Summary of the 3rd Penn State Bioinorganic Workshop
The 3rd Penn State Bioinorganic Workshop took place May 28th – June 4th 2014 and was followed by the 3rd Penn State Frontiers in Metallobiochemistry Symposium (June 5th – June 7th). The workshop was even larger than the 2nd Penn State Bioinorganic Workshop we offered in 2012 (162 participants rather than 123 in 2012). Like the 2012 workshop, the 2014 workshop had three parts. The first part consisted of 16 90-min lectures presented by faculty experts on the topic of their expertise (see below). Based on the suggestions from the 2012 workshop, the lectures of the 2014 workshop were recorded and are made available to the entire bioinorganic community via online streaming (the recordings were done by the Penn State Mediatech team using MediaSite technology; see here for Mac trouble shooting).
- Introduction to coordination chemistry (Neese) [slides] [stream]
- Introduction to quantum chemistry (Neese) [slides] [stream]
- X-ray spectroscopy (DeBeer) [slides] [stream]
- Biological Electron transfer (Dutton) [slides] [stream]
- Resonance Raman spectroscopy (Neese) [slides] [stream]
- EPR spectroscopy (van der Est) [slides] [stream]
- Pulse EPR spectroscopy: ENDOR/ESEEM/DEER (Stoll) [slides] [stream]
- Mössbauer spectroscopy (Münck) [slides] [stream]
- MCD spectroscopy (Lehnert) [slides] [stream]
- Protein electrochemistry (Armstrong) [slides] [stream]
- Isothermal titration calorimetry (Wilcox) [slides] [stream]
- Transient state methods (Bollinger) [slides] [stream]
- X-ray crystallography (Boal) [slides] [stream]
- Small-angle X-ray scattering (Ando) [slides] [stream]
- Mass spectrometry (Agar) [slides] [stream]
- Bioinformatics methods (Babbitt) [slides] [stream]
The second part (the center piece of the workshop) provided hands-on training in 21 (up from 16 in 2012) different methods to small groups (6 or less “students” taught by 1-3 “teachers”). The various experimental topics were offered up to 12 times in 2-h blocks over the next 4 days. Regular participants thus had the opportunity to learn up to 12 new methods. The “teachers” included 74 participants (up from 55 in 2012). In other words, nearly half the participants served as teachers. The “teachers” included 16 faculty, 17 postdocs, 39 graduate students, and 2 undergraduate students. The following 16 sections were offered:
- Basic EPR (John Golbeck and members of his group)
- Pulse EPR (Stefan Stoll and Alexey Silakov)
- Transient state EPR (Art van der Est and Sam Mula from his group)
- Freeze-Quench method (members of the Bollinger/Krebs group)
- Stopped-Flow absorption spectroscopy (members of the Bollinger/Krebs group)
- Anaerobic protein purification (members of the Booker group)
- Resonance Raman spectroscopy (members of the Green group and Bo Zhang from the Bollinger/Krebs group)
- Mössbauer spectroscopy (members of Bollinger/Krebs group and Alex Guo)
- MCD spectroscopy (Nicolai Lehnert and members of his group)
- X-ray spectroscopy (Serena DeBeer and members of her group)
- Introduction to the DFT package ORCA (members of the Neese group)
- Cryoreduction (Candace Davison from the Breazeale Nuclear Reactor and members of the Bollinger/Krebs group)
- Protein electrochemistry (Sean Elliott and members of his group)
- X-ray crystallography (Oliver Einsle, Amie Boal and members of her group)
- High-resolution mass spectrometry (Tatiana Larenov from the Penn State Huck Institutes and Jeff Agar with Jared Auclair from his group)
- QQQ mass spectrometry for analysis of small molecules (members of the Booker group)
- Isothermal titration calorimetry (Dean Wilcox and members of his group and Booker group)
- Small-angel X-ray scattering (Nozomi Ando)
- Bioinformatics I (Patsy Babbitt and members of her group)
- Bioinformatics II (Patsy Babbitt and members of her group)
- Bioinformatics III (Patsy Babbitt and members of her group)
For most experimental sections, there were enough “teachers” available, so each individual teacher taught her/his method of specialty on average half of the time (6 times of the 12 times a method was offered). For the remaining 6 times, the teachers had the opportunity to become students and learn up to 6 other methods. The boundaries between the “teachers” and “students” were severely blurred, to the extent that even undergraduate students trained faculty, as described below.
