Microbiology Society Prize Medal 2017: Professor Michael Rossmann

Posted on July 12, 2017   by David Bhella

At the Microbiology Society’s Annual Conference 2017, Professor Michael Rossman from Purdue University was awarded our Prize Medal. You can watch his talk ‘A personal history of structural virology’ below. In this post, David Bhella gives an overview of Michael’s talk and the research it contains.

Structural biology seeks to understand the processes of life by investigating the shapes of biological molecules at the atomic level. X-ray crystallography has been used to solve the structures of protein complexes such as enzymes since the 1960s. More recently, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and cryogenic electron microscopy (cryoEM) have provided alternate routes to determining biological structures.

Professor Michael Rossmann has dedicated his career to pioneering methods for determining the structures of protein complexes, particularly in viruses. In his Prize Medal address, he gives a fascinating personal perspective on the history of structural biology. Michael reflects on his early career working on the structure of relatively simple hydrocarbon molecules at the University of Glasgow before moving to the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge to work with Max Perutz, developing methods for protein crystallography to study the structure of haemoglobin.

Many of Professor Rossmann’s greatest achievements were accomplished at Purdue University in the US, including solving the structure of human rhinovirus, the cause of the common cold. He has also made significant breakthroughs in the understanding of flaviviruses, working out the structure of dengue virus and most recently Zika virus – both structures were solved using cryoEM.

David is Director of Scottish Macromolecular Imaging Centre at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, and Chair of the Microbiology Society’s Communications Committee