We bid a fond farewell to charismatic crystallographer Dr David Briggs, tweeting live from the University of Manchester in this International Year of Crystallography. Coincidentally, this was also the week of a famous and pioneering crystallographer, Nobel Laureate Dr Dorothy Hogkin’s birthday. Dorothy Hodgkin was responsible for decoding many early protein structures, including insulin.
What is crystallography? Well, we’ll let Dr Dave explain in his own words:
“Shooting X-rays at crystals’ sounds like the most fun ever and something out of a science fiction battle, in fact, many countries now build synchrotrons to help them produce the X-rays needed for such work. Crystallography is a hugely important process in determining structures of proteins, which in turns allows us to identify where we can target drugs to treat diseases. David’s own work on arthritis looks at possible drug targets to help treat this curiously modern disease. Most of these structures are also freely available, as David pointed out, in the Protein Data Bank, which also reached 100,000 structures this week.
Dave’s lab is a typical molecular biology lab space; small, crowded with solutions and very precisely regulated! If you know a molecular biologist, or protein chemist, this is what their work place looks like. Those funny blue things are Gilson pipettes that help deliver tiny microlitre quantities of solutions for the very tiny experiments of structural biology.
As well as taking us on a tour of how to make tiny protein crystals, David found himself in JRR Tolkien’s old haunts in Kirkwood. We thanks David for his awesome week of molecular biology, be sure to follow him on his adventures on his regular account, @xtaldave, or via his about.me profile. If you missed out on anything, catch up via RealScientists on Storify.