Joachim Frank


Joachim Frank (German pronunciation: [ˈjoːaxɪm ˈfʁaŋk] (listen)) HonFRMS (born September 12, 1940) is a German-American biophysicist at Columbia University and a Nobel laureate. He is regarded as the founder of single-particle cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2017 with Jacques Dubochet and Richard Henderson.[2] He also made significant contributions to structure and function of the ribosome from bacteria and eukaryotes.

Joachim Frank
Joachim Frank.jpg
Joachim Frank under Nobel Prize press conference in Stockholm, December 2017
Born (1940-09-12) September 12, 1940 (age 81)
CitizenshipUnited States, Germany[1]
EducationUniversity of Freiburg (BS)
University of Munich (MS)
Max Planck Society
Technical University of Munich (PhD) Cornell University
Known forSingle-particle cryo-electron microscopy
Ribosome structure and dynamics
Carol Saginaw
(m. 1983)
ChildrenZe Frank & Mariel Frank
Scientific career
FieldsStructural biology
Cryo-electron microscopy
InstitutionsUniversity at Albany, Department of Biomedical Sciences
Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics
ThesisUntersuchungen von elektronenmikroskopischen Aufnahmen hoher Auflösung mit Bilddifferenz- und Rekonstruktionsverfahren (1970)
Doctoral advisorWalter Hoppe
Other academic advisorsRobert M. Glaeser, Robert Nathan

Life and careerEdit

Frank was born in Siegen in the borough of Weidenau. After completing his Vordiplom (B.S.) degree in Physics at the University of Freiburg (1963)[3] and his Diplom under Walter Rollwagen's mentorship at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich with the thesis "Untersuchung der Sekundärelektronen-Emission von Gold am Schmelzpunkt" (Investigation of secondary electron emission of gold at its melting point) (1967), Frank obtained his Ph.D. from the Technical University of Munich for graduate studies in Walter Hoppe's lab at the Max Planck Institut für Eiweiss- und Lederforschung (now Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry) with the dissertation Untersuchungen von elektronenmikroskopischen Aufnahmen hoher Auflösung mit Bilddifferenz- und Rekonstruktionsverfahren[4] (Investigations of high-resolution electron micrographs using image difference and reconstruction methods) (1970). The thesis explores the use of digital image processing and optical diffraction in the analysis of electron micrographs, and alignment of images using the cross-correlation function.

As a Harkness postdoctoral fellow, he had the opportunity to study for two years in the United States: with Robert Nathan at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology; with Robert M. Glaeser at Donner Lab, University of California, Berkeley and with Benjamin M. Siegel at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.[5][6][7] In the fall of 1972 he returned briefly to the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried as research assistant, working on the theory of partial coherence in electron microscopy,[8] then, in 1973, he joined the Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge as Senior Research Assistant under Vernon Ellis Cosslett.

In 1975 Frank was offered a position of Senior Research Scientist in the Division of Laboratories and Research (now Wadsworth Center), New York State Department of Health,[6][9] where he started working on single-particle approaches in electron microscopy.[10] In 1985 he was appointed Associate and then (1986) Full Professor at the newly formed Department of Biomedical Sciences of the University at Albany, State University of New York. In 1987 and 1994, he went on sabbaticals in Europe, one to work with Richard Henderson, Laboratory of Molecular Biology Medical Research Council in Cambridge and the other as a Humboldt Research Award winner with Kenneth C. Holmes, Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg.[6] In 1998 Frank was appointed Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). Since 2003 he was also lecturer at Columbia University, and he joined Columbia University in 2008 as Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics and of Biological Sciences.

