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Rapid Data Collection and Structure Solving at the NSLS:

A Practical Course in Macromolecular X-Ray Diffraction Measurement

Biology Department and National Synchrotron Light Source
Brookhaven National Laboratory
27 April - 2 May 2014

Course Motivation

Synchrotron radiation has become an indispensable tool for many macromolecular crystallography groups. Some synchrotron-specific skills are difficult to learn without ones having an intensive hands-on training program. But not all research groups have the luxury of providing long training sessions for students and postdocs.

To provide such an educational experience, we have designed a course in Rapid Data Collection and Structure Solving, which we have presented fifteen times before. It will be sponsored in part by a grant from the Biomedical Technology Research Center group within the National Institute of General Medical Science of the National Institutes of Health, and the Office of Biological and Environmental Research of the US Department of Energy. In this course we will develop the ideas behind conventional methods for diffraction-data collection, will describe several different structure-solving methods, and will give students practical experience in work on their own specimens.

The course should accommodate 48 students total. All students are encouraged to bring their own specimens for data collection, and to bring old data for the data-reduction and structure-solving tutorials. Students will be divided into 12 sections. Each section will comprise approximately equal numbers of students with crystals, and those without. Each section will get a total of about 24 hours on a beamline. Those without crystals will have a period of several hours to practice on sample specimens they will have mounted themselves. In addition to conventional cryo-mounting, students may consider employing automounting, use of a Queued system for screening of multiple specimens, use of an optical spectroscopy system for colored crystals, and small-angle x-ray scattering on solutions. If you desire to participate in the small-angle scattering work, contact L. Yang now.

The main RapiData course will begin on Monday morning, 28 April 2014. In addition, we will hold a short lecture course on the fundamentals of crystallography for roughly five hours the day before, on Sunday 27 April. The body of the RapiData course really requires that students have a healthy knowledge of crystallography, or the lectures will make no sense to them. For potential students who have some experience but are shaky about fundamentals, this course, to be given by R. Sweet, will help. There will be an additional fee for the fundamentals course only to pay for Saturday night accommodations and food on Sunday morning and noon.

We invite applicants for this course. Select the Course Application tab above. The deadline for application is the beginning of our working day at 8 AM ET Mon 10 Feb 2014.

Applicants who are foreign to the United States should apply early to accommodate Brookhaven Lab access requirements.

Latin American Scientists

IUCRSeveral scholarships are available from the International Union of Crystallography, to pay partial travel and subsistence costs for Latin-American students and junior faculty (maximum age of 30 yrs). Please apply for the course, and then contact R. Sweet if you are interested in applying for a scholarship. In accordance with the standards of the International Union of Crystallography, we observe the basic policy of non-discrimination, affirming the right and freedom of scientists to associate in international scientific activity without regard to such factors as citizenship, religion, creed, political stance, ethnic origin, race, color, language, age, or gender, in accordance with the Statutes of the International Council for Science. At this course no barriers will exist beyond the application procedure that would prevent the participation of bona fide scientists.

Approximate Course Agenda

Sunday 27 April

Crystallographic Fundamentals
R. Sweet will present a day-long course (roughly 9AM to 3PM) to provide additional background to students whose experience might leave them a bit baffled by the lectures in the course. A wide range of fundamentals of data production, data collection, and structure solving will be presented, with the focus being to provide prerequisite knowledge for the remainder of the course.

Students Arrive & Register; Dinner will be served.

Monday 28 April

Lectures & Tentative Speakers
  • Some issues in data collection - R. Sweet (BNL)
  • Specimen preparation, X-ray damage, Tactics in data collection - J. Pflugrath(Rigaku)
  • Synchrotrons - L. Berman (BNL)
  • Advanced X-Ray Detectors for Synchrotron Beam Lines - C. Nielsen (Area Detector Systems Corp.)
  • Single-Photon Counting Detectors for Synchrotron Beam Lines - Christian Broennimann (Dectris)
  • Data reduction with the HKL suite - M. Chruszcz (U. S. Carolina)
  • Data reduction with XDS - G. Jogl (Brown U.)
  • Data reduction with DPS/Mosflm - F. vonDelft (Oxford U.)

Tuesday 29 April

  • Introduction to MAD/SAD structure solving - H. Robinson (BNL)
  • Structure solving with SOLVE and Phenix - T. Terwilliger (LANL)
  • Structure solving with SHARP/autoSHARP - C. Flensburg/C. Vonrhein (Global Phasing)
  • Structure solving with SHELX - M. Benning (Brucker-AXS)
  • Structure solving with molecular replacement - Raji Edayathumangalam (Brandeis)
  • Single crystal optical spectroscopy - A. Orville (BNL)
  • Remote Data Collection at SSRL - C. Smith (Stanford)
  • Small-angle x-ray scattering from solutions - L. Yang (BNL)
  • Operation of beamline software: CBASS, Q - J. Skinner (BNL)
Laboratory Work (NSLS) - The preliminary laboratory work will include a beamline introduction, preparation of specimens for the evening's run, and practice sessions in on-line data-reduction and structure solving.

Wednesday - Thursday, 30 April - 1 May

Data Collection Sessions (NSLS) - Most tutorials, matching each of the Monday/Tuesday lectures, will continue through this time. Each section will have sessions for data collection on both our bending-magnet and our undulator beamlines. Extra opportunities include 1) use of robotic automounters, 2) use of a remote Queued crystal-screening system,  3) for colored proteins, use of a coordinated system for x-ray diffraction and single-crystal optical spectroscopy, and 4) performing small-angle x-ray scattering experiments on protein solutions.
There will be a "required" course meeting every afternoon to assess progress and discuss problems.

Friday 2 May

Recapitulation (Biology Dept) - The course staff, with the help of students, will recount triumphs, troubles, and interesting observations. Course staff will be available until noon to assist students in tidying up calculations, backing up data, etc.

To apply to attend the course, select the Course Application tab, above.

Participating Beamlines

Course Organizers



This course is sponsored by a grant from the Biomedical Technology Research Centers of the NIH National Institute of General Medical Sciences to the Brookhaven Biology Department and National Synchrotron Light Source, and by support from the Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research, and several commercial contributors.

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Last Modified: December 13, 2013