Wright colloquium 2012 | 12 to 16 November, UniDufour

We know that the matter that makes up the world we live in is made of atoms, but this simple statement is of limited use – it is like describing architecture by saying that buildings are made of stones. We would like to know how the atoms are arranged and put together, and how this can explain the astonishing variety of substances which we encounter and use in everyday life, including inside our own bodies.


It is almost exactly one hundred years since the experiments of Max von Laue and William and Lawrence Bragg using X-rays to study crystals first gave some information on the arrangement of atoms in space. The first years gave results only on quite small, simple structures, while fifty years ago the first results on the arrangement of atoms in proteins appeared.

In the past ten years there has been a spectacular increase in the power of this technique, and now we are able to see for the first time how some of the machinery of the living cell is constructed, and how it works. These studies have revealed beautiful structures and machines built from components whose size is one ten-millionth of a millimeter. This year’s Wright colloquium will offer a tour of some of these extraordinary results. We will look at some of the remarkable systems that control vital processes of life such as the flow of ions into and out of cells and the synthesis of proteins.

Science does not only involve observation, but also creation. We may learn from our observations, and understand how to mimic biological processes, and how to make materials with predictable and useful properties. Two lectures will talk about polymers, the general family of large molecules of which plastics are perhaps the best known examples, and see how it is possible to make new materials with extraordinary physical properties, or useful electronic properties such as the emission of light, or the construction of new solar cells. Finally, we shall look at a newly developing field, of molecular machines, or how to make molecules that can move or rotate in a controlled way.

From the Colloque Wright website

Monday 12 November - 6:30 p.m.
Dr Roderick MacKinnon

2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
The Rockefeller University & HHMI Investigator, New York

Potassium channels and the electrical system of life


Tuesday 13 November - 6:30 p.m.
Prof. Takuzo Aida
The University of Tokyo

«Aqua materials» for a sustainable society


Wednesday 14 November - 6:30 p.m.
Prof. Andrew B. Holmes
University of Melbourne,
CSIRO Materials Science and Engineering

Organic Electronic Materials: a Licence to print money


Thursday 15 November - 6:30 p.m.
Prof. David Leigh
University of Manchester

The Magic of Molecular Machines


Friday 16 November - 6:30 p.m.
Dr Venkatraman Ramakrishnan
2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge

Antibiotics and the cell’s protein factory


Download the programme here.