Netherlands, Utrecht

Exploring Nature's Molecular Machines

online course
when 6 July 2020 - 17 July 2020
language English
duration 2 weeks
credits 3 EC
fee EUR 500

Please note that this is an online course.

You will experience the stimulating and international environment in our research laboratories and grasp first-hand the meaning of interdisciplinary science. We will focus on the chemical principles underlying protein structure and function. We will examine how proteins fold into complex “molecular machines”, and how malfunction of individual proteins leads to failure and disease. You will be introduced to advanced methods in structural biology, molecular cell biology, chemical biology and biophysics to study protein machines at atomic resolution. The interdisciplinary range of methods includes cryo-electron microscopy, NMR, mass spectrometry and proteomics, crystallography, fluorescence spectroscopy and microscopy.

Why do we live and why do we die? Protein machines in the cell take the decisions at molecular level that determine our fate. The last two decades have seen a revolution in our understanding of these machines due to the success of structural biology. We now know the structures of the key players in the most fundamental processes of life. Now we can disentangle the function of these molecular machines and understand the networks in which they function. Essential for progress in this area is that we have eyes at our disposal that allow us to see the molecules in front of us, and to monitor how they react during our manipulations.

The Bijvoet Center in Utrecht provides a privileged environment for research and education in this area. The Bijvoet School consists of a select, international group of around 50 graduate students, more than 80% from outside the Netherlands. Our students have access to a 900 MHz NMR spectrometer, the mass spectrometers of the Netherlands Proteomics Center a semi-automated protein crystallization facility, cell culture facilities and advanced microscopy. We organize this summer school to expose the next generation of ambitious and talented students from all over the world to learn how to study the principles that drive life at the molecular level.

This course focuses on the chemical principles underlying protein structure and function. It elucidates how proteins form assemblies of “molecular machines” that work together to sustain the living state. We will explore how proteins “know” what shape they should fold up into following their synthesis, how they cluster into dynamic macromolecular complexes, and how these complexes communicate to form “social” networks that enable cells to move, replicate, signal, and execute other vital processes. We also focus on the varied post-translational modifications proteins undergo (e.g. N-/O-glycosylation and phosphorylation) and how these can have an enormous impact on protein function and lifetime.

The students will be introduced to advanced methods in structural and molecular biology and biophysics for decoding the cellular protein machinery at atomic resolution, and examine how malfunction of specific components can lead to systemic failure and disease.

The school will combine theory with experiments in the Bijvoet research laboratories. We keep the group size small so that you will be able to build up contacts to the group leaders and PhD students of the Bijvoet School. We also schedule a visit to a partner biotech company. See our website for more information on the course, how to apply and scholarship opportunities.

Course leader

Dr. Tom Wennekes & Dr. Markus Weingarth

Target group

Advanced bachelor students and early stage master students with a background in chemistry, biophysics or molecular biology as well as a proficiency in English.

Course aim

To introduce the student:

to an international and interdisciplinary research environment;
to the molecular principles of structure and function of molecular machines;
to advanced technology for decoding nature’s molecular machines (e.g. Cryo-EM, NMR, MS);
to ideas for modern drug discovery and development;
to applications in nano-, synthetic and chemical biology.

Fee info

EUR 500: Half of this amount will be sponsored by the Bijvoet Center so participants only have to pay €250.

Register for this course
on course website