Miranda Paley’s favorite structure is:



Source: PDB


Because: it’s the freaking ribosome! While later structures provided better resolution, this structure is the hallmark of visionary Ada Yonath’s career. She was ridiculed for so many years about trying to crystallize the ribosome, and she finally got it! The additional work on the paper modeling in tetracycline to show its mode of action and to further validate the solution to the structure is also well done. —Miranda Paley

George Oh’s favorite structure is:



There is such high symmetry – concentric shapes within shapes, starting with platonic solids and going into bigger polyhedra to fit the number of atoms. The shapes are also interwoven with each other, and the viewer can find a multitude of shapes of all sorts of symmetry. It’s like playing with shape tiles in elementary school, but in 3d! —George Oh

Stephanie Taylor’s favorite structure is:


Stephanie Taylor

Source: Stephanie Taylor


DNA says so much in a single picture. First, getting students to have an idea of what x-ray crystallography IS can be difficult. They have been seeing this odd black and white picture in chapters on DNA in their textbooks since high school, so it obviously has a biology connection.

Second, it connects the importance of the contribution of women in science. Rosalind Franklin not only discerned that the phosphate backbone was on the OUTSIDE of the structure, she also was among the first to crystallize the B form of DNA, which created clearer x-ray diffraction patterns and is more biologically relevant.

Finally, though it is well known, DNA is far from a cliche molecule. Its versatility and stability fascinate biologists, chemists, engineers, and physicists. Every field has a niche for it.

I am certain you will get this answer often, and for the best of reasons — while we have beautiful structures of many things of importance, you will find it difficult to find a scientist (amateur to professional) who is unfamiliar with the beauty of their own legacy and lineage: DNA. —Stephanie Taylor

Vito Capriati’s favorite structure is:

α-Lithiated oxirane


Source: Chemical Science 2014, 5, 528-538


This is the first crystallographic evidence for the structure of a highly reactive lithiated aryloxirane (t½ = 1.6 s at 157 K in THF). All operations were carried out under a nitrogen atmosphere at the temperature of 100 K. α-Lithiated oxiranes have long considered “fleeting” intermediates in the reaction of epoxides with strong bases, but have nowadays proven to be key synthons for asymmetric synthesis. They are small-ring heterocycles carrying a peculiar polarized Li-C bond which gives them the character of “carbenoids”, thereby exhibiting an amphiphilic behaviour, that is a nucleophilic as well as an electrophilic reactivity. In spite of their widespread use in synthetic strategies, however, information about the reactivity and structural features of these species were lacking before publishing these data. Indeed, It was as well long postulated that was an alkoxy carbene, in equilibrium with the lithiated epoxide, responsible of the carbene-like reactivity observed under certain experimental conditions. The knowledge of the solution and the solid structure of these intermediates may set the scene for future development in the field of α-lithiated epoxides and for controlling stereochemistry in C–C bond forming reactions onto an oxirane moiety. —Vito Capriati

Ombretta Masala’s favorite structure is:

Franklin’s famous “photograph 51” that finally revealed the helical structure of DNA


Source: www.nobelprize.org


It was Franklin’s famous X-ray diffraction photo that finally revealed the helical structure of DNA to Watson and Crick in 1953.

It is my favourite because it solved the puzzle of the elusive structure of the DNA and I like the story behind. Franklin was robbed of recognition because Photo 51 enabled Watson, Crick, and Wilkins to deduce the correct structure for DNA, which they published in a series of articles in the journal Nature in April 1953 without Franklin. Franklin’s image of the DNA molecule was key to deciphering its structure, but only Watson, Crick, and Wilkins received the 1962 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for their work (Franklin died four years earlier and Nobel prizes aren’t awarded posthumously).

It is thought as one of the most well-known—and shameful—instances of a researcher being robbed of credit and in particular of a woman scientist who was snubbed due to sexism. —Ombretta Masala