Interview with Trevor Forsyth

Trevor Forsyth, the coordinator of the Deuteration JRA, is an instrument scientist at ILL.

Trevor Forsyth

Picture credits: Serge Claisse, ILL

How did the idea for this JRA collaboration come up?

Macromolecular deuteration and other forms of isotope labelling are major priorities in optimising neutron scattering and NMR studies of biological systems. A strong network of scientists has over the years collaborated on the scientific projects and on the development of new methodological approaches. This led to the formation of the Deuteration JRA, with partners from ILL (Life Sciences group), FRM II (Michael Sattler), ISIS at Rutherford Laboratory (Luke Clifton), IBS Grenoble (Christine Ebel), and MPI Martinsried (Hermann Heuman). The purpose of the JRA was to develop a new range of techniques that would enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of existing work, and also broaden the scope for this area of science in the future.

What was it like coordinating collaboration between the different members of the JRA?

It was a pleasure to work with such talented JRA partners and to see the outcomes of the project deliver such a strong impact – both within the consortium and also to the wider scientific community.

What have you and the others involved learned from this collaboration?

All of the JRA partners have learnt a great deal from the project. Furthermore, it is clear that the various institutions involved – including facility operators such as ILL, ISIS, FRM II – have learnt a great deal from the work. There are now clear trends towards more integrated approaches in structural biology, and the natural synergy that exists for the needs of the neutron scattering and NMR communities is an important part of this.

What are the advantages of taking part in a project supported by NMI3?

NMI3 has provided an important political framework linking key large-scale European facilities. This has facilitated connectivity between fundamental scientific activity in the Life Sciences and instrumental developments. Input from biophysicists, biochemists, and molecular biologists in defining instrumental needs is now very evident. NMI3 has also helped emphasise something very obvious but something that is somehow easily forgotten: there is no point is building the best instrumentation in the world if you are not prepared to put serious effort into sample preparation.

What are the plans for your future research? Will you continue participating in this type of collaboration?

The NMI3 Deuteration JRA has resulted in a number of key developments. However there remains a great deal to do for method development. Major progress is possible, for example, in the development of labeling for mammalian cell systems, cell-free synthesis, and in a number of key scientific areas such as the study of intrinsically unfolded proteins (IUPs).