In the hands-on section of the workshop, a total of ~1,200 2-h person-training-units were administered to “students” by the 74 “teachers”. The total number of 2-h person-training-units increased by more than 50% from 2012 (~750)! Originally, we had intended each participant to enroll in 9 different units, because (i) we did not want to overwhelm the participants, preferring to keep schedules flexible for the important informal networking that goes on in such settings and (ii) we sought flexibility with the daunting task of creating a master schedule that ensured that each participant could enroll in her/his 9 top choices without requiring the number of students in any given installment of any unit to exceed 6. We intended that participants could network amongst themselves during their “bye rounds” at the concurrent poster session: we had ~80 posters up during the entire meeting and, in addition, one afternoon was reserved for a formal 2-h poster session and a social event in a nearby park. However, most participants were so enthusiastic about the experimental program that they sought 10th, 11th, or even 12th units in their “open” slots!
The third part of the 2012 workshop consisted of 12 lectures presented by the attendees on their own research; the speakers were selected from submitted abstracts. In 2014 this component was replaced with the Frontiers in Metallobiochemistry Symposium in 2014. The previous two Frontiers in Metallobiochemistry symposia featured ~25 faculty speakers. For 2014, we included talks by students and postdocs. The 2014 Symposium featured 9 sessions and 3 plenary talks. Each session began with a faculty talk, followed by a student/postdoc talk, and another faculty talk. We felt that this arrangement gives students/postdocs a maximum exposure. The student and postdoc talks were selected from submitted abstracts. One of the talks was given by Mr. Martin McLaughlin, an undergraduate student from MIT and an alumnus of our 2012 workshop!
For the duration of the workshop and symposium, participants met informally in the evenings. The “bioinorganic bar of the day” was announced each morning on the meeting bulletin board to ensure that the participants met predominantly in one place, thus facilitating informal networking. It was amazing to witness the energy and commitment of the future generation of bioinorganic chemists: they worked hard, they worked together, they partied hard, and they partied together! Overall, the workshop had an outstanding dynamic among all participants. Jeff Agar (Northeastern University), who had helped organize some of the UGA bioinorganic workshops in the late 1990s as a graduate student in Michael Johnson’s group and taught the mass spectrometry section at our event, judged the Penn State workshop to be a true continuation of the classic bioinorganic workshops at the University of Georgia!
Perhaps the ultimate long-term benefit of the “classic workshops” at UGA and Louvain-la-Neuve has been the many successful long-term collaborations that they gave birth to. At the 2014 workshop and symposium, we could see the gradual build-up of this collaborative infrastructure. We will just give a few examples. (1) Kyle Lancaster and Jonathan Caranto were two of the 36 participants of the 2010 workshop; they were graduate students at Caltech and UT San Antonio at the time. They met for the first time at our workshop in 2010. Jon Caranto also attended our 2012 workshop. Kyle Lancaster is now Assistant Professor at Cornell University. Jon Caranto decided to join Kyle Lancaster’s group as a postdoctoral scholar. They both attended the 2014 symposium and met many of their class mates from the 2010 and 2012 workshops. (2) Hannah Shafaat attended the 2012 workshop when she was a postdoctoral scholar. She is now Assistant Professor at Ohio State University and sent two of her students to the 2014 workshop. She also attended the 2014 symposium and met other alumni of the 2012 workshop. We are confident that the participants of our workshops and symposia will continue to network for many years, hopefully decades, to come.