Exploring Nature's Molecular Machines

Course code
Course fee (excl. housing)
Advanced Bachelor
Apply now!

You will experience the stimulating and international environment in our research laboratories and grasp first-hand the meaning of interdisciplinary science. We will focus on the chemical principles underlying protein structure and function. We will examine how proteins fold into complex “molecular machines”, and how malfunction of individual proteins leads to failure and disease. You will be introduced to advanced methods in structural biology, molecular cell biology, chemical biology and biophysics to study protein machines at atomic resolution. The interdisciplinary range of methods includes cryo-electron microscopy, NMR, mass spectrometry and proteomics, crystallography, fluorescence spectroscopy and microscopy.

Why do we live and why do we die? Protein machines in the cell take the decisions at molecular level that determine our fate. The last two decades have seen a revolution in our understanding of these machines due to the success of structural biology. We now know the structures of the key players in the most fundamental processes of life. Now we can disentangle the function of these molecular machines and understand the networks in which they function. Essential for progress in this area is that we have eyes at our disposal that allow us to see the molecules in front of us, and to monitor how they react during our manipulations.

The Bijvoet Center in Utrecht provides a privileged environment for research and education in this area. The Bijvoet School consists of a select, international group of around 50 graduate students, more than 80% from outside the Netherlands. Our students have access to a 900 MHz NMR spectrometer, the mass spectrometers of the Netherlands Proteomics Center a semi-automated protein crystallization facility, cell culture facilities and advanced microscopy. We organize this summer school to expose the next generation of ambitious and talented students from all over the world to learn how to study the principles that drive life at the molecular level.

This course focuses on the chemical principles underlying protein structure and function. It elucidates how proteins form assemblies of “molecular machines” that work together to sustain the living state. We will explore how proteins “know” what shape they should fold up into following their synthesis, how they cluster into dynamic macromolecular complexes, and how these complexes communicate to form “social” networks that enable cells to move, replicate, signal, and execute other vital processes.  We also focus on the varied post-translational modifications proteins undergo (e.g. N-/O-glycosylation and phosphorylation) and how these can have an enormous impact on protein function and lifetime.

The students will be introduced to advanced methods in structural and molecular biology and biophysics for decoding the cellular protein machinery at atomic resolution, and examine how malfunction of specific components can lead to systemic failure and disease. 

The school will combine theory with experiments in the Bijvoet research laboratories. We keep the group size small so that you will be able to build up contacts to the group leaders and PhD students of the Bijvoet School. We also schedule a visit to a partner biotech company. See our website for more information on the course, how to apply and scholarship opportunities.

Course director

Dr. Tom Wennekes & Dr. Markus Weingarth


Prof. dr. M. Baldus, Prof. dr. A. Bonvin, Prof. dr. I. Braakman, Dr. E. Breukink, Prof. dr. R. Boelens, Prof. dr. P. Gros, Prof. dr. A. Heck, Dr. E. Huizinga, Prof. dr. A. Killian, Dr. T. de Kroon, Dr. R. Raijmakers, Dr. S.G.D. Rüdiger, Dr. M. Weingarth, Dr. T. Wennekes, Dr. P. van Bergen en Henegouwen, Dr. Z. Zeev Ben Mordehai, Prof. dr. E. Mastrobattista and others.

Target audience

Advanced bachelor students and early stage master students with a background in chemistry, biophysics or molecular biology as well as a proficiency in English.

Course aim

To introduce the student:

  • to an international and interdisciplinary research environment; 
  • to the molecular principles of structure and function of molecular machines;
  • to advanced technology for decoding nature’s molecular machines (e.g. Cryo-EM, NMR, MS);
  • to ideas for modern drug discovery and development;
  • to applications in nano-, synthetic and chemical biology.

Study load

Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mornings: Lectures Afternoons: Research laboratory.


Course fee:
Course + course materials + lunch
Housing fee:

Total fee for the course is € 500. Half of this amount will be sponsored by the Bijvoet Center so participants only have to pay €250. The costs for housing are € 350. Lunches are always included. In addition, we have a scholarship programme to support this Summerschool.

Housing through: Utrecht Summer School.


The Bijvoet Center offers a scholarship to support this Summer Course. Please visit our website for more details on how to apply: https://www.uu.nl/en/research/bijvoet-center-for-biomolecular-research/education/summerschool/scholarships


You will need to submit the below mentioned documents before your application will be considered complete. Only complete application will be reviewed. Please submit:

  • Motivation for your application; make clear why you are interested in the subject of the summer school; not longer than two pages (submit through your account);
  • Curriculum vitae (submit through your account);
  • Recent set of transcripts (marks/grades) in English, German, French or in Dutch for Dutch students (submit through your account);
  • Two letters of recommendation (to be sent directly to summerschoolm31@uu.nl);
  • If you want to apply for one of the Bijvoet Scholarships, please fill in the Scholarship application form and sent this to summerschoolm31@uu.nl.

For this course you are required to upload the following documents when applying:

  • Motivation Letter
  • C.V.
  • Transcript of Grades

More information

Dr. Tom Wennekes | E: Summerschoolm31@uu.nl


Application deadline: 30 April 2020