About the Sympoisum

Welcome! We are excited to present to you, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Protein Galaxy: A Purdue Mini-symposium on Integrating Structure, Function, and Interactions of the Protein Universe.” We believe this event will provide an exceptional networking opportunity for faculty members, postdoctoral scholars, graduate and undergraduate students with diverse areas of expertise but a shared interest in protein science, structural biology and biophysics. We have organized this symposium with the hope of developing a network of scientists to foster new collaborations and strengthen existing ones.

The symposium will take place on May 13-14, 2015, on the campus of Purdue University.

Protein-based research at many departments will be highlighted in five scientific sessions:

  • Disorder and Conformational Plasticity in Macromolecules
  • Biophysical Methods and Emerging Techniques
  • Disease, Pathogenesis and Therapeutics
  • Biosynthesis and Catalysis
  • Macromolecular Complexes and Assemblies

In addition to our scientific sessions, we are planning to organize workshops for all attendees to learn about the technical details of chosen biophysical techniques. Some techniques that we have in mind are Molecular Dynamics Simulations, Macromolecule Dynamics by NMR and EPR, Membrane Protein Crystallography, and Structure Determination using Cryo-Electron Microscopy.

We are also happy to receive suggestions for additional/alternative scientific sessions. Ultimately, this symposium is organized to provide an enjoyable and enriching experience for the attendees. We would be grateful for your input to make this the best event it can possibly be.

We invite you to join us for the symposium. Registration is free, and includes a form for abstract submission, as well as preference for type of presentation. Space is limited and we ask that you register soon. Please check our program regularly for updates.

We look forward to your participation!

The Purdue Mini-symposium Organizers

proteins.at.purdue AT gmail DOT com


Career Panel Announcement

We are excited to announce a special session as part of our symposium: a Career Panel discussion on May 12 for our grad student and postdoc attendees. This will be an enriching and enlightening experience for all attendees. Our panelists are from a variety of backgrounds and have had great success in their chosen fields after completing their PhD work. They are excited to come share their experiences and advice with you. For those interested, we ask that you register using our Doodle poll (http://doodle.com/mk2aczznra75chmk). This event is open to registered attendees! We also encourage you to submit questions to proteins.at.purdue@gmail.com, as our discussion will consist of a Q&A  session with our panelists. We look forward to seeing you there!


Location Change!

In the opening chapter of Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, the protagonist, Arthur Dent, is visited one morning at his home by a bulldozing company and told that his home will be knocked down to make room for a bypass. An understandably vexed Arthur proceeds to exclaim that he would like to have been provided some notice that this was to occur. He is informed that plans were on display at some obscure, poorly accessible location for many months and he should have been prepared. He naturally responds by lying down in front of the bulldozer as a form of protest. A resolution to this conflict is obviated by the destruction of the Earth a short while later to make room for an intergalactic bypass. Arthur fortunately survives by hitchhiking a ride on a nearby spaceship.

In a situation wrought with irony, our group was recently informed that plans have been in place for many months for renovations to take place at our conference venue. Of course, as often happens in these situations, we were not informed at the time of reservation. Plans were probably displayed somewhere. HHGTTG fans that we are, our natural impulse was to also go lie down in front of the building so that renovators could not access our conference site (our group chair may have already tried this). Rather than wait for a more dramatic resolution, the university has graciously accommodated us at a different venue.

The symposium will now take place at the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering in room 1010 (ARMS 1010). Our catered breaks, lunches, poster session, and reception will all take place in the atrium outside the conference room. We will be happy to provide our visitors with maps and directions to the venue upon their arrival.


See you all in ARMS 1010 on May 13! In the meanwhile, keep an eye out for Vogon spaceships.

–posted by Satchal Erramilli

Workshop Announcement!

Structure Determination by

Cryo-Electron Microscopy

May 13, 3:30-4:30 PM

Presented by:

Dr. Wen Jiang and Dr. Daisuke Kihara

Protein structure determination by single-particle cryo-EM has made significant progress in the past decade, with the resolution of recently reported structures improving close to 3 Å. Technical developments in all aspects of the cryo-EM method, including sample preparation, image collection and processing, will allow further improvements in resolution. Computational methods aid the interpretation of EM maps by rapidly analyzing shapes and surfaces. In combination, these methods promise the determination of finer structural details, sufficient for drug design. In this workshop, Dr. Jiang and Dr. Kihara will discuss the practical aspects of high-resolution structure determination by cryo-EM.

On The “Hitchhiker’s Guide…” Theme

If you’re in structural biology, you’ve probably heard of the terms real space and reciprocal space. Some people even spend time thinking about these terms. This is a daunting exercise on its own. But have you ever thought about space, like actual space space? You won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is.

This is one of the many underlying themes of the late Douglas’ Adams sci-fi classic, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Hitchhiker’s Guide follows the story of Arthur Dent who, forced to leave Earth after its destruction, endures a variety of adventures and pitfalls in a seemingly never-ending quest around the galaxy. During his quest, Arthur suffers a host of strange travel companions, makes some ever weirder acquaintances, and learns a variety of lessons about life, the universe, and everything. For instance, he learns:

1) The Earth is regarded as Mostly Harmless, despite the violence its denizens inflict on one another;

2) A towel is the most important thing a hitchhiker can carry; and

3) Don’t panic.

At this point, you’re probably thinking this theme seems like a stretch for a symposium on protein science, but the Hitchhiker’s Guide also employs evolutionary concepts and scientific principles that are totally relevant to this event. There is a long tangent about the validity of mice models, as well as an excellent digression about a concept called, “Somebody Else’s Problem”. (Those of you who have shared a lab with many others will instantly know what that is.)

Another of my favorite tangents from the book is totally relate-able to all scientists, and definitely biologists. While we are all struggling to understand how life and the universe work, here’s the book’s take on this endeavor. “If ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.” Yea.

Evolution itself is constantly discussed in the series. As Arthur meets dozens of alien civilizations in various stages of development, evolution forms the lens through which every civilization understands one another. In his books, Douglas Adams imagines a universe where evolution is a widely-accepted concept. OK, so maybe this is science fiction.

Political commentary aside, Arthur’s journey is not unlike the quest of a structural biologist, navigating through a universe of fascinating (and occasionally weird) proteins and other macromolecules. We often use evolution (i.e. homology) as a lens to understand the behavior of proteins. There are certainly pitfalls along the way, and at times the quest can seem never-ending. But, no matter the difficulties you encounter, don’t panic! And keep your towel handy.

-posted by Satchal Erramilli