Cryo-Talk interviews Ariane Briegel (Leiden University)

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Eva Amsen: Hi! And welcome to cryo talk. I'm a for Anson and i'm here today with Ariana Briggle Ariana is professor of ultra structural biology at Leyden University and co-director of the Netherlands Center for electronanoscopy.

Eva Amsen: Her research group uses Cryo-electron tomography to study how microbes respond to their environment. So, Ariana, how are you today?

Ariane Briegel: I'm: great glad to be here with you. Yeah, thanks for joining us to start. Could you maybe tell us a little bit about your career so far. How do you end up in Leiden? Yeah. So my my career started studying biology, and at the Lmu in Munich.

Ariane Briegel: and there

I actually had my main topic with zoology.

Ariane Briegel: Actually, I always wanted to be a marine biologist.

Ariane Briegel: but the zoolog just had a passion for marine biology. So they organized excursions to Egypt and

Ariane Briegel: other countries to go diving, so it's like that was a big draw. So I I started

my masters there.

Ariane Briegel: and and the focus of this group was studying the ultra structure of crestation and insect I. So they did electron microscopy.

Ariane Briegel: So I started working with this microscope, and I became fascinated with with this technique. It was just. It was just amazing that every time I put something in the microscope like I saw something that n0 0ne else has seen before.

Ariane Briegel: S0 0nce I finished, my master, said, he said, this is what I want to do with my career.

and not too far from the Lmu. We had the Max Planck Institute for for Biochemistry rebels

Ariane Briegel: has this group, so I I joined there as as a Phd student. and that's where you know what I've been doing ever since.

Eva Amsen: So it's that where you started looking at some bacterial and and bacteria behavior. I guess. Exactly so. I When I When I joined the the Palmeister group.

Ariane Briegel: I think I was one of the first biologists Ph D. Students that started using a tomography to see what we can actually do with with this technique and in microbes, which is interesting because i'm not by training a microbiologist.

Ariane Briegel: But yeah, during I think the last 20 years, I hope I I became one.

Ariane Briegel: So yeah, so I started working on that topic there and then. When I finished my Phd.

Ariane Briegel: I moved to Gran Jensen's lab at Caltech, who really focused on microbes and in their office structure.

Eva Amsen: So why, what? What makes it so good for looking at bacteria.

Ariane Briegel: So

Ariane Briegel: you know, like if you want to look at bacteria, and especially there in their entirety, you really need the 3 dimensional structure of them.

Ariane Briegel: You know you. You can't do it by any other technique, I think, in in that in that sense. So you know, tomography allows you to really look at bacteria in 3 dimensions.

Ariane Briegel: and and Macromolecular is a mission to really can zoom in and see each individual cell and and see but

Ariane Briegel: what they have inside.

Ariane Briegel: And and then you're looking at interactions between the microbes and their environments. How how do you do that? Yeah. So my my one of my key research focus in in the past 20 years was studying how microbes since their environment, like these chemo receptor that they have. So these are

Ariane Briegel: basically the bacterial knows. These are large sensor arrays with thousands of receptors that cluster together and form this amazing Nano machine at the self use to to sense attractants or toxins in the environment.

Ariane Briegel: Since starting my my group here in light, and I've expanded somewhat more beyond just the chemo taxes. But also how bacteria interact with their environment on a structural level.


Eva Amsen: And you're also co-director of the the Netherlands center for electron nanoscopy. Can you tell us a bit about that.

Ariane Briegel: Yeah. So that's actually the reason why I am here in Leyden. So we have this. I am center here. So it's the only place in the Netherlands that has Titan cryless instruments. So these

Ariane Briegel: high resolution microscopes that we need for tomography, but also for a single particle. And so we have the center here. So actually all our Dutch cryoem community when they want to collect on on the Titans, they they come t0 0ur center.

Eva Amsen: Okay. So also from from other institutes in the country.

Ariane Briegel: and and they, I guess they have to sign up for time on the instruments. Or yeah. So the way it works here in the Netherlands, so we

Ariane Briegel: many of the universities have their own entry, level or mid-level microscopes like a 100 0r 200 Kv. Instruments, where they can do their screening, and also some data collection. But then, for for you know the the 300 Kv instruments they all, you know, come with their samples here.

and we are supported by a Dutch.

Ariane Briegel: A research council Grant that subsidizes a Dutch users to come t0 0ur center, so, and we try to make it very easy for Dutch users to really to to come here and access the the center, and then collect their data.

Eva Amsen: That's great, and I I guess it's a small country, so I mean it's it's it's kind of it. It makes sense to have like one central facility for everyone.

Eva Amsen: So what kind of research do you see? What kind of research are people bringing to the facility with what they use it for?

Ariane Briegel: Oh, it's, it's very diverse. I mean, we have, of course, like, I think, the the biggest user group is still a people coming for a single particle work. So studying protein structures and high resolution, but I think our center

is quite unique. That als0 0ur tomography community is quite large, so I think i'm not quite sure. About

Ariane Briegel: 40 50 is tomography.

