Crystallography - MSc

Course content

Crystallography is the main technique by which the three-dimensional structures of molecules are determined. One advantage of crystallography is that similar methods can be used to determine the structure of molecules ranging in size from just a few atoms to the size of ribosomal particle (in the MDa range).

The aim of this course is to provide the student with fundamental knowledge about the crystallographic methods used to determine the structure of crystalline materials, especially single crystals of bio-macromolecules and small molecules, covering the main aspects of chemical and macromolecular crystallography from crystallization to structure validation. All students will be introduced to both chemical and macromolecular crystallography, but for part of the course the student will be able to choose between a chemical crystallography or macromolecular line, giving additional training specifically in the area of choice.

Considerable weight is given to the practical part, in which the students will gain experience in structure determination and the use of structural databases, through laboratory and computer-based practical classes and an individual research-based project. The students will be trained in critical reading of original articles and written presentation of own results on structure determination by X-ray crystallography, in particular through writing of a report on their individual project.


MSc Programme in Chemistry
MSc Programme in Biochemistry
MSc Programme in Nanoscience

Learning outcome


The students must be able to

- Plan and carry out a small crystallographic project within given constraints of time and resources

- Analyze standard crystallographic data

- Evaluate structural models derived from crystallographic data (e.g. from structural databases)

- Evaluate and discuss the quality of crystallographic data and the derived structural information from literature and scientific databases


The student must be able to:

-  plan and set up crystallization experiments

-  process and determine crystallographic space groups from diffraction data

-  determine crystallographic structures

-  read and critically evaluate original articles and literature in the field

-  make use of crystal structure databases for structural comparison and to evaluate structure quality

-  undertake, with some guidance, their own small crystallographic project, including design, performance, interpretation of experiments and written communication of used methods, results and discussion of significance


 The students must demonstrate knowledge of:

- Crystallization and diffraction theory
- Crystal symmetry
- Crystallographic structure determination methods
- Structure validation

The course consists of a theoretical part (lectures, exercise classes and discussion of original articles) and a practical part (laboratory and computer-based practical sessions). The practical sessions are compulsory. In the latter weeks, a short individual practical project is carried out, and the course maybe supplemented with lectures/practical classes on specialized topics and a visit to the MAX IV synchrotron.

In 2017 we have used the following textbooks – however they may be subject to change so please check with the responsible teacher or on Absalon before buying: W. Massa, Crystal structure determination 2nd edition 2004 (chemical crystallography), Springer-Verlag ISBN: 3-540-20644-2; D. Blow, Outline of Crystallography for Biologists, 2002, Oxford University Press, ISBN: 0-19-851051-9. Additional notes, reviews and articles will be available on Absalon.

Students with a BSc-degree in chemistry, biochemistry and nanoscience have good basis for taking this course. Students with related bachelor degrees (for example biology or molecular biomedicine) are recommended to contact the teacher before registering in order to discuss their background knowledge as compared to the level of the course.

The course is very suitable for Chemistry, Biochemistry and NanoScience students.
It's not possible to take this course if you already have taken Crystallography-BSc

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment, A report on the project is submitted on a given date towards the end of the course.
Oral examination, 20-30 min under invigilation
The course will be evaluated through a written report on the individual project (with a weight of about 30%) and an oral exam covering the content of the course (with a weight of about 70 %). Based on these an overall mark will be given.
For the oral exam, students are allowed to look briefly (2 mins) at short lists of key points they may have prepared at home before they start their answering (see section on aids). No other preparation time is allowed.
Only certain aids allowed

The students are allowed to look briefly at short lists of key points they may have prepared at home, once they find out which main topics are to be covered in their oral examination (lottery drawn). They are also allowed to look up information in appropriate tables in the textbooks or International tables provided at the oral exam. No other aids are allowed.

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
several internal examiners
Criteria for exam assessment

See 'målbeskrivelser'

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 24
  • Theory exercises
  • 7
  • Practical exercises
  • 20
  • Excursions
  • 6
  • Colloquia
  • 0
  • Project work
  • 12
  • Guidance
  • 3
  • Exam
  • 25
  • Preparation
  • 109
  • English
  • 206