Astbury Conversation

The Secret Life of Molecules - 2018 REGISTRATION IS NOW CLOSED

Join a conversation for everyone - whether you are simply interested in science or an active researcher within the field. 

Tuesday 17 April 3:45 - 7:30 pm

Every living organism is made up of complex molecules, built from millions of atoms which perform all of the chemical reactions essential for life. During these reactions atoms change places and new molecules are formed. And it’s not just living organisms - understanding how atoms move and how molecules work are key to many areas including chemistry, physics, engineering and biological sciences. ‘The Secret Life of Molecules’ will give you an insight into this hidden world.

Find out for yourself some of the science behind aspects of daily life that we take for granted, and hear how the understanding that we are developing now could help shape the future.


3:45pm Exhibition opens with interactive displays; refreshments

4:30pm Lecture by Professor Bian Kobilka who will talk about how our understanding poses challenges for drug discovery and how his work resulted in being awarded a Nobel Prize

5:30pm Reception with food and wine, exhibition continues

Admission is free.

If you have any queries, please contact Lucy Gray on 0113 343 3086 or

The Public Exhibition

Tuesday 17 April - Open from 3:45pm

Location: Parkinson Court, University of Leeds

Come along to our market place of interactive, hands-on activities and see demonstrations from the various Astbury disciplines of chemistry, physics and biological sciences.

Exhibits include:

Fighting antimicrobial resistance

The high level of antibiotics use has led to a dramatic rise in drug resistant infections with frequent reports in the international press of looming catastrophes. Researcher in Leeds are developing a diagnostic to detect specific proteins in blood samples that can distinguish between viral and bacterial infections. In this way they use our own bodies responses to an infection to determine whether antibiotics, which do not help against viral infections, are necessary.

How do light microscopes work and what can we see with them?

Light microscopes are used everywhere to find out more about detailed cell structure. This stall will explore light microscopy from very simple microscopes that anyone can build, to more sophisticated microscopes that we use in the research lab, and what we can see with them.

Using computer simulations to study biomolecules

At a time when we witness an ever-expanding use of computers, we will demonstrate how computer simulations and modelling can be used to study proteins found in cells in molecular detail. These computer-based techniques can be used e.g. for computational drug discovery and for studying the dynamics of viruses.

The Superposition

The Superposition is a Leeds-based network for artists, makers and scientists to collaborate. We will exhibit a selection of bioscience-inspired art that has come to fruition through this network, with cross-length scale inspiration from membrane-deforming complexes and 3D protein networks to the architecture and mechanics of the cell, the mathematical principles that govern growth, symbiosis and the underpinning thermodynamic principles of life.

Playing with Protein-Protein Interactions

The activity will comprise a video explaining the Perturbuation of Protein-Protein Interactions (PoPPI) Project and models to allow users to conceptualize what protein-protein interactions are, the relevance of mutation, and how small molecule drugs can inhibit protein-protein interactions

The Complex Life of Sugars

There is much more to sugar than the white crystals you put in your tea! We will explain the many roles of complex sugars in biology and medicine.

Seeing is believing: Cool Microscopy at Leeds

The University of Leeds is home to two of the most powerful electron microscopes in the world for studying proteins and cells. While the microscopes themselves are huge, more than 4m high, they allow us to look at microscopic proteins and viruses with enough detail to see their individual building blocks. Come and see for yourself how this world class equipment is helping us tackle some of the biggest challenges of our time, including antibiotic resistance, cancer, dementia and more.

ReAction - Design. Discover. Develop.

Design reactions of building blocks. Discover what’s active. Develop your ideas to find the perfect match. ReAction simulates Activity-Directed Synthesis; the new evolutionary approach for the discovery of bioactive small molecules.

Proteins behaving badly: the effect of flow on aggregation

Fluid flow can cause proteins to unravel and stick together in a process called aggregation. This can be useful, for example in causing blood to clot, however it can also be damaging - aggregation can halt the development of promising biopharmaceutical drugs before they reach a patient. Our demonstration shows the ways we build devices to help assess the role of flow on aggregation.

What’s the GAG? – How sugar molecules guide our immune response

The extracellular matrix is a dynamic network of molecules surrounding cells that provides support and structure to the tissues in our body. Amongst its many components, sugar molecules called glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) are vital for guiding immune cells on their way to sites of inflammation. Here, we present our biophysical models to decipher how they do this.

The sensational world of GPCRs

With sensory, visual and tasting experiments, we will illustrate the versatility and importance of G-protein coupled receptors and their occurrence in everyman’s daily life.

Academic drug discovery

Our group is interested in the identification and optimisation of small molecule modulators of a wide-range of target classes to support both the understanding of biological mechanism (pharmacological tool compounds) and as potential starting points for future drug discovery (hits and leads).

Enzymes make the world go round

Enzymes are biological machines present in all living things. They speed up chemical reactions and help our bodies turn food into energy. Enzymes can also aid us with our everyday needs, for example, washing powders containing enzymes are more effective. In this activity, you will see several enzymes in action!

The Public Lecture

G protein coupled receptors: challenges for drug discovery by Nobel Laureate Brian Kobilka MD, Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology

Tuesday 17 April 2018 at 4.30pm

Great Hall - University of Leeds

Following on from the Exhibition, Nobel Laureate Brian Kobilka MD, Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology at Stanford University School of Medicine will deliver a lecture drawing on his extensive experience in this area.