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Crystallography at Cold Spring Harbor

Nov 4 2019

Posted In:

20/20 Blog

Cold Spring Harbor, NY — Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) technical science courses attract talented science students, instructors, and speakers from around the world, and their emphasis on creating a hands-on, immersive experience for a small number of participants makes admission extremely competitive and prestigious. This highly ranked research institute is known for its contribution to the fields of molecular genetics and molecular biology and for being the home to eight Nobel laureates in Physiology or Medicine

Gabriel Velez, an M.D., Ph.D. student in the Mahajan lab at Stanford, recently completed the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory course on X-Ray Methods in Structural Biology

During the two-week course where labs and lectures run 18 hours a day, Gabe worked alongside sixteen Ph.D. students, post-docs, and university faculty from around the world to train in techniques for macromolecular crystallography. The course featured lectures and laboratory training by world-renowned structural biologists, including Paul Adams, Alexander McPherson, Jane Richardson, Martin Caffrey, and James Pflugrath. Students were also able to collect X-ray diffraction data on protein crystals at the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) at Brookhaven National Laboratory. Gabe returned to Stanford inspired by the experience.

“It was a fun, immersive experience. I learned from many of the best crystallographers in the world and interacted with them on a daily basis. I will apply what I learned at CSHL toward my own research projects,” Gabe predicted.

Gabe’s Ph.D. work is focused on studying how pathogenic mutations in the CAPN5 protease cause the enzyme to be hyperactive and cause disease. In-depth structural knowledge of the CAPN5 protein and its mutants is critical to answering these questions. 

Students also participated in a picture competition, submitting creative images inspired by protein structure and crystallography. Gabe won the competition and was awarded a painting by Jane Richardson Ph.D.  Dr.  Richardson is a renowned structural biologist and biochemist from Duke University. She is famous for developing the ribbon diagram, a widely used method for displaying 3D structures of proteins.  

Dr. Mahajan attended a CSHL proteomics course in 2012, and Gabe is the third trainee in the Mahajan lab to attend a prestigious course offered on the campus.

Mahajan said, “Attending a CSHL course is highly competitive, since the learning payoff is big. A semester is condensed into two weeks, but the experience lasts a lifetime.”