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Elke De Zitter - European XFEL Young Scientist Award 2023

Dr. Elke De Zitter, researcher at IRIG, has been awarded the European XFEL Young Scientist Award 2023, which aims at recognizing outstanding contributions to research at European XFEL by young researchers in the early stages of their career.

Published on 2 February 2023
This prize rewards De Zitter’s research on processing serial-crystallography data taken by the SPB/SFX instrument at European XFEL. The focus of her research is on data processing of time resolved crystallography or, more generally, serial crystallography. She wants to understand the link between protein structure, dynamics and function. X-ray crystallography has been around for some time but it provides a static structure, so her group want to see a protein in action. In this way, one will understand the protein further, and maybe also be able to mutate the protein to alter its behavior.

She is interested in mosquitocidal proteins, that target and kill mosquitos and the brilliance of the European XFEL was required to get high resolution diffraction data to solve these structures. She has also worked on developing a piece of software known as Xtrapol8 which can extract protein structures from European XFEL data. A big part of her research is writing and developing a program called Xtrapol8 for data analysis. The software is important for any kind of time resolved study. When one trigger a reaction in a crystal actually most of the proteins in the crystal do not change. They just remain in their initial state, so it’s only a tiny fraction of proteins that actually start moving. That means that if you look at the crystal on average, you just end up with the initial state, instead of the state you’ve tried to trigger! Xtrapol8 tries to extract that specific signal of the triggered or ‘intermediate’ state, in order to calculate the structure of the protein in that state.

E. De Zitter gave insights into her research at a talk during European XFEL Users’ Meeting on 25 January 2023, explaining her work and the contribution of European XFEL data in her research.

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