Elizabeth Villa (UCSD)

Elizabeth Villa (UCSD)

Butler Seminar Series

Event Date/Location

November 28, 2018 -
12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
Thomas Laboratory 003


  • Picture of Professor Villa

    Elizabeth Villa/

    Assistant Professor
    University of California, San Diego
    Dept of Chemistry and Biochemistry

    Elizabeth Villa, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Biological Sciences at the University of California San Diego.  She completed her PhD in Biophysics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a Fulbright Fellow. She was a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow in the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Munich. In 2016, she was granted an NIH Director’s  New Innovator Award, which allows her to pursue high-risk high-reward research  developing tags for cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET), and developing new technological and computational techniques to advance structural cell biology.  In 2017, she was named a Pew Scholar.   Dr. Villa’s laboratory has a strong focus on building tools for quantitative cell biology, using cryo-electron microscopy and tomography, cell biophysics, computational analysis, and integrative modeling. This potent combination enables the observation of macromolecular complexes in their native environment and derive their structure, context, and interaction partners.  Her current research is focused on studying how genetic Parkinson’s affects cells and on unveiling the molecular architecture of the nucleus. Her lab also pursues various collaborations aimed at understanding bacterial cell biology. 


Opening Windows into the Cell: Bringing Structure to Cell Biology with Cryo- Electron Tomography

To perform their function, biological systems need to operate across multiple scales. Current techniques in structural and cellular biology lack either the resolution or the context to observe the structure of individual biomolecules in their natural environment, and are often hindered by artifacts. Our goal is to build tools that can reveal molecular structures in their native cellular environment. Using the power of cryo-electron tomography (CET) to image biomolecules at molecular resolution in situ, we are building tools to make compatible with, and directly comparable to, biophysical and cell biology experiments, capturing the structural behavior of macromolecules in action under controlled conditions. I will show how we used these techniques to reveal the structure of LRRK2, the greatest known genetic contributor to Parkinson’s disease, and to reveal the molecular architecture of bacterial cells. 


Free and open to the university community and the public.


Sabine Petry, Department of Molecular Biology