Meet the YCG – Alex Cousen

Up next in Meet the YCG is Alex Cousen! Alex is our Industrial Group (IG) representative and the second in our mini series to introduce our group reps. Just a reminder that Meet the YCG is a weekly series of interviews with YCG members starting with the committee.

Alex Cousen

Current position
PhD researcher for the EPSRC Future Manufacturing Hub in Continuous Crystallisation and Advanced Crystallisation, based at the University of Bath

What do you currently research?
Development of novel multi-component materials (co-crystals, salts, etc.) for enhanced pharmaceutical performance for end-patient use or during the manufacturing process. Specifically, my research focusses on developing novel multi-component materials for the selective crystallisation of chiral pharmaceuticals.

What is your favourite thing about being a crystallographer?
Crystallography is an amazing area of science. There are few disciplines where you can observe and rationalise the structure, understand how materials are constructed, whilst still being able to physically see the beauty of the crystals themselves.

Who, or what, inspires you to do science?
My roots in Crystallography, and science in general, take me way back. If pushed, I would pin my interest down to two people and a distinctly 90s TV programme. The first of these was my chemistry teacher at secondary school. “Sir”, as I then called him, really made chemistry come alive. He explained the subject so well and really had a passion for the subject, which is hard to find these days. The second figure is that of Michael Faraday. From humble beginnings, he rose to the top of the scientific world, making key discovers in a range of areas, but, and most importantly, he never forgot his roots. Finally, my scientific career would never have taken off, if it hadn’t been for the 90s kid’s programme ‘HOW 2’. If you have never seen it, go watch it now. It opened up the world of science and engineering to kids, and no doubt inspired many like me.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to anyone starting out in scientific research?
Work hard, take every opportunity you can, but always make sure that you love what you do!

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
In my spare time, I am a keen hiker. I love nothing more than going for a long walk in the Lake District on a warm summer’s day (or in torrential rain come to think of it). I love my rugby, a passionate Sale Sharks fan, and do enjoy a pint or two in the pub with my mates. Currently trying to learn to salsa dance… baby steps.

Meet the YCG – Natalie Tatum

Time for the third instalment of Meet the YCG! This time round we are delighted to introduce Natalie Tatum! Natalie is our Biological Structures Group (BSG) representative and is the first in a mini series to introduce our group reps. Just a reminder that Meet the YCG is a weekly series of interviews with YCG members starting with the committee.

Natalie Tatum

Current position
Post-doctoral research associate at Newcastle University, in the structural biology team of the Cancer Drug Discovery group at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research

What do you currently research?
The structural biology team in Cancer Drug Discovery provide protein production, crystallography and assay development for ongoing projects. In practice this means we produce protein for crystallisation and assay, often screening tens of constructs at least to optimise for various purposes, we have a variety of tagging systems at our disposal for use, and we have access to SPR, ITC, and NMR for screening in addition to building assays on a variety of fluorescence-based formats. I’m currently the only researcher on the biophysics side of my target project, so I’m the one doing it all from cloning through to crystallisation and beyond.

What is your favourite thing about being a crystallographer?
I really relish the challenges. Protein crystallography is regularly described as a dark art, and particularly for a novel protein, it can be months or years of banging your head against thousands upon thousands of conditions and constructs until you find The One. Sometimes you’re lucky, and sometimes it’s just hard graft, but the pay off – seeing even optimisable crystal hits in one of your trays – it makes every protein prep worth the effort.

Who, or what, inspires you to do science?
I was always scientifically inclined, but it wasn’t really until I was late in my undergraduate degree that I got a taste of research science and discovered a passion for it. It suits my problem solving nature and curiosity. I had few real-life scientific role models growing up, however, and so I had to make do with fictional ones: Dana Scully and Sam Carter. When I became a researcher and started to interact with other scientists – particularly female scientists – out there, in the real world, I found an inspiring community.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to anyone starting out in scientific research?
I think there are two, but they’re quite linked: first, give it a go. I had no idea what a research scientist did on a day to day basis, or what that life even looked like, so I think the important thing is to get stuck in and try it out – a summer project, an MSc, etc.; but secondly, make sure you really want to do it. Scientific research is difficult, often the rewarding moments can be sparse and seem so distant, and often experiments fail. You have to learn to be resilient, optimistic, and above all, you have to keep your head about you. Bad days happen, so you have to be able to have a cup of tea, go home and sleep, do whatever it requires for you to get back on the work-horse tomorrow.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I try to keep a good work-life balance and protect my weekends as much as possible from the intrusions of work; obviously it can be unavoidable to put in some working hours in the evenings and weekends, but generally speaking I try to get everything done in my normal working hours, and I rely heavily on to-do lists and weekly goals to stay on track. I’m also quite introverted and often need the time to re-charge, so outside of work I enjoy swimming or running at the gym, I read voraciously – particularly science fiction but I try to stay away from science non-fiction (with mixed success) – and of course spend quality time in the cinema or watching Netflix. I find that really enjoying my free time helps me be more focused when I’m working and makes me a happier and more productive person, so I value proper boundaries in my work-life balance.

