A new phase for structural biology

With Carol Robinson

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A fresh perspective

Carol Robinson’s eccentric research transformed the field of structural biology by studying proteins in the vapour phase, rather than as solutions or solids. Her approach proved to be unpredictably worthwhile and is providing a new view of protein interactions.

Knowing the shape of proteins is crucial for our understanding of human health and for developing new drugs. To do this current methods require proteins to be dissolved in a solution or locked in a crystal lattice. These approaches are incredibly powerful and are the mainstay of the field of structural biology as we know it. But what about the third phase? How would proteins survive once they have gone beyond solid and solution phases and released into the atmosphere?

While many scientists thought that proteins would no longer maintain their shape in the vapour phase Carol Robinson embarked on eccentric research into studying proteins freely moving within in this phase. This work proved to be unpredictably worthwhile, and her gas phase structural biology is now providing a new view of dynamic interactions between proteins, lipids and drugs.

Dame Carol Robinson is a British chemist, working as a Royal Society Research Professor at the Physical and Theoretical Chemistry Laboratory at the University of Oxford.

Carol is the first female Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford and was previously the first female Professor of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge. She is renowned for pioneering the use of mass spectrometry as an analytical tool and for her ground-breaking research into the 3D structure of proteins.


Natural World


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