BaCaTeC-Summer School 2008

Prof. Dr. Thomas L. James

Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry

Mission Bay
Genentech Hall
600 16th Street 
Suite S-512, Box 2280 
San Francisco, CA 94158-2517

Phone: +1 415-476-1916 
Fax: +1 415-502-8298 

Structure in Biology – Key to Understanding

September 21 - 26, 2008, University of Bayreuth

More Information

A few years ago the human genome has been brought to fruition and the results were applied to biology research ever since. It became evident that simple knowledge of the functions encoded by a gene is not sufficient to understand the underlying physical and chemical mechanism of action of the gene product. To understand these mechanisms on an atomic level, however, is essential, as the interaction, control, and fine tuning of biomolecules decides over health or disease of an organism. In modern biology it is therefore mandatory to explore the interplay and control of bio-macromolecules and their complexes at the atomic resolution. Detailed knowledge of the three-dimensional structures of bio-macromolecules and of their higher assemblies not only uncovers the principles of biology, but also provides the basis for future developments in pharmacotherapy and medicine. Thus, this field of research will continue to contribute to an improved quality of life.

In spite of enormous progress of the methods in structural biology in the course of structural genomics initiatives, it became evident that many biologically or medically important questions cannot be solved by standardized high-throughput approaches. The resulting situations present a challenge to both structural biologists and the biological and medical community. Solving of pressing questions in biology and medicine will require these communities to interact closely. To be successful this implies, however, interdisciplinary skills on all sides.

In order to fulfil these needs the International Graduate School “Lead Structures of Cell Function” of the Elitenetwork Bavaria and the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University of California San Francisco conduct an international summer school aiming to introduce methods of structural biology and biophysics to graduate students of life sciences. Students will be introduced to methods such as NMR-spectroscopy, X-ray crystallography, electron microscopy, optical spectroscopy, and computer simulations in a problem oriented manner to raise awareness for the merits, the needs, and the limitations of each of these methods. A further milestone of the summer school will be to show how the interplay between the methods of structural biology leads to functional insights and to show how these data can be embedded in the greater biological context.
The summer school will be held from September 21st 2008 to September 26th 2008 at the Universität of Bayreuth, which provides excellent teaching facilities and where the techniques  mentioned above are available for practical demonstrations.

Web-sites of the participating institutions:


Final report

28 highly talented students of the life sciences met from September, 21st to 26th 2008 at Universität Bayreuth for the international BaCaTeC summer school 2008 to learn about foundations of modern structural biology and to discuss its importance in biological and medical research. The students came from the Californian elite school UCSF in San Francisco, the study program “Macromolecular Sciences” within the Elitenetwork Bavaria, and the international graduate school within the Elitenetwork Bavaria “Lead Structures of Cell Function”, who also organized the meeting.

The strongly different background of the students presented a challenge for developing the course program. However, the mixture of basic lectures, application-oriented case studies, and lab-demonstrations on NMR-spectroscopy, electron microscopy, computer simulations, crystallography, and optical spectroscopy was well received by the participants.

A particular highlight was the poster party, where all students presented their own research projects that all were of very high standard. Very quickly an intense scientific exchange between students from California and Bavaria, between theory-oriented and laboratory-based projects arose. This was actually the most important goal of the summer school, namely to provide researchers with a common basic knowledge and an understanding about the needs and limitations of the techniques of collaborators in a common project. Thus, the participants of our summer school are well prepared to participate in demanding interdisciplinary research projects and very likely will contribute to solving pressing questions in biological and medical research.

The meeting culminated in reception with the 2nd major of Bayreuth, Mr. Thomas Ebersberger, and the Dean of the Faculty of Biology, Chemistry, and Geosciences of the Universität Bayreuth, Prof. Dr. Axel Müller, where the first alumni of the international graduate school “Lead Structures of Cell Function” were honored. All together the BaCaTeC summer school 2008 – which actually is part of the curriculum of the graduate school “Lead Structures in Cell Function” – was an interesting and very successful event, both for the participating students and for the lecturing faculty.

BaCaTeC Sommer School: Structure in Biology – Key to Understanding


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