November 25, 2003

Today was truly a fantastic day. Please pardon me while I geek out with a story.

I've been working to solve the structure of one particular protein since May. Before that, three separate rotation students and a postdoc put three years of manpower into the project.
As you may remember from my last post, I spent midnight to 6am at the Advanced Light Source collecting data on the umpteenth heavy-metal soaks for these crystals. After halfway processing most of the data from Monday's synchrotron trip, I was mighty discouraged, since none of the data looked promising. However, I started one more computing job before heading home to get some sleep.
Today I went into the lab thinking dark thoughts and trying to plan the next set of experiments. I was actually halfway through making up some solutions for an entirely new set of gold and platinum derivatizations when someone asked me how the data looked. Suddenly, I was reminded of the computational experiment I had set running before I left. I didn't really think it had worked, but the guy I was talking to wanted to take a look, so I trudged out to the computer room with him. The first thing we brought up was the initial electron density map from the last-minute job.

SHAZAM. A perfect alpha helix strared back at us.

Over the last several months my project has become infamous as the structure that (inexplicably) couldn't be solved. Take that, Laue!

Posted on November 25, 2003 09:47 PM

Jacob, that's so cool! Congratulations. Is this sort of a "Well, that made my day" kind of thing, or more of a "Well, that made my career" kind of thing"?

How do you know that you got what you needed? Does the picture usually come up a big mess, and you wait for something that makes sense, like an alpha helix (a PERFECT one, I might add--I'm so proud) to come up?

Posted by: jason on November 26, 2003 08:25 AM

jacob, you da man.

Posted by: michele on November 26, 2003 11:29 AM

This is more like a "Well, that made my year" kind of thing. The career-making bit comes next (I hope).

If it's incorrect, the density just looks like garbage (no difference between protein and solvent channels). But if it's real, then you can see all sorts of cool things. Like secondary structure, crystal packing interfaces, etc.


Posted by: Jacob on November 26, 2003 11:48 AM

congratulations. and thanks for the thanksgiving rsvp by the way. i was going to call you back but decided to bury my gracious response here on your page where you might never see it. i am tricky.

Posted by: didofoot on November 26, 2003 12:01 PM

Congratulations Jacob! I am sure there are many more SHAZAMs in your future.

Posted by: Jolie on November 27, 2003 11:42 AM

Like, for instance, a little bird told me that Santa's getting you a certain Shaquille O'neil movie...

Posted by: jason on December 1, 2003 06:18 PM

The density just looks like garbage, huh? I was hoping that if it's incorrect it looks like a house or a cockroach or something.

Posted by: jason on December 1, 2003 06:20 PM