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1st Australian Workshop on solution scattering from biological macromolecules

Melbourne, Australia, July 2007

[Speakers at Australian workshop] (From left) Keynote speakers: Dmitri Svergun (EMBL, Hamburg), Jan Skov Pedersen (Aarhus), Organizing Committee members: Terry Mulhern (Melbourne) and Haydyn Mertens (Melbourne).
The workshop, held at the U. of Melbourne, was organized by locals Terry Mulhern and Haydyn Mertens with financial support from the Australian Inst. of Nuclear Science and Engineering (AINSE), Bruker AXS, the Australian Synchrotron Project (Victorian State Government, Dept. of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development), the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and the U. of Melbourne.

The Workshop was proposed following discussions at an ASRP/Australian Synchrotron Users Meeting concerning the growing number of biological scientists in Australia using laboratory and synchrotron X-rays and neutron beams for small-angle scattering studies of biomolecular structure. These techniques are presently undergoing major development in Australia with new laboratory based SAXS instruments being installed, a new SAXS beam line at the Australian Synchrotron (completion mid 2008) and a new SANS instrument on the OPAL Research Reactor (completion late 2007).

Therefore, the aims of the workshop were to identify and bring together representatives of the embryonic Australian biological small-angle scattering community to facilitate collaboration, cooperation and the transfer of skills between research groups; and to provide specialist training to Australian biological scientists, particularly early career researchers skilled in complementary biophysical methods. Lectures and practical sessions were presented and guided by Jan Skov Pedersen (Denmark) and Dmitri Svergun (Germany). Twenty participants were selected from a long list of applicants from across Australia and New Zealand based at universities, research institutes and national research organizations. The workshop included lectures on the principles of small-angle scattering, data acquisition and analysis, and practical exercises on data analysis using programs from the ATSAS suite of software (www.embl-hamburg.de/ExternalInfo/Research/Sax/software.html/). Workshop tutors, Haydyn Mertens and Tracy Hanley (ANSTO) were kept busy with many questions from the enthusiastic participants. To facilitate discussion and promote on-going collaborations, the workshop concluded with a poster session and farewell drinks. During the poster session participants discussed their science with our invited speakers on topics that ranged from actin polymerisation, amyloidogenic aggregation of α-synuclein in Parkinson’s disease, nuclear adaptor protein-protein interactions and the protein folding chaperone function of small heat shock proteins.

[Participants at Australian workshop] Attendees in the atrium of the Bio21 Institute, U. of Melbourne
The Organizing Committee would like to express their sincere appreciation to our invited speakers, Dmitri Svergun and Jan Skov Pedersen for the generous contribution of their time and course material. We would also like to thank our sponsors for their financial support and the Bio21 Inst. for hosting the workshop. The demand for places and the enthusiasm of the participants over the two days has encouraged us to plan to continue the workshop on a biennial basis.

Terry Mulhern and Haydyn Mertens