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PhD defence Sjors Bakels: ‘From peptide to aggregate: Advances in infrared action spectroscopy’

Date of news: 8 April 2022

Monday 11 April, dr. Sjors Bakels defended his PhD thesis ‘From peptide to aggregate: Advances in infrared action spectroscopy.’ Proteins are one of the major classes of molecules in life. Whereas they have different functions, structures and foldings, they are all built from peptides, short amino acid chains (<50). Peptides can self-assemble into large structural species, also called nanostructures. These are observed in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, but nanostructures can also be formed in a very controlled way, such that they can be used in functional applications. The mechanism underlying this peptide aggregation, and the molecular interactions that guide self-assembly are still food for study.

sjors bakels defence

In his dissertation, Bakels investigates the clustering of model peptides under controlled conditions in the gas phase. He succeeded in aggregating up to 14 peptides together, where previously with this technique no more than 2 peptides could be aggregated together. Subsequently, using the intense, tunable infrared laser light from HFML-FELIX, he could obtain the infrared spectra of these peptide clusters. He was able to assign specific structures to the measured peptide clusters, and thereby taking the understanding of the aggregation mechanism a step further.

Sjors Bakels

Sjors Bakels (left) in the lab, aligning laser light for his research.

Bakels studied Natural Sciences at the Radboud University. Both his bachelor and master internship was done at HFML – FELIX under supervision of Anouk Rijs
(Molecular and Biophysics). A second internship during his master was done at the University of Manchester. His PhD research was also performed at our lab.
Bakels: “I have been around quite some time. During my first internship at the beginning of 2013, the free-electron lasers had just arrived. FELICE was not even in operation yet. I really enjoy performing experiments. Even if it doesn’t all work out as planned.”

Bakels started with a postdoc in the group of prof. Anouk Rijs at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, where he studies the hyphenation of laser spectroscopy with mass spectrometry and ion mobility.


Prof. dr A.M. Rijs (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)
prof. dr. J. Oomens