Diogo Melo

I come from Alguber, a small village in Portugal that mostly lives off agriculture, in which I used to work most of the summers. I studied biochemistry for four years in the University of Algarve and two years in NOVA University of Lisbon… the last year I worked with X-Ray crystallography. Between those two periods, I worked for almost a year as a door to door telecommunications salesman (yes, one of those!) to save money for the Masters degree in Biochemistry. I feel passionate about biochemistry, structural biology and X-Ray crystallography. I also enjoy showing others how fascinating science can be, mostly in person talks in events like “The European Researchers’ Night”. I also love strategy games (like chess) and electronic music.

University of Hamburg

start date | 01/10/2017

supervisor | Arwen Pearson



Controlled growth of uniformly sized microcrystals, optimised for time-resolved crystallographic experiments

To understand how proteins perform their function, knowing their 3-D structure is fundamental. Unfortunately, because proteins are so small, it makes it difficult. The most successful technique is X-Ray Crystallography. It is based upon purifying enormous protein quantities and then obtaining a pure protein crystal. These crystals are then measured with X-Rays and we obtain a 3-D “snapshot” of the protein. From the 3-D “snapshots”, scientists can think about how the protein executes its function, but sometimes, it is so complex that snapshots are not enough.

To address this problem, my work involves time-resolved X-Ray crystallography. This technique obtains many protein 3-D “snapshots”, often on very short time-scales, for instance, over femtoseconds (which is 0.000 000 000 000 001 seconds!). After we obtain the snapshots, we put them together following a time-line, in the end obtaining a movie. Imagine taking a picture of a bird flying every half a second and then putting them together, this results in a movie where you can watch how the bird’s wings bend. This is the case for proteins, we can now obtain movies of proteins performing their function and better understand how they work.

Original project advert

Skills & Expertise


#Protein Structure

#Project management

#Structural biology




University of Leeds (UK), July 2018

Université Grenoble Alpes (France), February 2018

University of Leeds (UK), January 2018

Workshops & conferences

HALOS/PDBe workshop | October 2020

CCP4 Study Weekend | Nottingham (UK), January 2019

CFEL Symposium | Hamburg (Germany), October 2019

ECM31 – 31st European Crystallographic Meeting | Oviedo (Spain), August 2018

Outreach activities

Diogo has not just been doing research, he has also been involved in science communication activities to engage citizens with science.

Blogging about science and PhD life| see all blogposts from Diogo: Portrait, How to go from a protein crystal to a structure?, How protein crystals are made?, last run to obtain a “movie” of the protein in action

Co-organising the event “Crystals made of tears: from misery to cheer” at The Devereux pub in central London | July 2019

Participating to the Night of Knowledge at the Centre for Free Electron Laser (CFEL) Science in Hamburg | November 2017