My experience of the RAMP “in meso in depth” workshop in Ireland

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My experience of the RAMP “in meso in depth” workshop in Ireland

What did you learn during the workshop?

The workshop enabled me to gain an insight into important crystallisation methods, which I had not used before and covered a theoretical understanding of nucleation and crystallisation processes. I learned why protein-protein interactions have a huge impact on crystallisation and more about the importance of protein phase diagrams.

A combination of theory, provided during the lectures, and practical components, covered in the following lab work was successful because we could translate what we learned in the lectures into hands-on skills in the lab. For example, we learned how challenging it can be to work with the sticky lipidic cubic phase (LCP), a spontaneously formed liquid crystalline phase, that consists of a bicontinuous lipid bilayer with a defined ratio of lipid and water, for the In meso crystallisation and the re-lipidation for the HiLiDe crystallisation method.

Overall, this workshop provided a great introduction into several areas related to membrane protein crystallisation and provided the basis for more in-depth understanding of the topic.

What method did you prefer learning about? Why?

Personally, I preferred learning the background of protein phase diagrams as it was a helpful addition to my literature research. Being in the first year of my PhD the amount of information can sometimes be overwhelming. The benefit of being taught on a topic you have studied yourself before, provides you with additional knowledge and underlines the important aspects on the topic.

However, I also enjoyed learning new expertise, which were not directly related to my project now but may be helpful in the future. Having the opportunity to see the remote access to the synchrotron at SLS for example was very impressive.

What did you enjoy most (apart from the science!)?

I enjoyed the most the friendly atmosphere between all ESRs.

Put yourself in a trainer’s shoes!
– what part of the workshop would you have preferred to teach/to demonstrate? Why?

Considering the time limit we had, I am happy about the amount of information, that was provided for my own project. However, as we are 12 ESRs that are aiming to face the problem from different scientific viewpoints, I understand that not all needs might have been covered. As I experienced how helpful it was for myself to learn on the basics of protein phase diagrams and protein-protein interactions, I think it makes sense if the respective supervisors think about the needs of their ESRs and try to cover aspects related to their projects and the background knowledge required in the upcoming workshops.

– as a trainer, is there something you would have done differently? If yes, how?

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As I mentionned above, I don’t have any other direct suggestions to improve the workshop in Ireland. However, a questionnaire or a poll prior to the next workshop, allowing the ESRs to vote on topics that they think are necessary or a list of topics that the supervisors suggest, that we can vote on, might be useful.

What can you do differently as an ESR to contribute to a successful workshop?

I think as an ESR I should improve my confidence to ask more questions. As I had the chance to look behind the scenes (because I’m based in Maynooth where part of the workshop was delivered), I could see the amount of work required for the preparation of the workshop. So, as ESRs, we should appreciate the effort required to put on these workshops and do our best to take the most from them. One way I could contribute is to be more confident asking even basic questions (even its already clear to others!).