Crystallography - BSc

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, structural databases and use of large-scale X-ray and neutron facilities. The theoretical knowledge will be reinforced by exercises, including numerical exercises.
The students will also gain experience in some practical aspects of crystallization and crystallographic structure determination, through laboratory and computer-based practical classes. A lot of weight is also given to training in critical reading, presentation and discussion of original articles where crystallographic methods are used in a variety of contexts.


BSc Programme in Chemistry
BSc Programme in Biochemistry

Learning outcome


The students must be able to

- Analyze and present selected type of data from crystallization and crystallographic experiments

- Evaluate and discuss crystallization and crystallographic data and the derived structural information based on primary literature and/or database information


The student must be able to:

-  carry out, under guidance, crystallographic experiments and data analysis, such as crystallization, data processing and simple structure determinations, evaluate their results and describe them in writing

-  determine crystallographic space groups from diffraction data

-  read, critically evaluate and explain original articles in English, where crystallography is used as a main method

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

- solve simple quantitative problems in crystallography, e.g. related to diffraction theory


 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 presentation/discussion of original articles) and a practical part (laboratory and computer-based practical sessions). The theoretical part is supported by compulsory electronic quiz. The practical sessions are also compulsory. In the latter weeks the course maybe supplemented with lectures on specialized topics, voluntary practical classes and/or 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.

It is expected that the students are familiar with the content of the courses in introductory maths, chemistry and/or biochemistry at a level expected for first or second year Chemistry or Biochemistry students

The course is very suitable for Chemistry, Biochemistry and NanoScience students. Students from other disciplines 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 cannot be taken if the Crystallography MSc course has already been taken.
The course gives the necessary background to take on a Project outside course scope, BSc or MSc project in crystallography.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20-30 min
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 'learning outcome'

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 22
  • Theory exercises
  • 7
  • Practical exercises
  • 16
  • Excursions
  • 6
  • Colloquia
  • 8
  • Guidance
  • 5
  • Exam
  • 1
  • Preparation
  • 141
  • English
  • 206