How electrons flow in the oxygen-evolving complex of Photosystem II.
Explore our Frontier Research

Science of life

Tiny microbes and molecular machines have an outsized impact on human health, and they play key roles in the vast global cycles that shape climate and make carbon and nitrogen available to all living things. SLAC biology advances our understanding in all these areas.


At LCLS, crystallized ribosomes travel through a capillary into the interaction region, where they are zapped with a beam of X-rays.


SLAC has a unique set of tools for looking at viruses, microbes, cells and the tiny machines inside the cell that perform all of life’s functions. This research gives scientists a better understanding of how living things work, what makes us sick and how we can prevent and treat disease. 

Bioimaging news

Cryo-EM programs

Super-cold snapshots

SLAC is a leader in cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) and tomography (cryo-ET), which make images of cells, molecular machines, viruses and other tiny things in 3D and, at times, in atomic detail.

The Stanford-SLAC cryo-EM facility gives scientists unprecedented views of the inner workings of the cell and of technologies like batteries and solar cells.


Deciphering life’s structures

Our X-ray light sources are at the forefront of research to determine the molecular structure of proteins and other macromolecules, which are the building blocks of life; how they interact with disease-causing viruses and life-saving therapeutics; and their role in biological processes in nature. 

The tools we develop allow us to examine life’s molecules in ever-increasing detail and from many angles, so we can see how they function in the natural world and in the human body.

This illustration shows arrestin, an important type of signaling protein

LCLS allows scientists to determine the structures of important molecules that were out of reach before, including molecules that catalyze chemical reactions in living things and control what can enter a cell.

Illustration shows details in the pocket structures of AT2 (left) and AT1 (right).


Fighting COVID-19

SLAC research is helping to reveal how the SARS-CoV-2 virus breaks into cells, how vulnerable tissues respond and how to prevent or treat infection.

news collection · Research at SLAC


SLAC is uniquely equipped to study viruses like SARS-CoV-2; in fact, we’ve been doing it for decades. This news collection gathers the latest information on COVID-19 research at SLAC.

A photo-collage featuring a technician at SLAC's cryo-EM facilities.

The lab is responding to the coronavirus crisis by imaging disease-related biomolecules, developing standards for reliable coronavirus testing and enabling other essential research.


 The NVBL brings all 17 Department of Energy national labs together to focus their bioscience and biotechnology expertise on the fight against COVID-19, and serves as a new front door for scientists in the broader community who want to work with the labs. 

The NVBL brings all 17 Department of Energy national labs together to focus their expertise on the fight against COVID-19.