6 June 2023 – EMBO announces that structural biologist Julia Mahamid is the recipient of this year’s EMBO Gold Medal. Each year, EMBO recognizes a scientist under the age of 40 for outstanding contributions to the life sciences in Europe with this award. The awardee, who must work in an EMBC Member State, receives a medal and a bursary of 10,000 euros.
Mahamid, a group leader and senior scientist at EMBL Heidelberg, Germany, receives the award for her seminal research in structural and cell biology that is based on new methods for cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) she established with her group and collaborators. Cryo-ET is a technique for 3D imaging of the unperturbed cellular machinery with high resolution. Mahamid was central in developing cryo-focussed ion beam (cryo-FIB) that opened “electron-transparent windows” into cells, allowing observation of cellular structures and macromolecular complexes in their native environment. In her recent research, Mahamid resolved both the structure of translating ribosomes in motion and that of the expressome, a complex that couples transcription and translation in bacteria.
EMBO Member Patrick Cramer, director of the Max Planck Institute for Multidisciplinary Sciences in Goettingen, Germany, and President-elect of the Max Planck Society, comments: “Julia Mahamid is the star of in situ structural biology in her generation. She has, at an early age, already gained a very high international reputation. Julia has shown that it is now possible to analyze three-dimensional structures in cells at a level of detail that reveals mechanistic insights. Recently, she extended her work to the demonstration that conformational movement can be observed directly by comparing structures in cells. This is a dream that came true for any cell biologist.”
Mahamid not only uses the new techniques to address her own research questions but also makes them available to the European life sciences community, regularly sharing her expertise and training other scientists in their use.
EMBO Member Christoph W. Müller, Head of Structural and Computational Biology Unit at EMBL Heidelberg, says: “Despite her young age, Julia Mahamid has established herself as one of the world leaders in in situ structural biology. She not only promotes in situ structural biology in Europe and worldwide, but also teaches and educates the research community, generously sharing her insights and experience, and enabling and supporting many groups in Europe and beyond to establish cryo-FIB/cryo-ET workflows in their own institutes.”
The recipient of the EMBO Gold Medal will give the award lecture at Cell Bio 2023, the ASCB | EMBO meeting that will take place in Boston, MA, USA, from 2 to 6 December 2023.