The Bragg Centre is proud to celebrate the achievements of its community.
This year despite the difficulties of the global pandemic, our members have continued to deliver successes across the breadth of the Centre’s research activity.
In support of the publication of the Bragg Centre’s Annual Report 2019–2020, we would like to shine a spotlight on some of the people who make our community a vibrant and stimulating research environment.
Microscopy in the Fast lane
Dr Aleks Ponjavic
University Academic Fellow
To date, there are limitations in what can be observed using conventional microscopy and this restricts our ability to answer numerous questions in Biology.
One such grand challenge in the field of immunology, is to understand how the immune system makes the decision to mount a defensive response when receptors on lymphocytes recognise a harmful pathogen in the body. This is particularly relevant, given the possibility of stimulating the immune system to targeting cancers.
The current understanding is derived from multiple, often conflicting, molecular models of how cells interact with and sense their environment. Yet the tools used to observe the behaviour of proteins on the surface of cells are typically lacking in resolution sufficient to test and refine these models accurately.
To meet this challenge, Bragg Centre University Academic Fellow Dr Aleks Ponjavic is developing new fluorescence microscopy techniques that can allow smaller and faster moving objects than ever before to be seen on the surface of living cells.
“One of the most exciting things for me is to directly observe phenomena that no one has ever seen before.”
While techniques have been developed to push towards nanoscale fluorescence imaging, this has generally come at the trade-off of imaging speed, making it impossible to observe dynamic biological processes.
As a key part of the new high-speed and high-resolution Wolfson Imaging Facility at the Bragg Centre, Aleks’ work is focused on overcoming these limits to create molecular scale videos capable of capturing proteins rearranging with in the cell membrane.
Aleks’ work epitomises the Bragg Centre’s interdisciplinary ethos, collaborating with colleagues across Physics, Electronic & Electrical Engineering, Biology and Medicine. Cutting across the Bragg Centres’ Bionanotechnology and Analytical Science themes, his instrument development makes use of the Leeds electron microscopy and spectroscopy (LEMAS) centre and nanotechnology cleanroom facility.
First learning microscopy during his PhD at Imperial College London researching fluids in nanoscale confinement under extremely high pressures, Aleks moved into biophysics applying his skills to the study of biological problems at the University of Cambridge. He joined the Bragg Centre in 2020 with a University Academic Fellowship to apply his interdisciplinary background to microscopy development.
When discussing how his membership of the Bragg Centre supports his work, Aleks said:
“The Bragg Centre offers access to a large pool of world-leading technology and collaborators that I can work with to strengthen my developments in microscopy and apply it to solve fundamental problems in biology.”
The Bragg Centre annual report provides a snapshot of the productivity, outputs and achievements of our advanced materials research community, with a strong emphasis on the people who deliver these successes.
Download the full Bragg Centre Annual Report 2019–2020 (accessible PDF) from our website.