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Fun in the sun – learning protein crystallography in the IMSD Summer Research Institute

I want to thank each of the sixteen students that participated in the UCSC Summer Research Institute for a fun week focused on protein function and structure. Students in the NIH-funded IMSD (Initiative for Maximizing Student Development) program get to spend the summer working with different faculty to pick up hands-on skills in the lab and learn how to analyze data.

In our week together, students learned how protein structure can inform our understanding of protein function and help to design new drugs and therapies for disease.

We focused on Proteinase K, a protease that cleaves peptide bonds relatively non-specifically in proteins. Left, students worked in teams to set up experiments to test Proteinase K's ability to digest purified PER2 protein. The students then designed a 24-well screen of solution conditions (below) to crystallize Proteinase K.

Crystal screens designed by IMSD summer students

All in all, the week was a fantastic success – each team grew beautiful Proteinase K crystals and presented the logic behind their screen design and crystallization results to the entire group. We also watched the fantastic movie, "Naturally Obsessed", which follows the lives of several grad students in the lab of Larry Shapiro at Columbia in their quest to crystallize AMP Kinase. More info on the UC Santa Cruz IMSD and other STEM diversity programs can be found here.

Crystals of Proteinase K

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