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 Centre 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, mass spectrometers for proteomics, 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.

Course leaders

Dr. Markus Weingarth & Dr. Tom Wennekes


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, Dr. M. Weingarth, Dr. T. Wennekes and others.

Target group

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

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