Molecular Observatory

Doug Rees – Faculty Advisor
Jens Kaiser – Director

The Molecular Observatory provides the Caltech community with advice, training and access to exceptional capabilities in macromolecular crystallography. Furthermore we strive to develop X-ray related methods to meet user’s research objectives and design experiments to answer hitherto hard to address questions.

A high intensity, completely automated synchrotron radiation beam line at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL) – funded by the Moore Foundation – provides state-of-the-art data collection capabilities. To use SSRL beamline 12-2, contact Jens Kaiser. Scheduling and sign up are realized through Google Calendar and require a Gmail account.


An on-campus Macromolecular Crystallization Laboratory housed in the Beckman Institute provides access to a Rigaku Alchemist – used to design and create 96 well deep block crystallization screens; a TTP Mosquito and the Art Robbins Gryphon Nano and Gryphon LCP are used to set up 96 well crystallization plates using screens in deep well blocks; a Rigaku Minstrel is used to maintain crystallization plates at either 4°C or 20°C and to automatically image crystallization experiments. Drop images are available online for user inspection. The facility also maintains a Korima UV microscope to distinguish protein crystals from salt at room temperature, and a Nikon SMZ-800 stereomicroscope. To use any of the above equipment, contact Pavle Nikolovski.

An in-house generator for crystal screening and data collection is available in the Macromolecular X-ray Crystallography Facility. It consists of a Rigaku MicroMax 007-HF X-ray generator with a Rigaku RAXIS-IV++ detector and an Oxford Cryostream 700. Multiple microscopes including a Nikon SMZ-100 stereomicroscope equipped with camera and display monitor are also available. To use the in-house X-ray facility, contact Jens Kaiser. Users of the generator are required to take Caltech’s ionizing radiation safety course and then have training on use of the facilities X-ray generator. Sign-up for generator use is done using Google Calendar, so users are required to have a Gmail account. We also operate computing resources, including a facility subscription for SBGrid.

Please note that some services are assessed fees, and that the most current standard operating procedures should always be followed when using facility equipment.

Publications resulting from data collected through the support of the Molecular Observatory should acknowledge the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Beckman Institute, and the Sanofi-Aventis Bioengineering Research Program at Caltech for their generous support of the Molecular Observatory at Caltech. Operations at SSRL are supported by the US DOE and NIH.

For any questions please contact Jens Kaiser.



Jens Kaiser


  • 118 – Beckman Institute
  • Mail Code 114-96
  • (626) 395-2737

Doug Rees

Faculty Advisor

  • 363 – Broad Center
  • Mail Code 114-96
  • (626) 395-8393