Science is about grand ideas, bold hypotheses, and incipient curiosity. It’s also about tools. Providing our scientists with access to the latest, most advanced laboratory technology is one of the ways Rockefeller creates an environment in which science can flourish.
From the first microscope to the sequencing of the human genome, the story of scientific progress has been closely intertwined with the development of technology. Our scientists continually develop new tools and push the limits of molecular imaging, genetic sequencing, cell engineering, high-throughput drug screening, proteomics, microfluidics, and many other technologies.
In 2015, the university acquired two cryo-electron microscopes, which use extremely cold temperatures rather than chemicals to preserve specimens, making it possible to capture very high-resolution images of biological samples in their natural state. With the help of advanced cameras and processing software, molecular complexes can be viewed at the scale of individual atoms.
The microscopes are already revolutionizing the work of Rockefeller’s structural biologists, who are interested in understanding how individual molecules interact to read DNA, transport nutrients through membranes, or perform other vital biological tasks.
To store and process the enormous data sets being generated by cryo-electron microscopy, as well as by genetic sequencing, high-throughput screening, and other analytic tools, the university has invested in high-performance computing and bioinformatics capabilities. These include a 1,600-core supercomputer that represents a doubling of the university’s existing server-based computing power, along with new data storage infrastructure and analytics expertise. The bioinformatics facilities will help drive discovery in data-heavy fields such as genomics and drug discovery.
This year we also opened a precision fabrication facility with a laser cutter, CNC mill, and 3D printing capabilities. This equipment allows for the rapid creation of highly specialized tools to customize microscopes or design behavioral experiments, among other uses.