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.

If you want a general introduction to crystallography, rather than intending to apply what you learn immediately to a project, you may even as an MSc student consider the BSc version of the course (Crystallography-BSc), but please make sure that your study plan allows you to take a BSc course (you may require special permission).


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 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. The practical project will be whenever possible individual, but might have to be carried out in groups if the number of participants is more than 12. This will be decided by the course responsible and communicated to the students at the beginning of the course. Even when the project is carried out in groups, the project report must be written (and will be evaluated) individually.

Reading material from different textbooks and articles will be used. Eg from W. Massa, Crystal structure determination 2nd edition 2004, Springer-Verlag ISBN: 3-540-20644-2; D. Blow, Outline of Crystallography for Biologists, 2002, Oxford University Press, ISBN: 0-19-851051-9; Gregory S. Girolami, X-ray Crystallography, 2015, University Science Books, ISBN13: 9781891389771; Rhodes, Crystallography made crystal clear, 2006, Academic Press, ISBN: 9780125870733.

Please consult Absalon up to the course to see advice on which textbook to buy (you should not buy them all!). 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.

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.

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

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
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
Type of assessment details
The course will be evaluated through an individual written report on the 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.
Exam registration requirements

The students must have actively participated in the practical classes (80% compulsory attendance) and written in groups short reports describing the results from their experiments.

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

Re-examination takes the same form of the ordinary exam.

All practical reports must be handed in.
If the student has not participated in 80% of practical classes, completion of 80% of the practical work will have to be carried out as self-study. Only minimal supervision can be expected and only when justified by safety considerations.

If the project has not been carried out, it will have to be carried out as self-study with minimal supervision. If it has been carried out, but the report not handed in, a report must be handed in. If a report was handed in, a new project report or the previous project report can be handed it.

All exam requirements must be satisfied latest three weeks before the re-examination, and the student must contact the responsible teacher at least four weeks before the re-examination, to agree on the necessary practical details.

Criteria for exam assessment

See 'målbeskrivelser'

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 24
  • Class Instruction
  • 0
  • Preparation
  • 109
  • Theory exercises
  • 7
  • Practical exercises
  • 20
  • Excursions
  • 4
  • Project work
  • 14
  • Guidance
  • 3
  • Exam
  • 25
  • English
  • 206


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 block

Block 2
A few hours of the course may be scheduled outside group C after agreement with the students
The number of seats may be reduced in the late registration period
Study Board of Physics, Chemistry and Nanoscience
Contracting department
  • Department of Chemistry
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator
  • Leila Lo Leggio   (5-7e777b7e7352757a777f407d8740767d)

Leila Lo Leggio,
Anders Kadziola,
Jesper Bendix,

Saved on the 28-02-2023

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