10th.Jan Update Message

Back to Main Index...last updated 10th.Jan'95


VSNS Principles of Protein Structure

Happy new year everyone! After the holiday, things are starting to liven up and I thought I'd keep you informed. Due to mail difficulties this is from Glaxo, but PLEASE reply to Birkbeck (pps@www.cryst.bbk.ac.uk).


We have been having problems at Birkbeck as the University of London is devolving Domain Name Servers to individual colleges this week. For those who have been through this sort of thing you'll see that it's not easy to predict when things will be running OK. So, unfortunately, we have to delay introduction of the mailing lists for a day or two. Please bear with us, since these are the key technology for large parts of the course. If we cannot get them running locally within 2-3 days we'll find another location , but we'd prefer not too.

When the lists ARE running this will be the main way that we develop some of the aspects of the course. So I'm very optimistic about what we shall be able to achieve.

Keeping in touch

The best way to keep *you* informed is to keep updating the HOME PAGES under


It is ESSENTIAL that you are able to access these pages easily and regularly. (At least one student thought this was an ftp site - NO, it's a WWW site.) Make sure that you can use FORMS and graphical browsers - if you cannot, you will have problems with most of the course. If you have problems, look through the pages first to see if they are answered there. We are developing an FAQ for the course. If you DO want to mail us, use


as the address.


You should be actively getting RasMol and Mage tools running on your system. (Chemical/MIME has become widely accepted so that most sites are able to serve PDB and other file types.) If you have problems, read our pages carefully. There are several places where advice is given, and recently LANL has offered a service whereby you can test your viewer.

Course content

There have been many wonderful offers, but we need more material. Please don't be shy about sending stuff in, Alan will be very grateful. Note that we do NOT intend to create a hypertext that can be read from P1 to p600. Our approach is to collate a wide variety of resources that you can use.

Alan's backbone has been universally welcomed and we shall follow this serially. Anyone who has information that can be added will be welcomed! This could range from hypermaterial of your own, to sets of gifs, to lists of URLs , or references in paper books.

The course will progress, section by section, by expecting you to become familiar with the concepts in that section. If there is no additional material for a particular section, go out and find some (from another source) and let us know about it. If everyone gives a small amount into the backbone in this way it will fill out very quickly.


I suggest that we divide the course into groups of about 20 people - this will give 15 groups and that the *groups* take responsibility for a particular area. The groups will be rather arbitrarily chosen - but we'll try to get a mix of experience and skills. If people want to meet in BioMOO to discuss things, then it may be useful for further rationalisation to make time zones less of a problem.

Each group would have a small task to complete in producing material for the course and would correspond among themselves, either by e-mail or through BioMOO. AT THIS STAGE I'd BE VERY GRATEFUL FOR OFFERS OF ANYONE WHO WOULD LIKE TO HELP COORDINATE A GROUP - YOU DON'T HAVE TO KNOW ABOUT PROTEIN STRUCTURE. We would then ask that coordinator to report back with material to the course.

I suggest that we nominate groups within the next few days (after we have had offers of coordinators) and allocate tasks. The task will NOT be expected to take more than a month. In that way we could have material in place when about halfway through the backbone.


We'll shortly put up a list of contributions that we'd like from the groups. The sorts of topics could be:

(These are all covered in standard texts, but there is also a lot of scope for very recent results and technology.)

We'd also appreciate suggestions from yourselves - but they should be close to the 'backbone'.


BioMOO depends critically on having a 'critical mass' of people, so if you go there and find no one in the classroom, don't logout but wait until someone else comes along (of course you have be able to remain logged on without it costing you). You don't need many MOO skills for the course - primarily talking, creating/writing/reading notes and moving from one room to another. Also there is a guest book, a directory of research interests and several other tools you may want to investigate.


Some of you have indicated that you are interested in using the course for teaching real-life students. Please let us know what you'd like to do and how we might give additional help.


This is potentially extremely powerful because it removes much responsibility from authors - they can write freely, assuming that readers can find the meanings of terms in the HG. Lesley West and Stefan Sack are acting as curators but they will need as much help as they can get.

The HG concept extends beyong this course. Already the Biocomputing course intends to set one up, and there are plans in other disciplines. Before announcing it more generally, I'd like to get a really good example for THIS course.


This course is unlike any other - perhaps the closest analogy is with a tutorial system - where much of the material is gathered by the students. Therefore it's up to YOU how it works - we'll take suggsetions very positively. At present the most important thing is to share the very real excitement of both the international/internet community, and the extraordinary protein structures that we see in the journals every week.

There are many very exciting things that we could do and I hope these ideas will come from *you*. For example, a current awareness seminar in BioMOO, or 'this week's star protein - pictures and brief abstract', or interactive WWW tools.

Of course there will be things that don't work out. But the technology is well proven in many areas, so if it doesn't work at first, ask for help. Don't be afraid to talk to people in the course - they are friendly humans, just like you

Finally I'm *really* excited about the number of countries who have joined in. If you would like to contribute something about your country, we'd be delighted. If any of you would like to translate glossary terms into language other than English that would be most exciting. And there *may* be groups of you who share a common (non-English) language who'd like to correspond or meet in BioMOO.


We intend to launch the course at the very end of January, which will include a press conference in London (details later). It would be exciting to demonstrate interactive discussion in BioMOO, so practice your BioMOO skills!

We'll be in touch again soon.


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