Swati Aggarwal

I come from a small valley surrounded by Himalayas known as Dehradun in India. I completed my Master’s in Biotechnology from National Institute of Technology, Rourkela, India. I spend my leisure time in painting and cooking (The spicy Indian cuisine). I aspire to travel and explore the world as much as I can.

European Spallation Source (ESS)

start date | 25/09/2017

supervisor | Esko Oksanen


Elucidating the function of proton pumps with neutron crystallography

Proteins classification is based on several criteria such as function, structure, shape and solubility. Membrane proteins, that we can find attached into the membrane of the cells, are classified based on their solubility. These class of proteins (also called MPs, for membrane proteins), perform vital functions for the cells like acting as transporters and receptors of molecules, or transducing signals and energy across the membrane.

Some membrane proteins (e.g. bacteriorhodopsin -BR- and cytochrome C -COXs-) act as pumps exchanging protons (Hydrogen, H+) across the membrane. This exchange of protons from one side to another across the membrane creates a potential gradient that provides chemical energy for the cell. In this sense, Hydrogen plays a central role in the operation of proton pumps and by revealing the position of these atoms, researchers can describe the structure of this type of proteins.

The most commonly used technique to study the structure of proteins is X-Ray crystallography. But as hydrogens position is not visible through X-Ray, we use neutron diffraction. Which also raise different challenges since it requires larger and well-defined crystals. Thus, my work relies on developing new methods to improve crystal size and diffraction quality to have a deeper understanding of proton pumps proteins thanks to neutron diffraction.

Original project advert

Skills & Expertise

#Neutron crystallography

#Protein Purification & Expression

#Science outreach

#Structural biology

#Molecular biology

#Membrane proteins


Mitigen (USA), 2020 – cancelled due to Covid19

Aarhus University (Denmark), March 2019

Université Grenoble Alpes (France), September 2018

Workshops & conferences

LINXS 2nd Symposium – Integrative Structural Biology | Lund (Sweden), October 2019

iNEXT Crystallography Course | Oulu (Finland), May 2019

FEBS School – Advanced methods in macromolecular crystallization VIII | NovéHrady (Czech Republic), June 2018

12th Central European Training School (CETS) on neutron techniques | Budapest (Hungary), May 2018

Outreach activities

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

Creating a video clip to present her thesis work at the ESS and Lund University| July 2021

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

Blogging about science and PhD life| see all blogposts from Swati: Portrait, Swati’s view on the last research workshop, News from the neutron macromolecular crystallography (NMX) technique, Last year of thesis in perspectives: Nature, Science and Art

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