I would like to offer a warm welcome to the Principles of Protein Structure blog to all students who have just started studying Birkbeck's Principles of Protein Structure course, and a welcome back to any who have taken a break in studies and intend to complete the course this year.
I run this blog to link the material that you will be studying in the course to new research developments in the areas of protein structure and function and related aspects of biotechnology and medicine. Throughout the taught course (but more often in the later part of the course) I will post reports of recent developments. I might, example, report on talks given in the ISMB seminar series run jointly by the Department of Biological Sciences at Birkbeck and research departments in neighbouring University College London. The overall title of the programme for Autumn 2014 is Synthetic Biology: an innovative and important topic that relates quite closely to some of the material we cover in the later sections of the course, particularly the sections on Bioinformatics and the Protein Lifecycle. Other posts may be reports from conferences or summaries of recently published papers in protein structure, protein bioinformatics and allied areas.
Some of the posts on this blog are written by "guest blogger" Jill Faircloth, who took the MSc in Structural Molecular Biology a few years ago and is now working as a freelance science communicator. She introduces herself in this post written in March 2012, in which she also describes how she found the later part of the PPS course and her thoughts on the two choices available for the second year of the MSc.
Do, if you get a chance, look through some of the earlier blog posts to see the kind of topics that we will be discussing. However, don't be discouraged if at this stage of the course you find the science presented there difficult to understand. I can assure you that it will get easier!
I particularly recommend that you look at a couple of posts from last academic year - December 2013 and July 2014 - about the history of structural science, particularly X-ray crystallography. Crystallography was the first method to be developed for solving the structure of biological macromolecules, and it is still the most important. The year 2014 was designated by the United Nations as the International Year of Crystallography, marking the year between the centenaries of the publication of the first papers on X-ray diffraction and the award of the 1915 Nobel Prize for Physics to the father-and-son team of William and Lawrence Bragg who made the principal discoveries. The International Year has been marked by a wide range of activities, special symposia, publications, "open labs" and even postage stamps, and there are still a few events planned.
So - the best of luck for the 2014-15 PPS course and for your studies at Birkbeck! We hope that many of you will go on to complete our MSc in Structural Molecular Biology.
Dr Clare Sansom Senior Associate Lecturer, Biological Sciences, Birkbeck and Tutor, Principles of Protein Structure