Publication date

The European Researchers' Night, an Europe-wide public event, which displays the diversity of science and its impact on citizens' daily lives in fun, inspiring ways, will take place in 25 countries on Friday 30 September 2022.


UCIBIO will be in the European Researchers Night with various activities developed by UCIBIO researchers in the National Museum of Natural History and Science:

A. 3D proteins for sustainable bioprocesses in a sustainable world

Researchers: Cristiano Mota, Guilherme Vilela, João Ferreira, Filipa Engrola, Ana Luisa Carvalho - XTAL Macromolecular Crystallography Laboratory


The Protein Crystallography Laboratory (XTAL) is a research group of the Applied Biomolecular Sciences Unit (UCIBIO), a research unit of the Faculty of Sciences and Technology of the NOVA University of Lisbon. We use various biochemical and biophysical methods to study proteins, isolated or in complexes with other substances, materials, metals, carbohydrates. We have experience and international recognition in the functional and structural characterization of proteins from different organisms with nutritional, biomedical, pharmaceutical or biotechnological relevance.

Through X-Ray Crystallography and SAXS we study macromolecular complexes that work like small machines. Determining their atomic structures is crucial to understanding how different proteins behave and recognize other molecules in the cell environment. Among the various activities that we propose, using videos prepared by us, we will illustrate scientific problems that we face and some of the resources we
use to solve them. An interactive Quiz on Structural Biology will be implemented.

Moreover, we will present videos of short interviews with scientists and videos focusing on four projects from our laboratory to solve biological proteins: A protein capable of fixing carbon dioxide, a protein that synthesizes polyhydroxyalkanoates (bioplastic), proteins that participate in biofuel production and a protein that detoxifies arsenic.

For the 2022 European Researchers' Night, we invite the general public to attend a brief explanation of what proteins are and how their three-dimensional structures are crucial to their functions. We will also give a brief demonstration of how information about their structures can be obtained through X-ray crystallography and how several images of a protein in operation can be captured in order to be able to make a video of the reaction. The public will be able to view protein crystals under a microscope, interactive electronic maps and a short video on how can be possible to obtain the different structures in the reaction time.


B. Sugars: More than sweet molecules!


Researchers: Benedita Andrade Pinheiro, Maria Angelina de Sá Palma, Raquel Lopes Costa, Nuno Filipe Lavos Lopes, Viviana Gomes Correia - Functional Glycobiology Lab


The Functional Glycobiology laboratory (GlycoLab) is a research group from the Applied Molecular Biosciences Unit, a research unit from the School of Science and Technology from the NOVA Lisbon University.
We are committed in understanding the protein-glycan (sugar) interaction, essential to cell-cell, symbiont-host and parasite-host interactions. The studies of these protein-glycan interactions allow the development of new glycan-based therapies. We use the glycan-microarray technology to identify functional glycans for proteins in a proteomic scale. Through an integrative approach, we use structural biology to understand, at a molecular level how proteins from different sources – immune system, human microbiome and pathogens – recognise these functional glycans.

In this European Researchers’ Night we will show the importance of glycans in Health in a fun and relaxed way. We will have in our stand examples of tools that we use in the laboratory, with the microarrays as main feature. Additionally, we will have an interactive game and several educational videos on display for publicizing the importance and basic principles of Glycobiology.


C. From wastes to biopolymers


Researchers: Joana Fradinho, Cristiana Torres, Mónica Carvalheira - Biochemical Engineering Lab


Bacteria have the capacity to produce biodegradable plastics and many other biopolymers with interesting applications in the pharmaceutical industry, food, cosmetic, biomedicine, packaging, etc. Bacteria can produce these biopolymers from industrial wastes, which would have to be
discarded, treated or incinerated. In this activity the production of biopolymers will be explained, and different examples of biopolymers and applications will be demonstrated. Hands-on activities will also be provided for the production of biopolymers spheres, emulsions, etc.


D. Bacteria that kill bacteria


Researchers: Susana P. Gaudêncio, Rita G. Sobral, Joana Almeida, Daniela Parreira, Sara Cardoso - Blue Biotechnology and Biomedicine LabMolmicro of Bacterial Pathogens Lab


The oceans are the main resource for the discovery of new natural products with industrial applications. Actinobacteria have proven genetic capability of producing bioactive compounds. In fact, 70% of the commercial antibiotics are produced by these bacteria. This activity reveals actinobacteria that are of marine origin, which produce antibacterial compounds that inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus - MRSA.


E. What is an enzyme? Where do we use enzymes? Meet the enzyme that can help in the preservation of the ozone layer


Researchers: Sofia PauletaMicrobial Stress Lab


Enzymes catalyze several reactions, being essential to the Life of all living organisms. In the experiments that you will carry out, you will identify the action of enzymes that are involved in the digestion of food and are used in biological washing powders (lower use of energy and less pollutants).

Nitrous oxide is responsible for the destruction of the ozone layer and has a greenhouse gas capacity 300 times greater than CO2. This gas is released into the atmosphere due to anthropogenic activities (industry, transport), as well as intensive agriculture using inorganic fertilizers. In these experiments you will get acquainted with the only enzyme that can reduce nitrous oxide to molecular nitrogen, nitrous oxide reductase. You will get to know its colors, associated with different forms of the enzyme and its three-dimensional structure. You can also do experiments where the marine bacterium that produces it will reduce nitrite to molecular nitrogen.


F. Proteins for a Sustainable Future


Researchers: Susana Palma, Carina Esteves, Margarida Dias, Arménio Barbosa, Catarina Domingues, Carlos Costa, Inês Padrão, Ana Madalena Garcia and Cátia Soares - Biomolecular Engineering Lab


Did you know that aminoacids are the basic unit of any protein? Proteins are molecules present in all living beings. There are countless proteins in the world with varied functions and there are many more to discover. It is even possible to produce proteins in the laboratory to make new sustainable materials. Come to our booth and meet some proteins!

We are going to show how protein-based materials can have the ability to smell, using the electronic nose that we have developed in our Laboratory, the Biomolecular Engineering Group at FCT-NOVA. Did you know that food freshness can be monitored through odors? And that some diseases have associated odors? Our goal is that this electronic nose will one day help prevent food waste and diagnose diseases more quickly. Another great use of proteins is the production of medicines. Biological medicines, or biopharmaceuticals, often have their origin in proteins. Before reaching you, these medicines have to be produced and purified. We will teach you how the purification of a biopharmaceutical works and how to make it more sustainable.