The new citizen science project from Diamond Light Source

An image of a person working at home, to demonstrate the new citizen science project from Diamond Light Source
© iStock/PeopleImages

The UK’s national synchrotron science facility, Diamond Light Source, has announced a new citizen science project.

Diamond Light Source invite people to “spare 10 minutes to make science leap forward” by contributing to the new citizen science project, the first step of which is to spend a few minutes looking at a series of screens to identify viruses.

How will the citizen science project help scientific research?

The project is using a crowdsourcing model to ask people of all ages around the world to help speed up the analysis of the terabytes of data that Diamond Light Source generates daily. The positive implications of this is that a speedier analysis of the research data, speeding up the scientists’ ability to understand their research in days rather than the current time frame of weeks, could allow a faster path to understanding disease structures. This could potentially lead to quicker pathways to drug development.

Diamond Light Source

Professor Dave Stuart FRS, MRC Professor of Structural Biology at the University of Oxford and Life Sciences Director at Diamond Light Source, explains: “The ultimate goal is to completely automate segmentation using advances in deep learning. Such methods require significant quantities of already segmented data to train the systems we use. To build segmented data for this development, Zooniverse will offer members of the public across the globe the chance to partake in segmenting datasets to help researchers. This project aims to address these issues by providing tools to help researchers label features of interest, and to gather the data that is produced by citizen scientists in a standardised way that can be used to automate the process in the future, thereby helping fasten the analysis process from weeks to days or less.”

Stuart continues:  “What we are doing now is to use cryo-electron tomography to visualise virus particles from the reovirus family in very thin slices cut from frozen infected cells. Our aim is, ultimately, to understand the full life cycle, how the virus gets into the cell, replicates, assembles and finally leaves the cell. In the tomograms here we have taken a snapshot 12 hours after infection and are aiming to visualise intermediate steps in the assembly process which have not been visible before, and to then work out how virus assembly is organised in time and space within the cell.”

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