Chemistry prof co-chairs international gathering of crystallographers, July 20 to 24

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This weekend, 650 scientists, academics and students from around the world will converge on Toronto for the American Crystallographic Association’s (ACA) 68th Annual Meeting. The event will be held July 20 to 24.

Gerald Audette

York University will play a prominent role in the meeting as the event’s co-chair is York Chemistry Professor Gerald Audette. Attending from York University will be a number of researchers and graduate students.

The meeting is the high point for researchers in this diverse field. Crystallography has applications in all of the sciences and is the study of atomic and molecular structure. Those who specialize in this important discipline investigate how the atoms in a material are arranged in order to understand the relationship between atomic structure and the properties of the material.

“I have been involved with the ACA since 1995 when I started graduate studies, almost 25 years. It is my first, and main, professional association and this is the meeting that I try to attend every year,” Audette says. “I have also been chair (2012-14) of the Canadian Division of the ACA and have also served as the secretary for the Canadian Division.”

As the conference co-chair, Audette says he has had a particular focus in trying to get as many trainees, including students and postdoctoral Fellows, to present their work as a talk. The full conference program is available at

“What is really important here is the targeted sessions and events for young scientists such as the career development workshop and the mixers,” says Audette. “These opportunities to interact are really important for trainees to make those all-important contacts in the field (it was instrumental for me).”

As co-chair, he also focused on sessions that would offer best practices with talks by the individuals who actually write the code for all the software used by crystallographers. As well, he has tried to ensure that the program is not solely focused entirely on structural biology, his area of research. “This is definitely a big thing, but there is much more to crystallography than biology including chemistry, materials sciences, mineralogy and others.”

He has also focused on sessions that would offer best practices with talks, for example, by the individuals who actually write the code for all the software used in crystallography. As well, in planning the event he has tried to ensure that the program is not solely focused entirely on structural biology and that it has a public session.

Audette highlights that talks feature top researchers in the field and include topics such as structure-based drug design, the structural biology of pathogens, cryo-electron microscopy, materials science, and more.

The plenary talk will be delivered by Nobel Laureate and University of Toronto Professor John Polanyi. York University science and technology Professor Natasha Myers will deliver the post-dinner talk.

There will be one session that is open to the public on Monday, July 23, and is organized in collaboration with the International Space Station ( It is free for high school and university students who are interested in learning more about crystallography. “I ask that people email me at to let me know if they would like to attend [for planning purposes],” says Audette. “The session starts at 1:30 p.m. and has a few Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) related talks and includes a hands-on component.

For his part, Audette is interested in understanding how bacteria assemble purpose-built nanoscale structures that are used for any number of cool things, such as sticking to surfaces, getting molecules in/out of the cell, infection, motility etc. To learn more about his work see the Nov. 23, 2016 YFile interview.

More about the American Crystallographic Association (ACA)

The ACA is a non-profit, scientific organization of over 1,300 members in more than 35 countries.  ACA was founded in 1949 through a merger of the American Society for X-Ray and Electron Diffraction (ASXRED) and the Crystallographic Society of America (CSA). The objective of the ACA is to promote interactions among scientists who study the structure of matter at atomic (or near atomic) resolution. These interactions will advance experimental and computational aspects of crystallography and diffraction. Understanding the nature of the forces that both control and result from the molecular and atomic arrangements in matter will help shed light on chemical interactions in nature and can therefore lead to cures for disease.