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Exploring Nature's Molecular Machines

Organizing institution
Utrecht University, Faculty of Science (UU)
Course code
Course fee (incl. housing)
€ 600
Advanced bachelor level

You will experience the stimulating, 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. We will combine lectures with experiments in research laboratories. You will be introduced to advanced methods in structural biology, molecular cell biology and biophysics to study protein machines at atomic resolution. The interdisciplinary range of methods includes 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 the 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 on 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 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.

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.

More information...

To apply for the course please make sure you upload the following documents. Your application will only be considered if all documents are uploaded.

- 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 Two letters of recommendation (of which one letter needs to come from the study coordinator of your current study) (If you can't merge PDF's make sure you sent them directly to summerschoolm31@uu.nl)

After the deadline of registration the applications will be reviewed and a final decision will be made on who can join the course.

Tags: biophysics, cell biology, biochemistry, molecular life sciences, molecular medicine, structural biology, protein chemistry, proteomics, protein folding, research

» Download the day-to-day programme (PDF)

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Tom Wennekes and 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, Prof. dr. J. Tommassen, Dr. P. van Bergen en Henegouwen, Dr. C.R. Berkers, and others.


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


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
- to ideas for modern drug development
- to applications in nano- and synthetic biology.


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


• € 600 - Course + course materials + housing
• € 250 - Course + course materials + lunch

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 for two weeks. Lunches are always included. In addition, we have a scholarship programme to support this Summer Course. Please visit our website for more details.

After the deadline of registration the applications will be reviewed and a final decision will be made on who can join the course.

» Overview of all available discounts


The Bijvoet Center offers a scholarship to support this Summer Course. Please visit our website for more details on how to apply


Bastiaan de Graaf
E: summerschoolM31@uu.nl
P: +31 30 2533502

» Contact Utrecht Summer School


Deadline for registration: 26 April 2017

Application closed