New Biochemistry Scientific Celebration

New Biochemistry atrium

Stunning artwork and architecture combined in the New Biochemistry building

Researchers gather round the sofas

Members of the Department mingled with a cosmopolitan group of guest speakers at a recent celebration of the New Biochemistry building.

The event began with an evening reception in the light and attractive surroundings of the new building, where vivid artwork is uniquely interwoven with the building's streamlined wood and glass features.

The following day, the celebration continued with a one-day symposium.  Guest speakers at the forefront of biochemistry and molecular biology research, and representing the breadth of research in the Department, were introduced by Head of Department, Professor Kim Nasmyth.

Professor Nasmyth spoke about the underlying theme that runs through research in the Department – essentially to understand how the 'gears and levers' inside the cell work and fit together.  The new building has been designed to create a highly interactive space in which diverse groups can pursue these aims, and 'will change the way we do science.'

Amongst those speaking was Professor Asifa Akhtar from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany.  She talked about her research to tease apart the complex series of molecular events that leads to co-ordinate regulation of whole swathes of genes on a chromosome.

Professor Akhtar

Guest speaker Professor Akhtar chatting with members of the department

This process is crucial in organisms from flies to humans because it ensures that there is compensation for the different number of sex chromosomes that are present in males and females.

Another speaker, Professor Helmut Grubmüller, from the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, harnesses the power of computers to try and understand how proteins, the most fundamental molecular machines in the cell, function.

Proteins are flexible molecules that change their shape as they perform tasks in the cell, and understanding these changes is important in many areas of biomedical research including drug design.  As well as investigating how proteins behave through wet-lab experiments, researchers can simulate the changes in molecular shape using computer programmes.

'this new building will change the way we do science....'

Amongst the diverse and versatile proteins that Professor Grubmůller described were a giant muscle protein that behaves likes a mechanical rubber band, and a virus that squeezes its RNA into host cells with a pressure up to 25 times that inside a car tyre.

Page Last Updated: 22/05/2009 by Jeremy Rowntree
© 2009 Department of Biochemistry