On the evening of Thursday 14 March 2019, new section chairman Prof Bob Crichton gave the opening talk of our 2019 programme with a description of the progress made in elucidating 'Shape and Form in Biology' at the British School of Brussels (BSB).
The shape and form of biological objects has long intrigued scientists, particularly in how they determine biological function. The world of structural biology has been dramatically changed in the last few years with the advent of new developments in electron microscopy and crystallography of biological macromolecules.
Bob's lecture outlined recent advances in two areas - cryo-electron microscopy (the 2017 Nobel Prize for Chemistry was awarded to Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson "for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution”) and the use of X-ray free electron lasers (the EUR 1.25 billion XFEL at the Deutsche Electronische Synchotron in Hamburg has just come on beam), supplementing existing synchrotron facilities for protein structure determination. This enables structure determination from nanocrystals, thereby overcoming some of the biggest hurdles of traditional crystallography (radiation damage) through the principle of diffraction-before-destruction, as well as simultaneously opening a new era of time-resolved (femtosecond) structural studies.
The section is organising a trip to the XFEL facility and the neighbouring DESY synchrotron in Hamburg on 28 June. Find out more here.
Prof Robert (Bob) Crichton has had a long and distinguished career in biochemical research. He graduated in Biochemistry from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, in the mid-sixties and after carrying out postdoctoral research at the Max Plank Institut für Biochimie in Munich, Germany, he moved to the Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium in 1973, where he has been a professor of Biochemistry in the Department of Chemistry. His main research interests are in the inorganic biochemistry of iron and related metals and he is author of the book on iron metabolism - 'Iron Metabolism: From Molecular Mechanisms to Clinical Consequences.'
Of course, Bob has also been a mainstay of the RSC Belgium section for many years, giving one of its first ever talks and he has just started his third stint as Chairman of the section.