Awards (selection)Edit

Selected publicationsEdit


  • Frank, Joachim (2014), Found in Translation – Collection of Original Articles on Single-Particle Reconstruction and the Structural Basis of Protein Synthesis, Singapore: World Scientific Press, ISBN 978-981-4522-80-9.
  • Herman, Gabor T.; Frank, Joachim (2014), Computational Methods for Three-Dimensional Microscopy Reconstruction, springer, ISBN 978-1-4614-9520-8.
  • Frank, Joachim (2011), Molecular Machines in Biology: Workshop of the Cell, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-19428-0.
  • Glaeser, Robert M.; Downing, Ken; Chiu, Wah; Frank, Joachim; DeRosier, David (2007), Electron Crystallography of Biological Macromolecules, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-508871-7.
  • Frank, Joachim (2006), Electron Tomography (2nd ed.), New York: Springer, ISBN 978-0-387-31234-7.
  • Frank, Joachim (2006), Three-Dimensional Electron Microscopy of Macromolecular Assemblies (2nd ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-518218-7.


  • Frank, Joachim (2015). "Generalized single-particle cryo-EM – a historical perspective". Microscopy. 65 (1): 3–8. doi:10.1093/jmicro/dfv358. PMC 4749046. PMID 26566976.
  • Frank, Joachim; Gonzalez, Jr., Ruben L. (2010). "Structure and dynamics of a processive Brownian motor: the translating ribosome". Annu. Rev. Biochem. 79: 381–412. doi:10.1146/annurev-biochem-060408-173330. PMC 2917226. PMID 20235828.
  • Frank, Joachim; Spahn, Christian M.T. (2010). "The ribosome and the mechanism of protein synthesis". Rep. Prog. Phys. 69 (5): 1383–1417. doi:10.1088/0034-4885/69/5/R03.
  • Frank, Joachim (2009). "Single-particle reconstruction of biological macromolecules in electron microscopy -- 30 years". Q. Rev. Biophys. 42 (3): 139–158. doi:10.1017/S0033583509990059. PMC 2844734. PMID 20025794.


  1. ^ Frank, Joachim (2017), Curriculum Vitae. Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  2. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2017". The Nobel Foundation. October 4, 2017. Retrieved October 6, 2017.
  3. ^ Entry in the University Archive Freiburg, Prüfungsausschuss für Diplom-Physiker B 11/593
  4. ^ Entry in the catalogue of the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek: DNB 482124628
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 9, 2017. Retrieved October 5, 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ a b c Mossman, Kaspar (December 11, 2007). "Profile of Joachim Frank". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 104 (50): 19668–70. Bibcode:2007PNAS..10419668M. doi:10.1073/pnas.0710323105. PMC 2148354. PMID 18056798.
  7. ^ a b[dead link]
  8. ^ Frank, Joachim (1973), "The envelope of electron microscopic transfer functions for partially coherent illumination", Optik, 38: 519–539.
  9. ^ Wicher, Konrad (2006). History of the electron microscope: the high voltage electron microscope and beyond at the Division of Laboratories and Research/Wadsworth Center. Albany, New York: Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health. p. 149.
  10. ^ Frank, Joachim (1975). "Averaging of low-exposure electron micrographs of non-periodic objects". Ultramicroscopy. 1 (2): 159–162. doi:10.1016/s0304-3991(75)80020-9. PMID 1236029.
  11. ^ Book of Members 1780–present (PDF, 878 kB) at American Academy of Arts and Sciences (; Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  12. ^ "Joachim Frank". January 12, 2006. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  13. ^ "Joachim Frank". December 12, 2014. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  14. ^ "The 16th Annual Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences Awarded for Pioneering Developments in Electron Microscopy". February 22, 2017. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  15. ^ "Nobel Prize in Chemistry Awarded for Cryo-Electron Microscopy". The New York Times. October 4, 2017. Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  16. ^ "Respect and Recognition". April 17, 2018. Retrieved October 2, 2018.

Further readingEdit

  • Mossman, Kaspar (December 11, 2007). "Profile of Joachim Frank". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA. 104 (50): 19668–19670. Bibcode:2007PNAS..10419668M. doi:10.1073/pnas.0710323105. PMC 2148354. PMID 18056798.

External linksEdit

  • Frank Lab website
  • List of Publications
  • Joachim Frank publications indexed by Google Scholar
  • Joachim Frank on   including the Nobel Lecture on December 8, 2017 Single-Particle Reconstruction – Story in a Sample