What did you learn during the workshop?
During our two weeks in sunny Ireland, we learnt a lot about the fundamental theory behind crystallisation and got hands-on experience on measuring protein solubility curves and protein-protein interactions. As a network that works on RAtionalising Membrane Protein crystallisation, this was very important for us. The second part of the workshop focused on in meso crystallisation as an alternative to the commonly used in surfo crystallisation of membrane proteins…
What method did you prefer learning about? Why?
I was most excited about the possibility to concentrate membrane proteins in the mesophase by using their natural tendency to partition preferentially into lipid bilayers from aqueous solutions (Cubicon method). Conventical concentration of membrane proteins using filtration devices that operate under centrifugal force can be very frustrating as your precious protein may stick to the filter or crush out of solution. This can easily ruin a few weeks of work – not nice. The Cubicon method is a good alternative if you want to concentrate your protein for in meso crystallisation. No filter to which the sample can stick to is involved in this method, and due to the reconstitution of protein into the more native-like mesophase, it is usually more stable as well. Happy protein, happy PhD student!
What did you enjoy most (apart from the science!)?
The best part was to meet all the other PhD students again and spend some time together. It was very exciting to share the experiences of our first year and have a good laugh about the misadventures in the lab. This combined with a Guinness and some Irish music was exactly what was needed after a long workshop day.
Put yourself in a trainer’s shoes!
– what part of the workshop would you have preferred to teach/to demonstrate?
I think they were all great and our demonstrators seemed to be enjoying the workshop as well. If I had to decide, it would probably be setting up crystallisation plates using the in meso method. We were all super excited after we managed to generate some lipidic cubic phase (LCP) for the first. I think this is what you hope for as a demonstrator.
– as a trainer, is there something you would have done differently? If yes, what and how?
All the demonstrators did an excellent job. There is not much I would have done differently. Prior to each lab session, we got a short lecture about what we were going to learn next. As this was given by different demonstrators, some basic principles were covered more than once. However, repeating important stuff is probably not going to hurt anyone.
What can you do differently as an ESR to contribute to a successful workshop?
As an ESR you should actively engage in the workshop and ask lots of questions. I think we did a good job and since we were often split into a set of smaller groups, there was always enough time for everyone to ask questions if something was not clear. Obviously, you should be on time as well. I think we could work on our skills to estimate the waiting period in the queue of the coffee shop.
What will you remember most from this experience?
The great time we had at dinner when everyone was sitting together and on our trip out of town on a very sunny weekend in Ireland (not kidding!).