2015 Fall Retreat/Symposium at the Weizmann Institute

2015-10-14

This time we combined our lab-retreat with a "Molecular Machines" symposium at the Weizmann Institute in Israel. Please have a read of the report from Marcin Suskiewicz.

We're in Rehovot, a town just south of Tel Aviv and home to Weizmann Institute, one of the most celebrated centres of world's science. Pundak Haim is a small, family-run restaurant and it's Thursday evening, so relatively quiet. While we're ushered to our places and wait impatiently for the wine and starters to be served, conversations continue to resolve around biochemistry and life in science broadly considered. We've had a day full of talks, seven by group leaders from the Weizmann Institute and four by members of the Clausen group. All centred around 'Molecular machines', the topic of the IMP-Weizmann collaboration symposium that brought us to Israel. The main organisers, Joel Sussman from Weizmann and our Tim, did a really great job putting together a programme unique in its breadth of questions and approaches. Speakers from Weizmann covered a range of topics from cellulose degradation (Ed Bayer), through monitoring allostery with native mass spectrometry (Amnon Horovitz) and mutational analysis of signalling pathways within the proteasome (Ami Navon), to evolution of protein oligomerisation (Emanuel Levy). And these are just some examples. Encouraged by seeing that mechanistic biochemistry still thrives (at least in some places), we've done our best to keep pace by presenting recent results including the allosteric signalling within the Hsp104 disaggregase (Tim), the function of phosphoarginine as a degradation tag in bacteria (D├ębora and Marcin), and the factors involved in myosin folding (Nina). The spirits were high and the discussions plenty, continuing during breaks and then later, over local food, at Pundak Haim. 

Our visit, starting on Wednesday, the evening before the symposium, continued until Sunday. On Friday, we had an internal conference outlining plans for the next six months, it's non-scientific highlight being the pizza brought in by Joel courtesy of Weizmann. This followed by the tour around the Weizmann campus with Ami Navon, featuring olive groves and orange orchards, and the house of the institute's founder, the chemist Haim Weizmann (accidentally, the first president of Israel). On Saturday, we went to Masada and the Dead Sea. October in Israel means still summery weather, but much milder than in summer itself. It means sunny mornings, clement, beautiful evenings. And, in Weizmann at least, it also means science, just like any other month, week, and day here seem to do.