Research Overview

This overview encompasses major areas of research, core technologies, and collaborative activities.

A key emphasis of the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research (NCMIR) is the application of advanced imaging technologies to the nervous system in health and disease.

Affiliated with UCSD’s Center for Research in Biological Systems (CRBS), the NCMIR is a recognized authority in the development of technologies for high throughput multi-scale imaging and analysis of biological systems at the mesoscale, the dimensional range spanning 5 nm3 and 50µm3. Macromolecules, organelles, and multi-component structures like synapses which are encompassed in this dimensional range have traditionally been challenging to study because they fall in the resolution gap between X-ray crystallography at one end and medical imaging at the other.

While maintaining a focus on neurobiology, NCMIR also conducts research that addresses the cellular and molecular underpinnings of biological systems relevant to cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, to name a few. NCMIR welcomes requests for collaborative projects that will drive development in its core research areas designed to develop and enhance technologies, including

  • novel and traditional specimen preparation methods for intermediate voltage electron microscopy (IVEM) and correlated microscopies
  • computer-aided methods for the acquisition of data from the microscopes
  • enhancement of image contrast and extraction of accurate 3D information from biological specimens prepared for light and electron microscopy
  • reconstruction of larger structural complexes using electron tomography and correlated microscopies

NCMIR also maintains a strong research program in computational biology and informatics through affiliated projects. As a leader in the development of informatics resources for microscopic imaging information, NCMIR makes the Cell Centered Database (CCDB) available to the scientific community. NCMIR plays a key role in and is associated with the Center for Research in Biological Systems (CRBS) at UCSD. It is a significant domain driver of the California Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technology (Cal-IT2) and the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC).