Sarah Butcher, Professor of Structural Biology, takes up her post

The university term reaches a climax with the inauguration ceremony.

Sarah Butcher

One of the sixteen new members of the university to take up post is Sarah Butcher, Professor of Structural Biology.

The British-born Butcher graduated with a first from the University of Bath. She carried out her doctoral research at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg and gained her doctorate from Birkbeck College, the University of London.

Butcher came to Finland at a time when there was growing interest in structural biology. She brought with her expertise on high resolution transmission electron microscopy and three-dimensional image reconstruction.

- I have spent several years developing these methods, perfecting the instruments and training people in this area, so that we can carry out successful research.

The unit headed by Butcher on the Viikki Campus focuses on studying the structures of biological macromolecular complexes, mainly viruses.

- We are currently combining X-ray crystallography and electron cryo-microscopy to determine how the proteins and complexes of membranes transport molecules in and out of cells. Our goal is structure-based drug design targeting the interactions of pathogens, such as viruses, with these cell surface molecules, explains Butcher.

She also coordinates the teaching at the Institute of Biotechnology, and is heavily involved in the HEBIOT and MBIOT degree programmes.

- It is a great privilege to be able to teach motivated students and to carry out fundamental research in a university environment. I enjoy devising courses that are challenging and based on real, hands-on problem solving.

Butcher is happy with the support she has received.

- I have received a lot of support in my work from my close colleagues as well as from the Institute of Biotechnology, the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Biocentrum Helsinki and the Academy of Finland.

Butcher praises the opportunities offered by the University of Helsinki.

- I am committed to staying at the University of Helsinki for as long as the research atmosphere continues to be so stimulating, exciting and at the cutting edge of science.

Text: Kirsikka Mattila
Photo: University of Helsinki

Translation: AAC Noodi Oy

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