Exploring Nature's Molecular Machines

Course code
Course fee (excl. housing)
Course Level
Advanced Bachelor
This course is closed and you can't apply anymore. Please check our other courses.

Unfortunately we will not be able to host the course this year. Please do check our website in October 2023 if you are interested in this course. 

You will experience the stimulating and international environment in our research laboratories and grasp first-hand the meaning of interdisciplinary science. We will focus on the chemical principles underlying protein structure and function. We will examine how proteins fold into complex 'molecular machines', and how malfunction of individual proteins leads to failure and disease. You will be introduced to advanced methods in structural biology, molecular cell biology, chemical biology and biophysics to study protein machines at atomic resolution. The interdisciplinary range of methods includes cryo-electron microscopy, NMR, mass spectrometry and proteomics, crystallography, fluorescence spectroscopy and microscopy.

The Bijvoet Center in Utrecht provides a privileged environment for research and education in this area. The Bijvoet School consists of a select, international group of around 50 graduate students, more than 80% from outside the Netherlands. Our students have access to a 900 MHz NMR spectrometer, the mass spectrometers of the Netherlands Proteomics Center a semi-automated protein crystallization facility, cell culture facilities and advanced microscopy. We organize this summer school to expose the next generation of ambitious and talented students from all over the world to learn how to study the principles that drive life at the molecular level.

This course focuses on the chemical principles underlying protein structure and function. It elucidates how proteins form assemblies of 'molecular machines' that work together to sustain the living state. We will explore how proteins 'know' what shape they should fold up into following their synthesis, how they cluster into dynamic macromolecular complexes, and how these complexes communicate to form 'social' networks that enable cells to move, replicate, signal, and execute other vital processes.  We also focus on the varied post-translational modifications proteins undergo (e.g. N-/O-glycosylation and phosphorylation) and how these can have an enormous impact on protein function and lifetime.

The students will be introduced to advanced methods in structural and molecular biology and biophysics for decoding the cellular protein machinery at atomic resolution, and examine how malfunction of specific components can lead to systemic failure and disease. 

The school will combine theory with experiments in the Bijvoet research laboratories. We keep the group size small so that you will be able to build up contacts to the group leaders and PhD students of the Bijvoet School. We also schedule a visit to a partner biotech company.

Course director
Dr. Tom Wennekes & Dr. Markus Weingarth


Prof. dr. M. Baldus, Prof. dr. A. Bonvin, Prof. dr. I. Braakman, Dr. E. Breukink, Prof. dr. R. Boelens, Prof. dr. P. Gros, Prof. dr. A. Heck, Dr. E. Huizinga, Prof. dr. A. Killian, Dr. T. de Kroon, Dr. R. Raijmakers, Dr. S.G.D. Rüdiger, Dr. M. Weingarth, Dr. T. Wennekes, Dr. P. van Bergen en Henegouwen, Dr. Z. Zeev Ben Mordehai, Prof. dr. E. Mastrobattista and others.

Target audience

Advanced bachelor students and early stage master students with a background in chemistry, biophysics or molecular biology as well as a proficiency in English.

Aim of the course

To introduce the student:

  • to an international and interdisciplinary research environment; 
  • to the molecular principles of structure and function of molecular machines;
  • to advanced technology for decoding nature’s molecular machines (e.g. Cryo-EM, NMR, MS);
  • to ideas for modern drug discovery and development;
  • to applications in nano-, synthetic and chemical biology;
  • to critical reading, assessment and discussion of scientific literature.

Study load

Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mornings: Lectures; Afternoons: Research laboratory or Tutorial.


Course fee:
Fee covers
Course + course materials + lunch
Housing fee:
Housing cost
Housing provider:
Utrecht Summer School
Extra information about the fee

Total fee for the course is € 500, but half of this amount will be sponsored by the Bijvoet Center so participants only have to pay €250.

We have a scholarship programme to support this Summerschool:

The Bijvoet Center offers scholarships to support this Summerschool Course. Please visit our scholarship website for more details on how to apply.

Additional information

All questions about housing should be addressed to the Utrecht Summer School organisation (not course organisation).


Extra application information

You will need to submit the below mentioned documents before your application will be considered complete. Only complete application will be reviewed. Please submit:

  • Motivation for your application; make clear why you are interested in the subject of the summer school; not longer than two pages (submit through your account);
  • Curriculum vitae (submit through your account);
  • Recent set of transcripts (marks/grades) in English, German, French or in Dutch for Dutch students (submit through your account);
  • Two letters of recommendation (submit through your account)
  • If you want to apply for one of the Bijvoet Scholarships, please fill in the Scholarship application form: please visit our scholarship website for more details on how to apply.

For this course you are required to upload the following documents when applying:

Motivation Letter
Transcript of Grades
Reference Letter

More information


Application deadline: 
Registration deadline
30 May 2022