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My PhD

Title : New approaches to the study of protein crystallization

My PhD project aims to investigate the problem of protein crystallization. I am concerned with both the nucleation and subsequent growth of globular protein crystals. I will attempt to study the crystallization of membrane proteins, in addition , if time allows. My supervisors are Pat Unwin (Chemistry) and Vilmos Fulop (Biology) and we will use a wide variety of biophysical techniques to gain new insight into the factors that affect the formation and quality of protein crystals.

Advised by : Prof. P.M.Rodger (Chemistry/CSC) ; Prof A.Rodger (Chemistry) ; Dr D.Roper (Structural Biology) and Dr. M.Richardson (Physics/Systems Biology)

What is a crystal and for that matter what is a protein crystal?

This question is not as simple as it seems , the idea of a crystal means different things to many different people . I suppose that one may tempted to say that a crystal is any solid with a well defined diffraction pattern. Those who prefer a more rigorous definition are directed toward the definition offered by the International tables of Crystallography ,Vol. A ,Chap 8.1 which state that a crystal is a " finite real object in physical space which may be idealised by infinite 3 dimensional periodic structures in point space" . This idealised definition allows a way in which a "real" crystal may be defined in terms of its "ideal counterpart". A useful concept .............

However for all those of you out there who deplore rigour , a reasonable definition would be a structure composed of identical repeating units which will , via some kind of growth mechanism , end up forming a larger structure . This "larger structure" can be seen with the naked eye or with a microscope and it is this structure that most people term 'crystal'. (Don't use this simple definition in tests etc ....its pretty sloppy).

atoms to crytsal

Pictures featured right are courtesy of the Hampton Research Crystal gallery :

Top : SEM image of porcine pancreas trypsin crystal grown on the surface of a polymeric microporous hydrophyllic membrane by Gianluca Di Profio - ITM CNR Italia

Bottom : "Crystallization really is rocket science" by Chun-wa Chung , GSK R&D , Stevenage, UK