Automated EM Data Acquisition with SerialEM


Contribute to the Continuation of SerialEM!
Tilt Series Acquisition with SerialEM
Program Features
Highlights of SerialEM 3.4
Availability of SerialEM for Various Hardware Configurations
SerialEM Discussion List
Other Helpful Materials
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Contribute to the Continuation of SerialEM!

SerialEM was developed with grant funding from NIH, but this funding has ended. We now intend to keep it going with funding that comes from users, directly or indirectly, in order to maximize the time that can be spent on writing code and documentation instead of grant proposals.

You can help make SerialEM a community-supported resource by having your laboratory or microscope facility contribute to the further development and continued availability of the program. The mechanism for doing this is to purchase annual support, so that the expense represents a tangible item that can be paid from grant or institutional funds. We offer four options, allowing you to pick the size of your contribution based on your financial resources and the importance of SerialEM to your work. The options are:

  1. Basic bug support: Resolution of issues apparently arising from SerialEM bugs ($250 non-profit, $500 commercial).
  2. Priority bug support: Rapid resolution of issues apparently arising from SerialEM bugs ($500 non-profit, $1000 commercial).
  3. Priority software support: Consultation on and resolution of issues arising from configuration and calibration problems as well as SerialEM bugs ($1000 non-profit, $2000 commercial).
  4. Application support: In addition to software support, advice and consultation on how to get the most out of SerialEM for your applications ($2000 non-profit, $4000 commercial).

What happens if you do not contribute? Although the first three options represent the kind of support that we have provided routinely in the past, payment for this support is voluntary. We will still answer questions and deal with problems from non-paying users, but may take longer to do so. Questions may be posted to the discussion list first.

Why is it important to contribute? Even though there will be other sources of support for SerialEM continuation and development, user contributions are important both financially and because they are not tied to specific developments and represent the general user interest. In keeping with this, we plan to use annual surveys to help determine future directions and priorities.

What does this mean for the future of SerialEM? This is not a move toward commercialization. We intend to keep the program freely available and are considering making the program open source to the extent possible, which should bolster its long-term viability.

Click Here to see more details and contribute by check or purchase order.

Click Here to see more details and pay now by credit card.

Tilt Series Acquisition with SerialEM

SerialEM is a program that can acquire a variety of data from FEI and JEOL electron microscopes: tilt series for electron tomography, large image areas for 3-D reconstruction from serial sections, and images for reconstruction of macromolecules by single-particle methods.

The main focus of the program is automated tilt series acquisition. For this, it uses an approach based on prediction of specimen position during the tilt series from the position at previous tilts. It does not count on the microscope or the specimen being particularly well-behaved, so unless a prediction appears reliable, it falls back to measuring and adjusting defocus and/or specimen position when necessary. With this method, it achieves both robustness and speed. For example, a 2Kx2K, 1 degree tilt series can be acquired in about 20-25 minutes with a four-port readout CCD camera.

The method and the program are described in this paper:
Mastronarde, D.N. 2005. Automated electron microscope tomography using robust prediction of specimen movements. J. Struct. Biol. 152:36-51.
The prediction method was first described in this abstract from the 2003 MSA meeting,
Mastronarde, D.N. 2003. SerialEM: A program for automated tilt series acquisition on Tecnai microscopes using prediction of specimen position. Microscopy and Microanalysis Vol. 9, Suppl. 2, 1182CD.

Program Features

In addition to automating data acquisition, the program provides an integrated user interface for image acquisition, display, and storage. It looks like this:


Click image for full-sized view.

Other notable features include:

Highlights of SerialEM 3.4

The most notable features of the latest release, SerialEM 3.4, are:

Availability of SerialEM for Various Hardware Configurations

SerialEM works on both modern FEI microscopes (Tecnai, Titan, Spirit) and JEOL microscopes with the TEMCON interface (e.g., 1400, 2100, 2200, 2500, 3100, 3200, ARM200). The program is built and tested with the version 2 of Titan but it apparently still works on a G1 Tecnai.

SerialEM works with CCD cameras from Gatan, TVIPS (Tietz Video and Image Processing Systems), FEI, and AMT, and some cameras from DirectElectron and OSIS (Olympus Soft Imaging Solutions). Direct detection cameras from Gatan, FEI, and DirectElectron are supported. We have extensive experience with several models of Gatan cameras. Many other labs are using the program successfully with FEI cameras and various models of Tietz cameras, and a few labs are using AMT cameras. Some OSIS cameras work through a plugin available from OSIS. STEM acquisition is supported from Gatan's DigiScan or FEI's STEM imaging.

If necessary or advantageous, SerialEM can be run on a separate computer and control the microscope over the network. Such a configuration is standard on JEOL microscopes but is also possible for FEI microscopes. The program can access Gatan cameras over the network from another computer, but for other kinds of cameras, SerialEM must run on the computer that hosts the camera.

Program and configuration files are available on our ftp site. Follow the instructions in the README file to get started. Your first step is to fill out the questionnaire and send it to David Mastronarde, who will prepare an initial configuration file.

Installations on new JEOL microscopes are usually done with the assistance of Jaap Brink from JEOL, so he should be contacted in those cases (jbrink at jeol dot com).

This software is provided free for non-commercial purposes. By downloading the software, you agree that you will use it for research rather than commercial purposes, and that you will not distribute it outside of your own institution.

The program has been installed on over 130 FEI and 110 JEOL microscopes.

SerialEM Discussion List

The SerialEM discussion listserver provides a means for users and people managing the program to ask questions and share their experiences, as well as a way to receive notification of new releases and other news. The list is not moderated, but joining requires approval.

To subscribe to this list, send a message to listproc@lists.Colorado.EDU with the contents of your message being:

subscribe serialem your-full-name

where your-full-name is your name, including spaces (e.g., subscribe serialem David Mastronarde). After your request is reviewed, you will be added to the list and receive an email with more instructions on using the list.

To unsubscribe from the list, send a message to listproc@lists.Colorado.EDU with the contents of the message being:

unsubscribe serialem

To access the list archives, see these instructions.

Other Helpful Materials

A copy of 3dmod and associated files that can be run on Windows without installing IMOD or Cygwin is available here. The package unpacks to C:\Program Files\3dmod and a shortcut can be set up to run 3dmod from there. The package also includes midas, which can be useful to have on the microscope for checking rotations between magnifications.

Our YouTube channel has a series of videos of the lectures on SerialEM presented in a webinar in September 2012, plus some tutorial videos prepared by Cindi Schwartz.

Here are some training documents written by Cindi Schwartz, to provide concrete guidance for doing room temperature and cryo tomography.

Here are Powerpoint presentations from a workshop on SerialEM given in December 2006. The slides have a lot of words, but there are many fewer words than in the help manual, so they may be helpful by highlighting the most important points.

And again, here are the: