International Union of Crystallography

International School of Crystallography

45th Course - Present and Future Methods for Biomolecular Crystallography

Held on 31 May-10 June, 2012

The event was held in Erice, Italy at the Ettore Majorana Foundation and Centre for Scientific Culture. The course included a total of 141 participants from 31 countries. The students were largely from university (PhD students, post doc and young researchers), with some members of chemical and pharmaceutical companies. Poster preview sessions and several other general events organized during the day and in the evenings provided several opportunities for students and teachers to mingle and have many constructive discussions, which resulted this year in the determination of at least three new structures during the school.

The lecturers of the school were chosen from world leaders in the field of structural biology, and all made great efforts to present cutting edge science at a level accessible to participants with limited experience. Most presented two lectures, one focussed on methodology and the other illustrating the structural insights that can be obtained using their methods; many lecturers also presented a demo or tutorial.

The main objective of the Course was to equip the next generation of scientists with a deep understanding of the tools they need to solve such challenging structural projects.

A total of 56 lectures, including 7 chosen from poster abstracts submitted by participants were scheduled. In addition, there were 4 software demos and 11 different tutorials (each repeated twice). The participants presented a total of 90 posters in two poster sessions, each of which was preceded by short oral presentations. The course concentrated on single-crystal X-ray diffraction, covering all aspects of structure determination, from crystal preparation to data collection and analysis, to structure solution and validation.In addition, the horizons were broadened with a number of complementary approaches, including X-ray free electron lasers, neutron diffraction and small-angle X-ray scattering.

Although the school had participants from all over the world, particular care was taken to the training young scientists from eastern European and South American countries, where the field has recently begun to develop. The international composition of the school, as well as the friendly and informal atmosphere of Erice played an important role in facilitating the communication between students and world renowned professors, which will foster further scientific collaborations.

A special session commemorated the great contributions of three crystallographers who passed away recently: Lodovico Riva di Sanseverino (the linchpin of the Erice schools for many years), Herb Hauptman (direct methods) and David Sayre (direct methods and coherent diffraction imaging). Contributions were made by Davide Viterbo (who knew all three), Paola Spadon, Randy Read and Pierre Thibault, who uploaded the first Wikipedia article about David Sayre in front of the audience.

Awards and participant Feedback

Several prizes were awarded during the course. The prize best poster presentation was given to Denise Cavalcante Hissa (Federal University of Ceara, Graz, Austria), with a special mention to Andrea Pica (University of Naples "Federico II", Italy); the winners for the best Protopedia page were Wee Lee Chan (University of Cambridge, UK) and Tomas Klumper (Masaryk Univerzity, Czech Republic); the Lodovico Prize, which recognizes both scientific ability and interpersonal engagement in and out of the lecture hall, was awarded to Abhay Kotecha (University of Oxford, UK) and a special mention was awarded to Marcus Fislage (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium).

After the school, a large number of participants gave feedback by filling in a detailed questionnaire. They were unanimous in agreeing that a similar meeting should be held in the future, with the vast majority (99%) believing it should be held within the next 4 years. The majority considered the course to have been very successful (91/100) in most of its objectives. There was some very helpful feedback that will be used to improve the next years' courses.