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Summing it up– Notes from the IUCr 2011 crystallographer meeting

 In my previous post I shared with you the commotion of getting to Madrid for the tri-annual world-wide crystallographers meeting, the International Union of Crystallography 22nd congress. Sound really bombastic and for a reason as three years in the scientific life of many crystallographers is the difference between no progress to determining a structure (or several).  In the past three years since Florence 2005 three crystallographers won the Noble prize and two structures of the Yeast Ribosome were determined, an impressive feat. And since this meeting happens once in three, many students will have a single opportunity to attend while in their graduate studies. So, what was my take of this meeting?  Read on…

Firstly, my company was excellent and comprised of Israelis crystallographers as I mentioned in the previous post: Liron, Sergey, Sophi and Tali, a post-doc at the Leemor Joshua-Tor lab’s at Cold Spring Harbor, USA. As some of us are macromolecular crystallographers (Liron, Tali and me) and some of us are small molecule (Sergey, Sophi and Tali) we went to different sessions. Many of the expected hot lectures were scheduled in the main auditorium, which was found to be a good place to take a nap, among other things useful such as surfing the web (and update my twitter account). Eventually I realized that some of the bombastic titles were wishful thinking with numerous mediocre/boring presentations. Even so, I was delighted at several impressive and interesting lectures by various presenters, some world renown and some less known (for me at least). With three Noble laureates presenting their remarkable story of the ribosome structure determination, we sure had some entertainment (all of them are first class lecturers). While Steitz and Ramakrishnan described their work on the ribosome and it’s detailed mechanism, Yonath have additionally presented her theory in regard to the evolution of the ribosome from ribozymes suggesting that at a certain point early synthesiszed proteins have “hijacked” a ribozyme and eventually lead to the evolution of the ribosome. It was a lengthy lecture full of insights and emotion which I enjoyed a lot.

Of course, there were other impressive lectures. David Bradford showed some interesting structures of the anaphase promoting complex. Peter Kwong “shot” some 100 slides in 20 minutes (!) about an original way to develop gp120-related antibodies through the use of macromolecular crystallography. Sarah Teichmann discussed the evolution of protein complexes through the eyes of a computational biologist. And of course there was Marat Yusupov describing the first eukaryotic ribosome solved to 4.15 angstrom resolution, an impressive talk without the need for movies and stuff. Plain and simple.

There were also the girl’s lectures, that of Tali Lavi and Liron David. Both had done several rehearsals in front of us and it served them well – both of them gave very good lectures, people being alert and listening attentively. Just to go up to the podium of an almost 2,000 seats hall isquite frightening!

Well, that’s it. I am already a week back in the lab, already running experiments and writing the BSF grant (somewhere close to the end of the first draft). Yeah!

Weekend is coming, time to rest a bit from science and pump up the bit on Madrid’s photographs. Don’t forget to check my website for Madrid’s photos!



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