MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology
Katerina was born in Bulgaria and attended a high school which specialises in physics there. Katerina participated in many international physics competitions as a student, which enabled her to get admitted to study Natural Sciences (Physics) in Trinity College, Cambridge for her BA/MSci degree. During this time, Katerina joined the then newly founded group of Dr Christopher Russo at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology as a summer student and stayed to work with him since then, returning for a few more summer studentships, for a master’s research project, and to pursue a PhD in Biological Sciences. Katerina worked on several different projects related to the imaging of biological molecules by fluorescence and electron microscopy, focusing on the fundamental physical limitations behind these techniques and methods for improving them. Katerina is currently wrapping up the PhD and planning to move to the USA for a postdoc.
I developed a new type of all-gold specimen support (grid) for biological electron microscopy. It completely eliminates specimen movement during imaging (Naydenova, Jia & Russo, Science 2020), removes bottlenecks in data collection, and provides superior quality data, crucial for structure-based drug development. These grids were instrumental in determining several structures, including that of the SARS-CoV-2 RNA polymerase (Naydenova, Muir, Wu et al, PNAS 2021). I also developed a new, scaleable process for manufacturing the grids to meet worldwide demand (Naydenova & Russo, Ultramicroscopy 2022). This method is now being commercialised by a local company SPT Labtech/Quantifoil.
I performed all experiments to determine the causes of specimen movement during imaging in cryogenic electron microscopy. Based on these, I designed and manufactured the new grid type from raw materials, using semiconductor processing techniques in the lab. Throughout this, I was advised my by supervisor, Dr Christopher J Russo.
Other 2022 award winners
Ana Gatoo Jimenez de Laiglesia
Rakoen Marieke Maertens