I would like to offer a warm welcome to the Principles of Protein Structure blog to all students who have recently started studying Birkbeck's Principles of Protein Structure (PPS) course, and a welcome back to any who have taken a break in studies and intend to complete the course this year. Welcome too if you are thinking that you might want to study with us in the future, or if you are just interested in learning more about a fascinating and fast-moving area of research in molecular biology.
I run this occasional 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. 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 programme for Autumn 2018 has the intriguing title of 'Mischievous Microbes'; its themes of microbiology and infectious disease biology have links to some of the later sections of the course. Other posts may be reports from conferences (such as this one at Imperial College, London in December) or summaries of recently published papers in protein structure and allied areas/
Some earlier posts were 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 blog posts from earlier years 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 also work part-time as a freelance science writer, and sometimes I even have a chance to write about structural biology. You might like to follow a set of blog posts I wrote from the International Union of Crystallography's triennial meeting in Hyderabad, India last summer (posts from 22 August - 6 September). The first entry, featuring a talk by Sir Tom Blundell, a former head of the Department of Crystallography at Birkbeck (now part of the Department of Biological Sciences) is perhaps most relevant to PPS. Sir Tom was involved in solving the structure of HIV protease, target of some of the most successful drugs for AIDS, and he went on to found a drug discovery company, Astex. This year I reported on a meeting much nearer at hand (in Liverpool) and, specifically, on one of the most exciting advances in structural biology by X-ray crystallography for some years: X-ray free electron lasers.
Finally, the best of luck to new students for the 2017-18 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
Tutor, Principles of Protein Structure