even 50 years to tackle the big issues.
We are brighter because of our collaborations with hospitals, universities, research institutes and industry, and the support of our community, including philanthropists, donors and bequestors, alumni and consumers.
WEHI is a place where people are able to shine. People who are inquisitive, who are committed, who are passionate. People who want to make a difference. And we are committed to ensuring they have the tools to flourish, personally and professionally.

Our research
Our teams of researchers are committed to solving the most complex health problems, making transformative discoveries for cancer, infectious and immune diseases, developmental disorders and healthy ageing.
Cancer – understanding the basic processes that are disrupted to generate cancer cells, and how these can be targeted to treat disease
Immune health and infection – discovering how the body fights infection, and how errors in the immune system lead to disease
Development and healthy ageing – studying how the biological foundations laid down during gestation and childhood affect development, and how our longer life expectancy presents new challenges for our ageing population
New medicines and advanced technologies – a powerful hub for cutting-edge technologies underpinning biomedical discoveries and for the translation of these discoveries into new medicines and diagnostics.
Computational biology – developing and applying new tools to analyse the genomes of disease-causing parasites, as well as better understanding the immune system and genetic drivers of cancer.
Our students
WEHI offers postgraduate training as the Department of Medical Biology of The University of Melbourne, and is affiliated with the University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital.