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Home | News | Nobel prizewinner is back at his old desk: Richard Henderson inspires the next generation of scientists
 
News | 30th May 2019
 

Nobel prizewinner is back at his old desk: Richard Henderson inspires the next generation of scientists

 
 
 

A FORMER Newcastleton pupil, who went on to win a Nobel prize for chemistry, has paid tribute to the school which gave him his first taste for science.
Dr Richard Henderson, a biophysicist and molecular biologist, won the prize in 2017.
He lived in the village for 10 years in the 1950s and made a special homecoming trip with his wife, Jade, to revisit old haunts and renew friendships.
Richard, 73, met residents at the Liddesdale Heritage Centre before addressing an assembly at the primary school.
He told the pupils he had many happy memories of his time there and gave them a valuable piece of advice.
He said: “The secret is to find something you’re good at and you’re interested in.
“That’s what happened to me in my last year at school here when I discovered science and it led to a wonderful career.”
Richard, who worked at the structural studies division in the Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge, shared his prize with Jacques Dubochet and Joachim Frank “for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution”.
After doing a PhD in Cambridge, Richard worked at Yale University before returning to the LMB where he has worked 1973 on using electron microscopy to solve complex membrane protein structures.
Work over Richard’s career has helped to advance the technique of electron microscopy which bombards proteins or other large biological molecules with electrons rather than X-rays so the atomic structure of proteins can be determined.
Proteins
This has enabled scientists to see the structure of large, flexible and complex proteins, which have been impossible to analyse by traditional X-ray crystallography techniques.
His drive and determination over the next two decades led to the development of better detectors for electron microscopes and better software to analyse the images.
This revolutionised the technique of electron cryomicroscopy (cryoEM), which involves flash-cooling molecules in a thin layer of aqueous solution before imaging them, a crucial method invented by Jacques Dubochet and his colleagues in the early 1980s.
Quantum
In the last few years there has been a quantum step forward in these imaging techniques because of better microscopes, electron detectors and computer programmes for calculating the structure from the images.
Richard has been presented with many awards for his work, including the Gjonnes Medal in electron crystallography by the International Union of Crystallography.
He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences and was director of the LMB from 1996 to 2006.
The LMB is a world-class research laboratory, dedicated to understanding important biological processes at the molecular level, with the goal of using this knowledge to tackle major problems in human health and disease. Many techniques were pioneered at the laboratory, including DNA sequencing.

 
 
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