Nicolas Caramello

PhD student making molecular movies to study biological processes

I grew up fascinated by the mechanisms that underlay life. When I discovered during my studies  how knowing the structure of biomolecules - mostly obtained by X-ray crystallography at synchrotrons - helped scientists to build up a detailed picture of biological processes, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Most of these structures are of molecules in resting states, yet I discovered, during an internship working on an enzyme, that tracking some of these processes requires time-resolved structure studies.

This is a daunting task as it requires being able to follow the minuscule structural changes of molecules at the same speed at which they react. I am keen on making this sort of experiments - previously limited to a handful of biological systems - more broadly available to scientists. The goal of my PhD is to manage to make molecular movies using time-resolved protein crystallography while helping implement the various methodologies that I will have used on the brand-new time-resolved serial synchrotron crystallography (TR-SSX) beamline ID29.

Setting up these complex experiments requires easy-to-monitor protein reactions. For this, I will take full advantage of the in crystallo Optical Spectroscopy (icOS) Lab and its new time-resolved modality and study light-sensitive proteins. To me, it is thrilling to imagine being able to link something as extensive as a color change to minuscule atom movements.

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