Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust’s Commitment of $3.5 Million will advance biomolecular research at Iowa State University

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The Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust of Muscatine, Iowa, has committed more than $3.5 million to transform biomolecular research at Iowa State University, making it a leader in advanced electron microscopy technology.

The Carver Trust grant will help advance the second phase of the Iowa State University Roy J. Carver Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology’s Initiative in Biomolecular Structure and enable the purchase of a state-of-the-art cryo-transmission electron microscope equipped with a direct electron detector.

“We are so pleased to continue our partnership with the Carver Trust,” said Amy Andreotti, Roy J. Carver Chair of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology. “Its previous investments in the department and in structural biology have significantly advanced our research programs and the education we can provide to our students. This most recent gift will allow us to build a strong program in cryo-electron microscopy – a technology that is revolutionizing structural biology and the insights we can gain about biological processes at the molecular level.”

Cryo-EM technology generates images of delicate biomolecules by bombarding frozen cellular, viral, nucleic acid or protein samples with electrons. The 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to three scientists for developing the technique. Scientists use these molecular pictures to generate a three-dimensional image, allowing them to visualize and investigate the cellular universe of biological molecules at atomic-level resolution. The advanced technology can break down barriers in treating disease, engineer sophisticated biobased materials, and improve and sustain our food supply.

“In the past few years, cryo-EM has reset the bar for tackling challenging questions in structural biology,” said Dipali Sashital, assistant professor of biochemistry. “The gift from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust will bring this groundbreaking technology to researchers at Iowa State and, as a structural biologist, be truly transformative for the work in my lab.”

Having the technology on site will fortify a research strength in structural biology at Iowa State by expanding faculty expertise in using cryo-EM technology within the study of biomolecular structure, enabling the university to become a training location for new and expanded needs for cryo-EM specialists in research, industry and academia, as well as elevating Iowa State’s life sciences research portfolio. The concentration of cryo-EM expertise and technology will be one of a kind in the state of Iowa.

In the coming decades, the need for scientists proficient in cryo-EM is projected to grow dramatically. Training Iowa State students and postdoctoral researchers in cryo-EM will provide them with in-demand skills and new opportunities for career development.

“In evaluating this project, the Trustees of the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust reviewed the research outcomes of the first phase of the structural biology initiative,” said Troy Ross, executive administrator of the Carver Trust, “and based on evidence of considerable progress toward the goal of creating a productive and nationally recognized program in this important area of investigation, the Board elected to assist in a second phase of development, which centers on the acquisition of this advanced technology and an expansion into new and innovative areas of inquiry.”

The Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust in Muscatine, Iowa, is one of the largest private philanthropic foundations in the state of Iowa, with assets of more than $325 million and annual grant distributions of nearly $16 million. It was created through the will of Roy J. Carver, a Muscatine industrialist and philanthropist, who died in 1981.

The Iowa State University Roy J. Carver Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology is jointly administered by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. It offers bachelor’s through doctoral level degrees in biochemistry and biophysics, and also provides graduate degrees in several interdisciplinary majors.

The Iowa State University Foundation is a private, nonprofit organization committed to securing and managing gifts that benefit Iowa State University. The Forever True, For Iowa State campaign, with a historic goal to raise $1.5 billion, will help support Iowa State in becoming the premier land-grant university for the 21st century and beyond.

Elaine Watkins-Miller, Communications, Iowa State University Foundation , 515.294.1005,