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Jacques Dubochet

Jacques Dubochet was born in 1941 in Aigle, Switzerland. He studied physical engineering at EPFL and molecular biology at the university of Geneva (UniGe). He was appointed as a professor at the university of Lausanne (UNIL) in 1987, where he stayed until his retirement in 2007.


Prof. Dubochet was born in 1941 in Aigle, Switzerland. He studied physical engineering at EPFL and molecular biology at the university of Geneva (UniGe). Combining both fields as a biophysicist, he specialized in electron microscopy studies of DNA at the universities of Geneva and Basel. As a group leader in Heidelberg, Germany, he introduced water in electron microscopy, leading to the invention of cryo-electron microscopy. Jacques Dubochet was appointed as a professor at the university of Lausanne (UNIL) in 1987, where he stayed until his retirement in 2007. He has two children, is politically active and a climate change activist.


Jacques Dubochet received the nobel prize in chemistry in 2017 for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution, together with Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson. In electron microscopy, high resolution images are generated by probing the interaction of a sample with a beam of electrons. However, electron microscopes operate under high vacuum, leading to the evaporation of water in the samples. When researchers tried removing the water by dehydration or freezing the samples to obtain ice formation, they were damaged. Prof. Dubochet and colleagues introduced a rapid freezing method, vitrification, which avoids crystallization of the water and hence allows the biological materials to be studied with an electron microscope.


With cryo-electron microscopy, the structure of (biological) samples, including viruses, protein complexes or DNA, can be determined at a very high resolution without having to crystallize the samples. The technique gives critical insights in the pharmaceutical industry thereby guiding the drug discovery process. In 2021, the Dubochet Center for Imaging (DCI) was established by UNIL, EPFL and UniGe, which provided the first detailed image of the COVID-19 omikron variant just a few weeks later. This interdisciplinary project clearly showed how cryo-electron microscopy will help society to find solutions for emerging crises by providing detailed images of chemical systems.


Did you know:

- that Jacques Dubochet was the first person in his canton to be diagnosed with dyslexia in 1955?

- that after winning the Nobel prize, his creative curriculum vitae (CV) became world-famous?

- he received a dedicated bicycle parking spot at the university of Lausanne after winning the nobel prize?


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