Within STFC, ISIS is a world leading facility for scientific research using neutron scattering and muon spectroscopy, with a strong scientific user programme and extensive international links. We support a national and international community of more than 2000 scientists for research into subjects ranging from clean energy and the environment, pharmaceuticals and health care, through to nanotechnology, materials engineering and IT, as well as fundamental physics and chemistry investigations.
The Small Angle Neutron Scattering (SANS) Group at ISIS operates four neutron scattering diffractometers, as well as a variety of sample environments in close collaboration with the Soft Matter Section of the Sample Environment Group. Sample environment setups include changers and rheometers to study soft matter, magnets for the study of hard matter and various flow-regime kits for in-line SANS measurements on biomolecules. The latter setups include a stopped-flow instrument where online rapid mixing of two or more solutions allows the study of in-situ structural kinetics of fast reactions with SANS.
Stopped-flow SANS is particularly useful in probing interactions between drugs and biomembranes, self-assembly kinetics of virus nucleocapsids. NUrF is a custom apparatus developed in collaboration with the University of Lund and the ESS.1 It enables the quasi-simultaneous measurement of SANS, UV-visible and fluorescence spectroscopy as well as densitometry. The additional characterisation techniques enable the monitoring of the sample state produced by automated sample preparation techniques.
Size-Exclusion Chromatography online use ensures that samples flow directly from the SEC column into the SANS measuring cell, allowing the separation of polydisperse mixtures and determination of the solution structure of monodisperse samples. SEC-SANS, in conjunction with contrast matching and deuteration, could address more complex questions2. This may involve studies of protein complexes, multiprotein assemblies, or protein-DNA/RNA complexes.
The aim of the project is to develop efficient experimental methods for the characterisation of biological complexes with stopped and continuous flow setups on SANS beamlines. As such, it offers the unique opportunity of combining biophysical experimental work and technical development. It is also anticipated that the experimental work will result in at least one peer-reviewed publication.
Are you looking for full support throughout a placement? The project will be carried out jointly between the ISIS SANS group and the Soft Matter Section of the Sample Environment Group.
1 NUrF—Optimisation of in situ UV–vis and fluorescence and autonomous characterisation techniques with small-angle neutron scattering instrumentation. Review of Scientific Instruments, 91, 075111, 2020.
2 Biological Small Angle Scattering: Techniques, Strategies and Tips. Barnali Chaudhuri, Inés G. Muñoz, Shuo Qian, Volker S. Urban, 2017.
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