Anne MacNamara

In structural biology, one head may be actually better than two, because the self-sufficient scientist holds an advantage over a group, according to David Speicher, a professor at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia. "When you obtain crystal structures of a protein, this often leads to new hypotheses," he says. "By knowing crystallography, you're not dependent on waiting on someone else to produce the new structures that you want to study."

Recent technological developments that have streamlined procedures for protein purification and production have prompted a spike in interest in structural biology over the past few years. "It's so much easier to get proteins," says Lynne Regan, professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale University. "Protein purification is also faster so there's less time to damage it."

The potential to get more work done more rapidly prompts many scientists to learn new skills to increase their autonomy in...

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