Hot Topics In Contemporary Crystallography 2018 (HTCC2018)

Registration and bursary application for the Hot Topics In Contemporary Crystallography 2018 (HTCC2018) are now open.

HTCC2018 will be held in Bol, on the island of Bra?, Croatia, from Sep. 23 to 27, 2018.

The three hot topics to be tackled this year are:

  • Crystallography under extreme conditions (HT1)
  • Total scattering and PDF analysis of complex materials (HT2), and
  • Dynamical crystallography (HT3)

Bursaries are available to PhD students and Postdocs employed by a public university or research institution.

Meet the YCG – Sam Horrell

Sam Horrell

Current position
Post Doc at the University of Hamburg in the Pearson group and Chair of the YCG

What do you currently research?
I am currently working as part of a team to design, build and eventually test a new end station at PETRA III to enable time-resolved serial crystallography experiments on fixed targets. P14.EH2 (we’re working on a better name) will be a dedicated Time-resolved X-ray Crystallography beamline using Hadamard Time-resolved X-ray Cryatsllography (HATRX) to produce high quality pump-probe serial diffraction data for the study of structural dynamics in biomolecules. Also, there will be lasers. I’ll be talking about this at the BCA Spring meeting this year if you want to learn more.

What is your favourite thing about being a crystallographer?
I like how varied the field of crystallography can be, I started off as a biochemist and am now helping build a beamline. If you told me at the start of my undergraduate, I’d have worked at two particles accelerators by age 27 I wouldn’t have believed you. But my favourite part of crystallography has to be when you get that new structure that nobody else has seen, and you get to dig into the fine detail of how exactly it works.

Who, or what, inspires you to do science?
I’m sure everyone has had that moment at school where a teacher tells you what you learned a few years ago was actually a massive oversimplification and life is in fact a lot more complicated. Respiration is not just breathing, and the cell doesn’t look like a fried egg, etc. This always annoyed me and made me want to know more about what w

as really going on. A healthy obsession with Sci-Fi and comic books probably helped lead me down this road too.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to anyone starting out in scientific research?
If you are going to start a PhD make sure of two things, that it is a subject you are interested in, and your supervisor is someone you can work and get along with. If either of these are not right, it’s going to be a very long 3-4 years.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I have recently moved to Hamburg for my new job so outside of work I have enjoyed exploring a new city, I’d definitely recommend moving to a new country if given the opportunity. One of the great perks of a career in science. But in addition to that, I enjoy playing ultimate Frisbee, board games and the guitar.

Meet the YCG – Charlie McMonagle

This is the first in a new series of interviews conducted on members of the YCG. We are going to start with the members of the current committee in the run-up to the BCA Spring Meeting and see how we go from there! If you enjoy these posts, please like and share.

Charlie McMonagle

Current position
PDRA Newcastle University / YCG Webmaster

What do you currently research?
My work at Newcastle is to develop and uses the extensive facility’s here to do ultra-low temperature and high-pressure single crystal diffraction experiments. Currently I am looking at a range of magnetically interesting compounds at temperatures as low as 3 K, and this will be coupled with low-temperature high-pressure measurements in the new future. I am also finishing up my PhD that was joint between the University of Edinburgh and I19 at the Diamond Light Source. This focused on looking at porous materials at pressure and the development of new techniques to do this. During my PhD I developed a pressure cell that will allow you to perform single crystal X-ray diffraction from 0 to 1400 bar, a pressure range is currently very difficult to investigate with common high-pressure cells.

What is your favourite thing about being a crystallographer?
Probably my favourite aspect is how collaborative it is. I have the good fortune to work with many different scientists that are experts at their niche speciality and their enthusiasm for their work is infectious. Being able to bring your own expertise to the table is also great and providing the key to unlock new problems is something that has always driven me.

Who, or what, inspires you to do science?
Breaking new ground is probably what I find the most inspiring thing about science. Whether it is new experimental set-ups, novel compounds or just new ways to make something work it all adds up and it’s amazing just how many things there are still to do!