Ariane Briegel: Another advantage, maybe, of our center is also, we have a bias safety level to microscope, so we can also image pathogens, which is not the case everywhere. So

Eva Amsen: so, so what do you think would be next for it? I am, in general like what? Where do you see the field going with advances or applications. Do you think we could see more of in the next few years?

Ariane Briegel: Yeah, I mean, I think Well, this is not my speciality, but I I think, for for single particle. I think this

Ariane Briegel: this extreme high through put that that we we see in the in the recent years. I mean it that will allow, you know, like much larger projects, like drug screenings, for example. So I think that would be quite exciting.

Ariane Briegel: And for tomography, I think you know, going inside

Ariane Briegel: is, you know, already a big thing, but, like I, I see the next step like, I really hope that this this large volume

Ariane Briegel: acquisition. I think that is where I'm I'm. Most excited about not only seeing, like, you know, maybe some some sales grown on a grid, but like really figuring out how we can make this technique available to study.

Ariane Briegel: You know, for example, pathogen interactions with that within a tissue like really go into, You know the you know the real biology of of where things happen. Right? Yeah.

Ariane Briegel: So are you already thinking up like possible future research ideas? Yeah, we actually we are actually supported by a a more grant to do just that. So we

Ariane Briegel: S0 0ne of the things we are studying is the interaction of a symbiosis system. So we started working with Hawaiian bobtail squid.

Ariane Briegel: so that might sound like a very exotic animal to work with. But so the the interesting thing about this. So this this animal has a a light organ inside, and in this light organ they take up just one species of bacteria

Ariane Briegel: that helps them glow into dark basically and

Ariane Briegel: you know, hides it from predators from below. So it's it's only a tiny, tiny little little square. It's only like the spake.

Ariane Briegel: but it's it's a it's a single bacteria single host interaction. So it makes this: this: You know this microbiome interaction so much simpler. It's just fun bacterium one host

Ariane Briegel: these interactions with with cryoem. So we are trying to to figure this out how to make this possible that that would be so interesting like this symbiotic reaction

Eva Amsen: collaboration between a bacteria and a squid a little sweet.

Eva Amsen: Yeah, we. i'm looking forward to seeing where that research goes. And

Ariane Briegel: what do you do when you're not working in your lab or in the facilities. So I I like gardening. I like hiking.

Ariane Briegel: going horseback riding again. So I did a lot of that as as a as a kid. And you know, during Covid I decided, i'm gonna go back to that.

Ariane Briegel: Yeah, there is. There is lots of stables. I actually go a little ways out of light. And because my friend, who also started horseback riding me, we go to to you know her town to to go writing.

Ariane Briegel: Oh.

Eva Amsen: yeah, that's it. It it's one of those outdoor activities, and everyone during Covid was starting to get more outdoors. So

Ariane Briegel: it's been good to get outdoor things back on.

Eva Amsen: Yeah. So I've got a a few more

Eva Amsen: rapid questions so you can. You can answer in as much detail as you want.

Eva Amsen: Do do you enjoy traveling? And that's another kind of thing that we couldn't really do the last few years. But

Ariane Briegel: yeah, I I do enjoy traveling a lot, so I do do like to visit other places, and, you know, try other food and and talk to a lot of different people. So I do enjoy it.

Eva Amsen: Do you have any favorite places?

Ariane Briegel: No, I Well, I like a lot of places. No. Recently

Ariane Briegel: before Covid I I visited Japan

Ariane Briegel: on a on a tour, you know. I give a seminar to a different institutes, and that was just that was fascinating. I I really enjoyed that.

Ariane Briegel: I also like to go back to to California and and get some sunshine there.

Eva Amsen: Yeah, that's a nice place to visit to. And do you like reading?

Ariane Briegel: I I do like reading. I haven't done that much recently, you know, when I come home from work i'm usually too tired to read anything else but on my vacation. I love. I love reading anything you read recently that you'd recommend.

Ariane Briegel: What did I read recently? Yes, actually, I read a really nice book. What was he called?

Ariane Briegel: I I did the name escape suite. and

Ariane Briegel: so remarkably bright creatures.

Eva Amsen: That sounds interesting.

Ariane Briegel: It's it's it's a fascinating book, and it it, you know it's about an octopus.

Ariane Briegel: It's it's, I I recommend it. It's really really interesting, and and so it it all comes back to marine biology.

Eva Amsen: and were there any any films or TV shows that you enjoy this past few years?

Ariane Briegel: Yes, I enjoyed Wednesday a lot. So that was very entertaining. Also. Yeah, I like a lot of

Ariane Briegel: yeah. So you know

Ariane Briegel: the Lord of the Rings, for example, I enjoyed a lot.

