The annual CRBS (Centre de recherche en biologie structurale) symposium was held again in person on November 7, 2022, after the last two editions being held remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The symposium welcomed around 200 attendees from Quebec and Ontario, as well as distinguished plenary speakers from around the world. This is the fourth year that the CRBS has hosted its annual symposium but its predecessor, le Groupe de recherche axé sur la structure des protéines (GRASP), had organized similar symposia since 2008.

The symposium, sponsored by Bruker, Cytiva and Systems for Research (SFR), is dedicated to, “providing a venue for regional and international structural biologists and biophysicists to meet and discuss new and emerging research,” explained Martin Schmeing, PhD, Director of the CRBS.

The event featured three keynote speakers working on the development of new integrative structural biology approaches to study DNA replication and repair. Alessandro Costa, PhD,  Principal Group Leader at the Francis Crick Institute in London, UK, presented his seminal cryo-electron microscopy work describing the activation of eukaryotic origins of replication. Maria Spies, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Radiation Oncology at the University of Iowa, gave a compelling talk about her creative uses of single molecule fluorescence microscopy techniques to study DNA replication, repair and recombination. Lastly, David Schriemer, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at the University of Calgary, provided a forward-looking vision for structural proteomics in the post-AlphaFold world. Talks from new CRBS member,  Jérôme Waldispühl, PhD, (McGill University), and early career investigator   Siavash Vahidi, PhD, (Assistant Professor, University of Guelph), served as their introduction to the community   . The day also included oral presentations from the two recipients  of the CRBS’ Prix Annuel d’Excellence, a prize supported by the Fonds de Recherche du Québec – Santé (FRQS), talks from select trainees, and poster presentations.

Martin Schmeing, PhD, (right) Director of the CRBS, poses for a photo with the winners of the CRBS Prix Annuel d’Excellence, Lauralicia Sacre (left), PhD student in the Guarné lab, and Annie Shao, M.Sc. student in the Thibodeaux lab (center).

Celebrating Excellence

Of the more than 80 abstracts  submitted to the symposium committee, 8 trainees were selected to present short talks and the rest presented at the poster sessions. Congratulations to the trainees who were selected to give an oral presentation at the event:

  • Dominic Arpin – PhD student, McGill University
  • Meriem Beniani – MSc student, INRS-Armand Frappier
  • Hossein Davarinejad – PhD student, University of Ottawa
  • Léonie Frigon – PhD student, Université de Montréal
  • Daniel Moses – MSc student, McGill University
  • Angelos Pistofidis – PhD student, McGill University
  • Tara Shomali – MSc student, McGill University
  • Michael Wozny – Post-Doc, McGill University

Three lively poster sessions provided ample opportunities for trainees to interact with the research community. “What makes this event extra special is the opportunity it gives to young scientists to present their work, in a conference setting and receive critical feedback from experts,” said Prof. Schmeing. “It helps them grow in their scientific development.”

Attendees socialize at the kick-off of the poster session.

All posters were evaluated by two members of the community and the top presenters were selected based on the quality of their work, their presentation and ability to answer questions.

The 2022 CRBS poster winners. Back row, from left to right: Thibault Legal, Alexia Piercey, Corbin Black, Martin Schmeing, Margaryta Babych, Elise Rouleau-Turcotte, Rebecca Cummer. Front row, from left to right: Sabrina Grégoire, Itai Sharon, Javier Rodriguez-Gonzalez, Mariem Chalbi.

First-ever recipient of the Jason Young Service Award

This year’s symposium also saw the launch of a new student award. Jason Young, PhD, was an Associate Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at McGill University, and a CRBS member, who passed away from cancer earlier this year. Professor Young was enthusiastic about research, and about service, especially as it pertained to student support and development. In his honour, the CRBS created the annual Jason Young Service Award bestowed to a CRBS trainee who has gone above and beyond in their service to the Centre in the previous academic year. Tianxiao  (Peter) Yang, a PhD student in Professor Alba Guarné’s lab, in the Department of Biochemistry at McGill, was awarded the first ever Jason Young Service award. “Peter did an outstanding job as President of the CRBS student council for 2021-2022 and is currently Advisor Emeritus,” said Annick Guyot, PhD, Administrative Coordinator for the CRBS.

Professor Martin Schmeing, PhD, (left) Director of the CRBS, presents the Jason Young Service Award certificate to PhD student Tianxiao (Peter) Yang (right).

Mark your calendars!

The team at the CRBS is already busy preparing for next year’s symposium, which will be held on November 6, 2023. More details about the 5th Annual Symposium and other CRBS activities are available on the CRBS website.