What is the one piece of advice you would give to anyone starting out in scientific research?
If you want something done right, do it yourself.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Having been living in Scotland and now in Northumberland, I have the great opportunity to make the most of the outdoors. Walking in the Highlands, the Pennines, or the Alps are great ways to unwind and exploring a new city and region is also fun.

Now is your chance to get involved with the YCG!

This years’ YCG Satellite Meeting at the BCA Spring Meeting sees a number of committee positions opening up as members are finishing out their two year terms. The following positions are now open for nominations.

Chair (Sam Horrell stepping down)

  • Liaison to the BCA council and management of the group at large

Secretary/Treasurer (Elliot Carrington stepping down)

  • Handles the groups finances, takes minutes at meetings etc

Chemical Crystallography Group Representative (Claire Hobday stepping down)

  • Represents the specific interests of young crystallographers in Chemical Crystallography

Physical Crystallography Group Representative (Charlotte Kirk stepping down)

  • Represents the specific interests of young crystallographers in Physical Crystallography

Industrial Crystallography Group Representative (Alex Cousen stepping down)

  • Represents the specific interests of young crystallographers in Industrial Crystallography

Ordinary Member (Genevieve Baker stepping down)

  • Generally helpful person whenever they are needed

If you are interesting in working as part of the YCG committee to represent the interests of young crystallographers to the BCA and help in planning the YCG Satellite meeting along with education and outreach events in any of the above roles please contact the current chair ([email protected]) and secretary ([email protected]). Nominated persons will be voted on at the YCG annual general meeting at the BCA Spring Meeting in Warwick. If you are unable to attend a member of the committee can read out a preprepared statement on your behalf.

I look forward to seeing you all at the YCG meeting in March, watch this space for further updates on the meeting.

Sam Horrell

YCG Chair

Parkin Lecture, 2018 – Nomination Deadline 26th of January

To recognise the outstanding achievements of the late Dr Andrew Parkin in his roles as scientist and teacher, the YCG holds an annual Parkin Lecture at the YCG satellite meeting. The YCG satellite directly precedes the BCA Spring Meeting, which this year takes place at the University of Warwick from 26 – 29 March 2018. The prize lecture is awarded to a Young Crystallographer who has been recognised for outstanding contributions to promoting science, raising public awareness of science, teaching crystallography/science or showing originality in outreach and teaching activities.

Friday 26th January is the deadline for nominations by peers and/or supervisors. If you know someone deserving of this award, please nominate them! Full details can be found here.

BCA Spring Meeting Abstract Deadline – 10 Days to Go

The abstract deadline for the BCA Spring Meeting is only 10 day away now!

Please submit your abstracts here for Friday the 26th of January.

Remember that all abstracts for the YCG Satellite Meeting are submitted as posters for both the YCG and the Main Meeting. Oral presentations at the YCG Satellite Meeting will be based on the submitted Poster abstracts. As many authors as possible will be given the opportunity to make an Oral presentation in addition to their Poster presentation.

If you are a Young Crystallographer (YC) submitting an abstract to the Main Meeting, please identify yourself the submission process! We are trialling this to gauge YC participation throughout the Spring Meeting and to offer the option to present your work at the YCG Satellite Meeting as well as the Main Meeting.

Good Luck!

BCA ABBF Bursary Deadline Approaching

Bursaries to attend crystallographic related meetings including the BCA Spring Meeting are available now. These are open to PhD students, Postdocs, and Independent Research Fellows.

The next deadline for application for the BCA’s ABBF bursaries is 31st January 2018.

This is for conferences beginning March 2018 to June 2018 and applications will only be considered for meetings/conferences, which begin approximately six weeks after the deadline. This allows time to process applications.

For more information and how to apply please follow this link:

Final reminder – BCA IG/CCG Autumn meeting


Registration for the BCA IG/CCG joint Autumn 2017 meeting on 21st and 22nd November, at Downing College in Cambridge closes on very soon! The aim of the meeting is to discuss the design of crystalline products and the prediction of properties from pharmaceuticals to porous materials.

This promises to be an exciting meeting with session topics on

  • Crystal Engineering
  • Property Control & Prediction
  • Crystallisation & Crystallisability
  • Pharmaceutical Product Design
  • Plus a focussed early career session.

Confirmed speaker include Mike Zaworotko (Limerick), Simon Lawrence (Cork), Vijay Srirambhatla (Strathclyde), Andrew Bond (Cambridge), Aurora Cruz-Cabeza (Manchester), Monika Warzecha (Strathclyde), Graeme Day (Southampton).

Registration for the meeting closes on 13th Nov! We hope to see you at the meeting.

Registration link: