An important component of modern biology is the determination of the three-dimensional structures of large biomolecules such as proteins and nucleic acids and examination of the interaction of biomolecular complexes. The methods that are used for determination of macromolecular structure, namely x-ray crystallography, NMR spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, and neutron scattering, have advanced greatly within the last few years. New techniques in mass spectrometry can now provide insight to primary structure and determination of exact mass of normal and modified biopolymers. Small angle neutron scattering (SANS) provides an exquisite means for evaluating complexes that form between biological molecules and for evaluating conformational changes that occur in solution. Also, new powerful computational methods can provide a means of predicting protein folds and can be valuable in supporting structural data.
The GST program provides an opportunity for students to train in the areas encompassed by structural biology and proteomics. Faculty at the University of Tennessee and at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory are involved in cutting edge research using the tools of macromolecular x-ray crystallography, NMR spectroscopy, mass spectrometry and small angle neutron scattering, as well as computational methods for structural biology. A cornerstone for structural biology at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the center for structural molecular biology that will include a small-angle neutron scattering facility for studying biomolecules and biomolecular complexes. ORNL also has world-class capabilities in biological mass spectrometry, with particular emphasis in trapped ion mass spectrometry-based techniques for the characterization of normal and modified biopolymers. Also at ORNL are diverse resources and expertise in computational biology and bioinformatics. The GST program is unique in that it provides a cross-disciplinary approach to assigning structural and functional information to the genomic database that is expanding rapidly.