notes of a protein crystallographer

rue michael servet collage

The protein crystallographer taking 'Notes' at the memorial for the execution of M. Servet (Spanish doctor burned at the stake in 1553) in Geneva, Switzerland. Original photo courtesy of R. Recacha and collage by J. Frye and J. Sukowski.

The title of this section corresponds to my activities as a science writer (communicator). I am member of the National Association of Science Writers and I do think that this part of my 'personal' activity fills a very important niche in my professional life. See also the section 'Bernal's Picasso', where you can find examples of my science communication activities using plays to convey 'scientific drama' and ideas to the lay public.

Notes of a protein crystallographer is a generic title for the essays and brief articles that I have been writing for a few years under this general heading. They appeared first in the Newsletter of the Protein Data Bank, when it was headed by Dr. Joel Sussman and was located at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island New York. Later on, some of these essays have appeared in other professional publications of the macromolecular crystallography community, mainly Acta Crystallographica and Structure. Some early ones were adapted and included in the book 'Crystals and Life', also discussed in this website. I still write them but due to the lack of time, or venue, they are not a regular feature but rather, I prepare them when an issue (or event) primes and provokes my writing muse. Typically also, a shorter or more condensed essay with the same title appeared in the Newsletter of the American Crystallographic Association (ACA) soon thereafter. If you wish to read a brief note, consult the ACA newsletter. If you would like to consult a more scholarly essay, you can find full references in the ACA article. Otherwise, search for the article in the publications above.

This section also contains links and copies of the articles that I have written related to communicating the sciences of macromolecular structure, evolution, X-ray crystallography, Synchrotron radiation to the public. They have typically appeared in El Pais, the widely circulated Spanish newspaper.

I have considered converting or continuing these essays with a regular blog but my writing style prefers (at least for this section) the reflective, well-documented, essay rather that the rapid, almost knee-jerk reflex that is more appropriate for a blog.

If you have further interest in this area of my activities, or wish to have some article, material or piece written, do not hesitate to contact me at the addresses given in the contact tab.

Articles in English

Articles in Spanish

rose window

Early Gothic window of the temple of the Antigua in Valladolid, Spain. This early window is more like an 'oculus' (literally an eye) than a full fledged rose window. Yet their design an execution are elegant in their simplicity. The circular planar symmetry group is 8 mm (Personal collection of the author, courtesy of his friend of college days Ignacio Hernando).

There are over 1,000 stained glass windows to contemplate and enjoy at www.therosewindow.com

journal cover
Cover illustration of the March issue of Acta Crystallographica D: 'Symmetrical merging' of the South rose window of the Gothic cathedral of Burgos in Northern Spain combined with the high symmetry axis view of the cylindrical enclosure (vault) formed by the major vault protein (MVP) from rat liver. Cathedral windows are magnificent examples of planar circular symmetry that are iconic representations of the cosmic view of the Middle Ages. Highly symmetrical atomic objects are frequent in biological structures, representing an atomic view of the biological microcosmos.

Further details and discussion are given in the essay by C. Abad-Zapatero on p. 907. The images are from the author's personal collection and from T. Tsukihara and H. Tanaka, respectively. Journal Link

ACA Newsletter, examples.

If you have interest in further information on other issues of the ACA Newsletter see link.

Example of a Reflexive Essay:


  • “From altar boy to sorcerer’s apprentice: a personal journey of scientific discovery”
    Dr. Celerino Abad-Zapatero (UIC, USA) [ see flyer ]

Articles about me or my work

Other Essays in Various Publications

Book Reviews

Crystallography Reviews, Vol. 13, No. 3, July–September 2007, 1–4

Book reviews: A parable of electronic hobbits and humans. Crystallography Reviews, Vol. 13, No. 3, July–September 2007, 1–4. Book review of 'Live-Net' by D. M. Blow. 2005. Edward Gaskell publishers. Printed by Lazarus Press. Bideford. Devon EX39 3DX. Pgs. 126. Isbn 1-898546-75-4

Title: Live-Net.
Author: DAVID M. BLOW.
2005. Edward Gaskell publishers
Printed by Lazarus Press
Devon EX39 3DX. pgs. 126
ISBN 1-898546-75-4