Biochemistry faculty profile – Assistant Professor Tim Grant

Tim Grant.
Assistant Professor Tim Grant.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?

I grew up in and around London in the UK, in Wimbledon (I’m still a big tennis fan) until I was about ten, then a place called Kingston. I went to Hampton school, which was famous for rowing: I was small so they tried to convince me to cox, but you had to get up too early in the morning.

Where did you carry out your postdoctoral research?

I did my first postdoc in the UK at the National Institute for Medical Research, I then did a second postdoc in the US, at Janelia Research Campus just outside D.C.

As a child, who was your biggest influence?

I had a lot of teachers who really engaged me, particularly in science, my chemistry teacher Mr. Zablocki was a big one.

Why did you decide to study science?

Ever since I was a kid I’ve always enjoyed figuring out how things work and problem solving, so science was something I was drawn to at school. After my Biochemistry undergraduate I was very close to doing a Master’s in Computing. The master’s was unfunded, and one of my Biochem Professors offered me a PhD position which was funded, so I ended up doing a structural biology PhD instead and have been enjoying research ever since.

Why did you come to Madison? When?

I arrived about ten months ago in March 2020. I was drawn by the commitment to cryo-EM, the quality of the research being done here, and I also thought the area would be a great place for my kids to grow up.

What do you like most about being a professor?

It’s very new to me, but being totally in control of what you research is great.

What is the focus of your research?

I work in cryo-EM in which we use electron microscopes to solve molecular structures. My main focus is to develop new methods and techniques to extend cryo-EM so that it can be used to solve more types of problems, such as very small samples, or samples which undergo large changes / motions as part of their action. At the same time, I am hoping to be able to draw from the huge number of potential collaborators in Madison to find exciting biological problems that cryo-EM can help to solve.

What do you consider your major accomplishments?

I measured radiation damage rates for cryo-EM and developed a way to use them to improve images which is now used in most cryo-EM processing. Also, I am the primary developer of a software package for cryo-EM analysis called cisTEM that is used by many groups to solve their structures.

What advice would you provide to a new assistant professor who is just starting his/her career?

I am a new assistant professor just starting my career, so right now I am listening to as much advice as I can get, rather than giving it.

When you are not working, what do you like to do? What is your favorite place in Madison?

I have two young kids (5 and 1) so when I’m not working I spend a lot of time playing with them. When I can get some time for hobbies I enjoy making beer, hiking, and working on electronics projects. Since I started here after the pandemic I’ve not been able to see a lot of indoor Madison yet but I have spent a lot of time in the various parks in the area and have really enjoyed those.

Favorite Quote

“Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so” – Douglas Adams

Fantasy Dinner Guests

Leonardo da Vinci, Marie Curie, Douglas Adams, and Jeff Simcox

Best Advice I Ever Received

I used to have trouble with public speaking until someone told me that for people watching “there is no difference between being confident or just pretending to be.”

My Undergrad Alma Mater

Imperial College, UK

My Worst Subject In School


If I Weren’t A Professor, I Would…

…open a bakery.

In College I Drove

A Vauxhall Nova: Google tells me that it was known as an Opal Corsa A here in the US.

Favorite Books

Catch-22, Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett.

Favorite City


Favorite Movies

Monty Python And The Holy Grail

Favorite Coffee

I am ashamed to say that I prefer Coke over coffee, even for breakfast.

Current Research

We are working on a new imaging technique to image very small samples.

Nobody Knows I…

…Have an IMDB page