Nobel Laureate Richard Henderson Gives ShanghaiTech Lecture

ON2018-11-26TAG: ShanghaiTech UniversityCATEGORY: General News

On November 22th, Chemistry Nobel Laureate Richard Henderson delivered the ShanghaiTech Lecture on “The CryoEM Revolution in Structural Biology” in the ShanghaiTech auditorium. 

Vice President Yin Jie introduced the host of this lecture, Professor Rao Zihe, a fellow of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a distinguished professor at iHuman Institute and Shanghai Institute of Advanced Immunochemical Studies (SIAIS) since 2013.

Professor Rao in turn introduced Richard Henderson to the audience by introducing Henderson’s contributions to the field of structural biology as one of the leaders of the Cryo-EM revolution. Under Henderson’s direction, the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology has produced outstanding achievements and cultivated numerous Nobel laureates. 

In his one-hour lecture, Richard Henderson detailed the advances of the Cryogenic Electron Microscopy technique for protein structure determination. He began by describing the advances in resolving the three-dimensional structures of proteins through Cryo-EM. He described his collaboration with Nigel Urwin in 1975, where they determined the structure of bacterial rhodopsin to a resolution of 7 Å through electron microscopy 3D reconstruction. Constant improvements were made in this field in terms of sample preparation from room temperature to cryogenic conditions, and which eventually gave rise to the Cryo-EM techniques we have today. 

With the advent of better electron detectors, data processing software and cryo-sample preparation techniques, there is an exponential increase in the number of protein structures solved by Cryo-EM. In addition, protein structures of increasingly smaller proteins can also be determined, and the resolution of protein structures solved is constantly increasing, even reaching atomic resolution. These factors have made cryo-EM a popular choice for protein structure determination. 

At the close of his lecture, Henderson listed some challenges in the field of Cryo-EM, and encouraged all staff members and students of ShanghaiTech University to overcome these problems together and develop cutting edge Cryo-EM techniques.

Following the lecture, the staff and students among the audience had a fruitful discussion on topics on the overall use of Cryo-EM, technical details as well as future directions of this technique.

After his speech, Vice President Yin Jie thanked Richard Henderson on behalf of university for sharing his insights with the ShanghaiTech community and handed him a plaque as a token of appreciation.

On the same day, Richard Henderson also visited the campus and met with President Jiang Mianheng, discussing Sino-UK higher education and technology development. After the speech, Richard Henderson also participated in a Thanksgiving event organized by members of Professor Rao’s laboratory in the Y building.

Richard Henderson was born in 1945 in Edinburgh, Scotland. He completed his bachelor’s degree at University of Edinburgh and received his PhD degree from the University of Cambridge. He is currently the group leader of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology. He collaborated with Nigel Unwin in 1975 to determine the 3D structure of the bacterial rhodopsin at Å through electron microscopy, the first time the secondary structure of the biological molecule was discerned using electron microscopy. In recent years, Henderson has been focusing on single particle cryo-electron microscopy. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and a foreign associate of the US National Academy of Sciences. He was awarded the Copley Medal of the Royal Society in 2016.