Meeting report

International School of Biological Crystallization (ISBC2015)

Granada, Spain, May 24-29, 2015

[Jose Antonio Gavira] Jose Antonio Gavira welcoming the participants of the School.
[Demonstration] A group of students attending one of the 19 practical demonstrations.
[Participants] Participants at the entrance of the Alhambra.

Since 2006, during the last week of May Granada has been home to a series of Crystallization Schools: the International School of Crystallization (ISC) and the International School of Biological Crystallization (ISBC), which are organized by the Laboratory of Crystallographic Studies (LEC) of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) in alternating years. These schools are aimed at postgraduate and postdoctoral students, as well as research scientists from industry and academia: all those who deal routinely with crystallization issues but need fundamental knowledge of crystallization phenomena and the behaviour of crystallizing solutions.

This year it was the turn of the International School of Biological Crystallization (ISBC2015), which took place May 24-27, under the auspices of the IUCr through the Commission on Crystal Growth and Characterization of Materials and the Commission of Macromolecular Crystallography. Of the total 82 registered participants, 52 were students, 20 academics, six industry representatives and four exhibitors from as many as 23 different countries. They came to Granada to learn from 27 top quality international speakers, to hear case-study presentations, to watch practical hands-on demonstrations, and to discuss their own research results in lively sessions where 44 posters were presented. All of the 32 grant applications were accepted for funding.

ISBC2015 covered five days of lectures and demonstrations related to the crystallization of biological macromolecules and also to biomineralization. Lectures on the first day focused on the fundamentals of macromolecular crystallization, including solubility, nucleation theories, and crystal growth kinetics and mechanisms, as well as the basis of screening and high-throughput technology. On the second day, lectures and discussions revolved around current and new technologies, from seeding to in vivo crystallization and preparation of micro- and nanocrystals for free-electron lasers and synchrotron radiation or large crystals for neutron diffraction. The morning of the third day we learned about the use of fluorescent labelling and microfluidic chips, as well as the handling of protein crystals, SAXS, gel growth and electron microscopy. In the afternoon, after an introduction to the subject of biomineralization, we explored the pathway to non-classical nucleation and the importance of protein/peptide interactions in biomineralization. Thursday was entirely dedicated to our Demonstrations Fair, where 19 specialists offered practical sessions periodically at scheduled times. As in previous years, our Demonstrations Fair proved to be an excellent teaching tool as it provided students with plenty of opportunities to interact on a personal basis with instructors and to watch closely how to perform crystallization experiments.

On Friday, we returned to biomineralization with different hot topics in the field. As a novelty to be maintained in the future, the closing talk of the programme was devoted to acknowledging the contribution of one of the pioneers of the field. This year we invited Richard Giege, who performed a fascinating personal overview of the history of biological crystallization. The last scientific activity of the school was the oral presentations of the six winners of poster prizes, which were sponsored by the IUCr, Elsevier and Bernhard Rupp.

In addition to the scientific programme, there was an enticing social programme starting with a welcome cocktail on Sunday, followed by a night tour around the outstanding beauty of the Moorish palaces of The Alhambra on Wednesday. Each evening, the participants enjoyed the lively atmosphere of the city, its tapas bars and historical buildings, except for Thursday when we organized our classical flamenco and dinner party in Carmen de la Victoria, a traditional property of the University of Granada located in the historic quarters of Granada from where we could admire magnificent views of the Alhambra hill.

José Antonio Gavira and Juan Manuel García-Ruiz