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Following the successful BioSAS training workshop held at the 2013 American Crystallographic Association annual meeting, the ACA approved a new proposal from MacCHESS for a small-angle scattering workshop bringing together experts in both biology and soft matter. While the foundational physics of scattering is common to all application areas, individual fields have diverged over the years to develop many specialized tools appropriate to the type of matter under investigation. As science advances, however, areas like structural biology, materials science, and engineering have greater overlap. We organized a dual-track workshop this year aimed at getting soft-matter scientists and biologists in one room to promote exchange.

The workshop was held at the 2015 Philadelphia ACA meeting and drew 46 participants. All students were provided with lunch, a set of printed course notes, and a memory stick containing course notes, tutorial data, and other useful material. The two groups shared a morning session on the common basic physics of scattering followed by divided afternoon sessions devoted to practical specifics of the two fields.

Richard Gillilan

Jan Ilavsky (APS) led the morning with a lecture entitled “Biology Meets Soft Matter.” Angela Criswell (Rigaku) gave the first tutorial of the day on basic data processing. Sergio Rodrigues (Xenocs) and Peter Worsch (Anton Paar) spoke about laboratory sources.

The group divided after lunch for field-specific lectures and tutorials. We were fortunate once again to be joined by Jill Trewhella (U. Sydney) who gave two lectures: one on biological specifics of SAS and the other on essential publishing guidelines and good research practice (“Publishing Data: what you should know”). Richard Gillilan (MacCHESS, Cornell) covered P(r) functions and envelope calculations. Kushol Gupta (UPENN) discussed sample preparation, with some introduction to the popular new method SAXS-SEC-MALS.

To provide some instruction on advanced data processing, Susan Krueger and Joseph Curtis (NIST) conducted a SASSIE software tutorial using the new online CCP-SAS platform. This easy-to-use online system bypasses the need for students to install software on their laptops.

Jan Ilavsky (APS) and Kevin Yager (BNL) led the afternoon soft-matter session. Topics covered included physics basics, an introduction to grazing incidence methods, models and instrumentation. The track concluded with an in-depth hands-on tutorial of data processing using the Irena package.

ACA workshop

A website containing software installation instructions, the course schedule, speaker information, and links to tutorial data and online tools will remain active after the course as a general resource for SAS students (

Thanks go to Barbara Herrman and Nika Ablao for website design. Thanks also to Kathy Dedrick and Irina Kriksunov for administrative and logistical support. In addition to our speakers, the non-lecturing members of the organizing committee were Shuo Qian and Volker Urban (ORNL), Thomas Weiss (SSRL), Zhang Jiang (APS), and Andreas Keilbach (Anton Paar).

The workshop would not have been possible without the generous support and participation of our corporate sponsors: Anton Paar, Dectris, Rigaku, and Xenocs.

MacCHESS’s regularly-scheduled BioSAXS Essentials training workshops will continue in late Spring 2016. Be sure to check the CHESS webpage for the official announcement.



Submitted by:
Richard Gillilan, MacCHESS, Cornell University