Master’s degree in Molecular Biology

I obtained my Second Level Degree in Molecular Biology from the University of Padova in September 2006  with mark 110/110 e lode. I spent one of the two years of the education program in London as an exchange student in the frame of the Erasmus exchange program.

I carried out the research project for my Second Level Degree in the research unit of Photosynthesis of Professor James Barber at Imperial College in London.

During my stay in the laboratory I focused my efforts in the purification of functional Photosystem II (PSII) complexes from various cultures of Synechocystis PCC 6803 in which the PSII was present in relatively small amounts (i.e. from cultures grown in iron depletion and from strains with mutations effecting PSII subunits).

Schematic representation of PSII structure at 3.5 A resolution with magnified OEC

This is the structure of the bacterial PSII that the group of Jim Barber had recently published at the time of my stay in the laboratory and many people around the laboratory were still working in that period at the improvement of the resolution of the structure of the oxigen evolving complex


The result of my efforts was the successful purification of functional and relatively pure PSII complexes from the iron depleted cultures and from the mutant cultures of Synechocystis. The analysis of the particles of PSII obtained from the iron depleted cultures revealed that the Photosystem II did not undergo structural or functional changes upon iron deprivation differently from PSI, which in iron scarcity was surrounded by an extra antenna giving rise to a PSI-antenna supercomplex. According to the evidence that we produced the absence of iron was effecting only the amount of Photosystem but not its structural or functional characteristics.

A pdf version of my dissertation is available for download . The text is written in English and there is a short summary written in Italian at the end of the dissertation.

It is during this experience in the laboratory of James Barber that I acquired much of my knowledge about Photosynthesis and the lot of my abilities as scientist. The beginning of my interest for renewable energies and for artificial photosynthesis also dates back to that period and to the interesting discussions with the scientists with whom I came in touch. From the technical point of view during my Master’s Project I gained some experience with the laboratory techniques of protein biochemistry.