Three people sitting on a couch, laughing
Provided The Plunge co-hosts (l-r) Chi-Min (Mimi) Ho, Liz Kellogg and Mike Cianfrocco

New podcast explores imaging technique cryo-EM

A new podcast and video series hosted by three faculty members from Cornell, the University of Michigan and Columbia University explores what the future will look like as a result of cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), a Nobel Prize-winning technique for visualizing in 3-D the molecules at work inside cells.

The method opened the door to understanding the function of molecules that previously remained inaccessible to scientists using other existing techniques. For example, cryo-EM provided crucial details about the shape and function of the SARS-CoV-2 viral particle in the early days of the pandemic.

Each of the six podcast episodes features a different guest, ranging from first-year faculty members to established leaders in the field.

“In every interview, we heard stories that we hadn’t expected and learned something new, not just about the interviewees but about each other and about the field,” said co-host Liz Kellogg, assistant professor of molecular biology and genetics in the College of Arts and Sciences. “We are really excited to bring these stories to our audience.”

In The Plunge episode 1, Ellen Zhong shares her journey into the world of cryoEM and her excitement for the future of ML and structural biology. Mimi, Mike & Liz talk about being newcomers to a field and how to bridge disciplines using interdisciplinary meetings.

The podcast series grew out of a strong desire to reconnect as researchers re-emerged from the more isolated conditions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, the three cohosts formed a virtual cryo-EM group where young faculty got together to discuss their research, their experiences leading labs, and how they were managing their various roles during the pandemic. Then, as scientific meetings began to return in person, they saw an opportunity to expand this connection.

“It happened that the two main scientific meetings for our field were going to be happening in Portland at almost the same time, so we knew many cryo-EM researchers would pass through the area within that one week,” said cohost Chi-Min (Mimi) Ho, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at Columbia. “We saw this unique opportunity to elevate conversations about important issues in our community and to think together about the future.”

“It was really born out of a desire to connect to people again,” added cohost Mike Cianfrocco, Ph.D., faculty member at the U-M Life Sciences Institute and assistant professor of biochemistry at the U-M Medical School. “We were connecting regularly throughout the pandemic, and we just thought ‘what if we could grow this into a way to talk to more people in the field and learn their stories?’”

New episodes of the series, produced by ThermoFisher, will be released every two weeks beginning Oct. 10, 2022. They can be found at Spotify, YouTube, Amazon Music and

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Complicated machinery, lit in blue
Gary Hodges Cornell’s cryogenic electron microscope (in the background) glows blue to show it is in a cooled state