NECAT Beamline

The Northeastern Collaborative Access Team (NE-CAT) facility at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory is managed by Cornell University and consists of seven member institutions:

  • Columbia University
  • Cornell University
  • Harvard University
  • Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Rockefeller University
  • Yale University.

    Primary funding for this project comes from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) , a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Additional financial support for NE-CAT comes from the member institutions.

    NIGMS at a Glance.

    Supported by:

    National Institutes of Health
    National Institute of General Medical Sciences

    Synchrotron radiation is essential for maintaining a competitive program in X-ray crystallography. The APS is one of three high-energy, third generation synchrotron sources, the other two being the ESRF and SPRING-8 . The APS undulator sources provide the highest brilliance available in the United States. In addition, the APS provides a support structure, including laboratory and office modules, that facilitates biological studies.

    In order to gain access to such an important research resource, researchers from Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rockefeller, and Yale formed a collaboration, NE-CAT, to construct and operate a facility at APS. Having obtained the needed funding commitments from the NIH National Center for Research Resources and the participating institutions, the formal Memorandum of Understanding between APS and NE-CAT was signed on May 3, 2002.

    The NE-CAT scientists are involved in a wide range of research projects. Particular emphases are placed on signal transduction, DNA transcription initiation and regulation, cell cycle regulation, virus structure and function, membrane proteins, protein folding, and enzyme structure and function. Many of the research projects focus on how biological molecules interact to form large macromolecular complexes. The macromolecules studied by NE-CAT members often involve large unit cells, small crystals, weakly diffracting crystals, and crystals with weak anomalous scattering, requiring ultra high resolution data.

    The main technological R&D thrust will be to develop a sector in which the beamline components, instrumentation and software are optimized for the crystallography of technically challenging molecular structures. Specific areas of technological R&D or innovation will include:

    1. Implementation of canted dual-undulator beam lines.
    2. Development of a high-heat load front end for a dual-undulator configuration.
    3. Implementation of novel side-bounce beam lines.
    4. Methods for improved beam stability and control.
    5. Microdiffraction capabilities for crystallographic studies of very small crystals.
    6. Structural determinations of weakly diffracting large unit cell macromolecules.
    7. Software for crystallographic reasearch.
    8. Robotic systems for sample auto-mounting and auto-alignment.
    9. Cryocrystallography and study of radiation damage.

    NE-CAT will operate a user program consistent with the guidelines of the APS and NIGMS (National Institute of General Medical Sciences). The user program will be fully supported, with each experimental station staffed 24 hours a day. The support, which will be provided by a combination of BS/MS technical staff, postdocs and staff scientists, will assist in all aspects of data collection and analysis. Laboratory and office space will be provided for crystal growth, sample preparation, data processing, etc.

    The NE-CAT consortium plans the following educational features:

    1. On-site training for individual users.
    2. A web site with training information, procedures, troubleshooting advice, etc.
    3. Development of web-based tutorials for topics of interest to the users of the research resource.
    4. Annual workshops on topics relevant to the undulator research resource.
    5. The staff will attend scientific meetings and publish in scientific journals to disseminate information.
    6. The resource will provide a training ground for students and postdoctoral fellows, and will help produce the next generation of synchrotron radiation specialists.