Biophysics Facilities

A Unique constellation of Facilities

At Cornell, biophysics students use the most sophisticated research facilities devoted to X-ray crystallography, optical, laser and magnetic resonance spectroscopy and computation.

The Cornell Center for Advanced Computing houses a high-performance computing facility that has major biophysical applications, including computation of the energetics of protein folding, molecular dynamics simulation of macromolecules and novel uses of computer graphics. The CAC provides over 700 computing nodes in a variety of serial and parallel configurations to Cornell researchers and is connected to the national NSF-supported Teragrid high-end computing resource. The Computational Biology Service Unit within the CAC maintains an extensive suite of computational biology software and consults and collaborates on Cornell research projects requiring expertise in genomics, proteomics, data mining, or structural and computational biology.

The Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source or CHESS, produces intense X-ray beams useful for scientific studies ranging from solid-state physics and chemistry to biology. The facility is capable of wide- and small-angle scattering, XAFS (X ray absorption fine structure) and macromolecular crystallography. With X-ray beams compressed to one-thousandth the diameter of a human hair, CHESS can characterize materials at an unprecedented resolution. A national resource built and operated largely with funds from the National Science Foundation, CHESS attracts distinguished visiting scientists from all over the world.

MacCHESS, the Macromolecular Diffraction Facility at the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source, is used by investigators throughout the world for research on novel applications of synchrotron radiation to problems involving physical biochemistry and biomedical research. Its specialties include multiple wavelength anomalous diffraction (MAD), ultrahigh resolution X-ray diffraction and the development of new apparatus and techniques. Crystallographic studies of pathogenic viruses and toxins can be done in the high-level biohazard containment facility. One of MacCHESS's highly successful advancements is the development and utilization of ultrafast and highly sensitive CCD (charge-coupled device) detectors. Solution scattering studies allow determination of the size and shape of proteins and nucleic acids in solution. MacCHESS is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The Developmental Resource for Biophysical Imaging Opto-Electronics uses and develops new technology in physical optics, lasers and computation to develop innovative experimental methods in optical microscopy for studying molecular mechanisms in cellular biophysics. One of the Resource's breakthroughs is in the application of two-photon spectroscopy and imaging to biological systems. The facility is supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy.

The Center for Advanced Technology in Biotechnology, also known as the Biotechnology Center, is equipped with support facilities for research in biophysics, including automated DNA and peptide synthesis; amino acid analysis and sequencing; computerized protein DNA and RNA sequence analysis; matrix-assisted laser desorption mass spectroscopy and fluorescence imaging, confocal microscopy and video microscopy services-plus a fermentation center and a plant cell culture and transformation facility. The center funds research on campus, provides a venue for students and faculty members to interact with representatives of industry and sponsors seminars and workshops of interest to biophysics students.

The Nanobiotechnology Center functions as the core of a rapidly advancing area of scientific and technological opportunity that applies the tools and processes of nano/microfabrication to build devices for studying biosystems. Researchers learn from biology to create new micro-nanoscale devices to better understand life processes at the nanoscale. The Nanobiotechnology Center (NBTC), a National Science Foundation, Science and Technology Center is characterized by its highly interdisciplinary nature and features a close collaboration between life scientists, physical scientists, and engineers. We also share a commitment to education and outreach, taking the discoveries from the laboratory and realizing their potential benefit to society.

The NBTC shared facility is a user-oriented research and education facility, designed to advance interdisciplinary programs in nanobiotechnology. It is open to NBTC faculty, staff, students and affiliates, the Cornell community, and researchers from other academic institutions and industry. The industrial access is enhanced and promoted with funding from the New York State Office of Science, Technology and Academic Research (NYSTAR).

The facility has equipment located in Duffield and Clark Hall and offers a full range of capabilities and services for design, fabrication, and characterization of substrates and devices for nanobiotechnology. NBTC cleanroom tools (see below for details) process and fabricate novel materials and substrates. Chemical and bio-processing labs on the second floor provide capabilities required to functionalize and charcterize substrates and materials for nanobiotechnology research.

The Biomolecular NMR Center is dedicated to the study of the architecture and internal motions of biological macromolecules (proteins, RNA and DNA). Housed in the Biotechnology Building, the center features a 14.1 tesla (600 MHz) NMR spectrometer fully capable of performing the most challenging, high-resolution NMR experiments. The spectrometer, a Varian Unity INOVA, embodies the latest advances in NMR technology, including four radio frequency channels and pulsed field gradients.