Ariane Briegel: It's funny that you mentioned Wednesday because you're not the first one to bring it up on this podcast. Why cracked me up? I I

Ariane Briegel: can't wait for the next season.

Eva Amsen: and and you mentioned that you like gardening. Do you also like cooking?

Ariane Briegel: I I do like cooking if I have time, but I have to admit I don't do much cooking because I have a I have a husband who is

Ariane Briegel: a passionate cook, so I usually sit there and drink my wine and and let him cook. Yeah.

Eva Amsen: if he enjoys it more. Why not exactly.

Eva Amsen: And what about music? Do you have any favorite music to listen to?

I'm. I'm, i'm quite.

Ariane Briegel: I'm quite open. So i'm not.

Ariane Briegel: I'm very specific about the music I here. I often have the radi0 0n, and then maybe the classics like.

Eva Amsen: and I mean, we we talked about you wanting t0 0riginally be a marine biologist. But what if you were not a scientist at all? That would be your your alternate path in life? That's that's a good question. So I think.

Ariane Briegel: before I decided to study biology, I was tempted to also maybe study art. Hmm. I I used to really like

Ariane Briegel: all kind of our drawing, you know, clay modeling everything. But

Eva Amsen: I decided science is it's still my plan a and it's still kind of creative You get to come up with new ideas. Yeah, I'm working with images. So it that Hasn't changed. Yeah.

Eva Amsen: And

Eva Amsen: do you have any advice for some of the early career researchers that are listening. So what what would you? What would you recommend? They do in their careers?

Ariane Briegel: Yeah. So I think maybe you know the the one thing that has helped me the most is like. Just

Ariane Briegel: go with my guts. because when I was finishing, for example, my masters, I I talked to

Ariane Briegel: a ta in a course I had to take, and and he was asking, so what what do you want to do after after you finish? And I said, oh, I, wanna you know, go into electron microscopy, and then he's like. So what do you want to do except driving a cap like n0 0ne's doing that. It's like No, but this is really what I want to do.

So luckily he wasn't right.

Ariane Briegel: So I think sometimes you just have to follow you got, and not what everybody tells you like. This is this is important. This is hot, like, just you know. Whatever you you enjoy, just

Ariane Briegel: just trust your gut.

Eva Amsen: and and in your own career has there been any any surprising turns or events along the way?

Ariane Briegel: Oh, yeah, I mean you, you you never know, like now i'm, I have a lab

Ariane Briegel: growing squid. I would have never thought I would do something like that.

Ariane Briegel: Yeah, also like, yeah.

Ariane Briegel: there's many, many surprises all along the way, and it's, I think, never really straightforward. I at some point when I was doing my postdoc at Caltech.

Ariane Briegel: you know I I started going on the job market, and and it was really tough. It was just this a year with with the recession. So not many universities wanted to invest a lot of money, and and I am. It's not the the cheapest of methods. So it was really hard. So I decide. Okay, i'm gonna

Ariane Briegel: you know, to change my my focus and not going to become a pi. I I just want to become a staff scientist and then what I've

Ariane Briegel: then done for 5 years until I, he said. Oh, maybe I I do want to become a pi.

Ariane Briegel: after all. So you know, it was not not a straight line.

Eva Amsen: Yeah, that I mean, that's always good to hear these stories that they aren't exactly straightforward. And you can't really plan ahead.

Eva Amsen: Is there anything else you wanted to share about your research or about cryo. It experiences that you think people might want to hear about.

Ariane Briegel: I'm not sure. I except maybe that it's really, I think. Yeah. I still still starting. I think the the excitement is. It's just building. So i'm i'm

Ariane Briegel: just very excited to see where it's going. It's so

Ariane Briegel: it's developing so fast. And if you see what all the different, you know, groups are doing it's, just

Ariane Briegel: It's amazing. It's it's gonna be a wild ride in in the next few years. I think

Ariane Briegel: also, you know. artificial intelligence is a is a, you know, like a

Ariane Briegel: a key word, that many people like to use. But like this, this automated data, analysis and and segmentation, and all of this is just, I think, coming together, and like we'll open up a whole new

Ariane Briegel: new era of biology.

Ariane Briegel: It's amazing, I think you know. It will also like

Ariane Briegel: open up t0 0ther disciplines like, for example, cell biologists who are not.

Ariane Briegel: You know they're not structural biologists, but you know, once you know, these techniques are are really more more routine, you know they will be very useful for other disciplines as well, so would be exciting, I think

Eva Amsen: lots of exciting things to come.

Eva Amsen: So thank you very much, Ariana. I think that brings us to the end of today's episode, and thanks everyone for listening or watching your talk.

Ariane Briegel: Thank you.

Creators and Guests

Ariane Briegel
Ariane Briegel
Professor at the Institute of Biology, Leiden University, Co-director NeCEN
Cryo-Talk interviews Ariane Briegel (Leiden University)