Protein Crystallography Clickable Map
Advanced  Certificate  in  Protein  Crystallography  on  the  Web  04/05 

School of CrystallographyBirkbeck College,  University of London

Crystal  Click for Samples


For proper understanding of biological function a detailed knowledge of the three-dimensional structure of biological macromolecules and their interactions with ligands and the aqueous environment is required. Protein crystallography (or structural molecular biology) is powerful in that it can identify the residues determining substrate specificity and interactions with other macromolecules at the atomic level, allowing the targeting of site-directed mutagenesis experiments and the design of selective inhibitors, so important in industry. Protein crystallography is no longer solely the domain of the mathematician and physicist, but that of the biologically orientated scientist. It is now a very multidisciplinary technique which has overlap with biochemistry, molecular biology, bioinformatics, biophysics and organic chemistry. The web course is therefore ideally suited for students of these disciplines who want to know in more detail (mainly non-mathematical) how structures are determined, how the quality of coordinates should be judged, and how crystallographic papers should be assessed. It will also appeal to those who envisage a further career in this exciting and rapidly expanding field, especially also in the pharmaceutical industry.

Course Organisation and Objectives

The Advanced Certificate in Protein Crystallography on the Web, is a tutor-assisted, university-level, accredited course, hosted by the School of Crystallography, Birkbeck College. Successful students receive the award of an Institution Certificate.

The course consists of 3 units taught annually. All teaching material will be delivered on the Internet.

Unit 1:  Fundamentals of Protein Structure and X-Ray Crystallography

This unit has as general objectives

  • to demonstrate protein structure as far as is relevant to structure determination
  • to demonstrate the fundamentals of x-ray diffraction
  • to demonstrate the fundamentals of symmetry

    Unit 2:  Protein Crystallography

    This unit has as general objectives

  • to demonstrate the individual steps required to determine a protein structure using protein crystallography
  • to provide the skills to read a crystallographic paper
  • to provide the skills to grasp and judge the quality of the structure reported
  • to provide basic skills to solve a protein structure.

    Unit 3: Project

    This unit has as general objective to apply, improve and test the skills learned in units 1 and 2 on two projects

  • to read and judge a crystallographic paper
  • to "solve" a structure using molecular replacement

    Specific objectives are listed in the syllabus / timetable.

    Academic Requirements

    The University of London requires as minimum eligibility requirements BSc or equivalent (for EU or non-EU overseas students) in computing, mathematics, biology, chemistry or physics. Click here for more details.

    Technical Requirements

    Students will be expected to have a standard PC or workstation and access to the Internet. Click here for more details.

    Workload and Course Attendance


    The language of the course is English combined with Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) for the delivery and receipt of course material, assignments, and projects.

    Course Text Books

    Although the course material is self-contained, it is a requirement to buy one course text book to have additional support. Registration does not give entitlement to library facilities and on-line journals.

    Assessment and Qualification

    The course leads to the award of an Advanced Certificate from Birkbeck College, University of London. Each student is assessed by a combination of the course work assignments submitted in Terms 1 and 2, the projects submitted in Term 3 (with possibly short oral examination) and an unseen final written examination in Term 3.

    This year, the exam has been set for the 21st of September

    Click here for more details.


    The rates for 2004-5 are:

    Note that the rules on who qualifies as a Home/EU student are complex. If you are a UK or EU citzen but have lived outside the EU recently or are an overseas citizen but resident in the UK then you should contact Birkbeck registry by emailing to check your status.

    An additional one-third (1/3) fee will be payable for those students who have followed the course, but who have postponed the written examination to the following year.

    Course Organiser and Admissions Tutor

    Dr Tracey Barrett

    Course Tutors

    Dr Jeremy K Cockcroft
    Dr Neil McDonald
    Dr Rex A Palmer

    Course Administrator

    Maureen Austin

    Technical Consultant

    Dr David Houldershaw

    Course Moderator

    Prof. John Helliwell


  • Enrolment Procedure
  • Applications:  Accepted January - end of November
  • Start Date:  October  /  November 
  • E-mail:
  • URL for further information:
  • Phone Number +44 (0)20 7631 6800
  • Fax Number +44 (0)20 7631 6803
  • Address:  School of Crystallography, Birkbeck College, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX, United Kingdom

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