KrebsFest

The KrebsFest was a celebration of the achievements and legacy of Sir Hans Krebs, and happened in October and November 2015.

Hans Krebs was born in Hildesheim, Germany, in 1900, and came to England in 1933 after being dismissed from his University post for being Jewish. He arrived at Sheffield in 1935 and stayed there till 1954. He worked on metabolic pathways, and discovered three key series of metabolic reactions that are cycles. This makes them much more efficient and means that the cycles can be used catalytically to generate energy and biochemicals for the cell. The first cycle he discovered was the urea cycle, also known as the ornithine cycle, and is used in the body to remove waste ammonia by converting it to urea. It was the first biochemical cycle to be discovered. His most famous discovery was the citric acid cycle, also called the TCA cycle or Krebs cycle. This is the set of reactions used to generate most of our energy from sugars; it also produces precursors used in biosynthesis. In animals it takes place in a specialised organelle called the mitochondrion. The third cycle was the glyoxylate cycle, a variant of the Krebs cycle found in plants and fungi.

Krebs received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1953 for his discovery of the Krebs cyle, and was knighted in 1958. He was the first head of the Department of Biochemistry at Sheffield, now part of the Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology.


KrebsFest artworkThe KrebsFest involved a combination of art and science, including the commissioning of several new artworks, including a portrait of Sir Hans Krebs, a model of a mitochondrion created from glass, and a painting in the form of a cycle representing the work of Krebs. These are currently on display in the Firth Court building.

KrebsFest art installationsIt also involved two stunning art installations. One was a 28-metre inflatable E. coli cell, complete with cilia and flagellae, and the second was a model of green fluorescent protein (GFP), made out of origami (shown here with the artist). These were initially put up in the Winter Garden in the centre of Sheffield, and then moved to Firth Court. The E. coli cell was suspended from the ceiling of Firth Hall, occupying much of the roof space, and the GFP was housed just outside Firth Hall. The E. coli cell has now been removed, but the GFP model can still be seen.

KrebsFest scalesThere was a display in the Western Bank library, including some of the original papers and equipment of Hans Krebs. It also included a set of objects created using a 3D printer, showing how photosynthesis works, moving in from the leaf to the chlorophyll molecule.

KrebsFest liveA highlight of KrebsFest was a public night, providing a mixture of art and science. This included a range of live dance from the Balbir Singh dance company, and a live performance of the Krebs Rap by Oort Kuiper.

KrebsFest public dayBut most of the open night was an extravaganza of presentations. The image above shows (top row): microscope images of cells and the colours in your mobile phone (wow!); a busy Firth Hall plus the giant E. coli; making your own ice cream using liquid nitrogen; (middle row) Firth Hall lit up by projections of videos and images, including (centre) the battle between the immune system and microbes illustrated with the aid of audience participation; (bottom row) walking on custard; nuclear magnetic resonance; viewing inside proteins using virtual reality.

Roberts, Hoffmann, NurseKrebsFest also included three sell-out lectures by Nobel Prize winners:

(left) Richard Roberts - one of our favourite Nobel Prize winners because he did his first degree and PhD at Sheffield. He won the prize in Chemistry in 1993 for discovering introns - pieces of DNA that sit inside eukaryotic genes. He talked on the need for research on genetically modified organisms. (middle) Jules Hoffmann, awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2011 for showing how the innate immune system combats infections, talked about his research, comparing innate immunity in insects and humans. (right) Paul Nurse, awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2001 for his work on the cell cycle, which controls when cells grow and divide, talked on the great ideas of biology, and how these have shaped the way biology is done.

KrebsFest also looked to the future, by focussing on three new initiatives being undertaken at Sheffield to look at the hidden workings of life: Imagine (Imaging Life), the Grantham Centre for sustainable futures, and the Florey Institute for host-pathogen interactions.

KrebsFest involved a large number of people from across the University (not least the Public Engagement team) and beyond. We owe particular thanks to two people shown below: Prof Simon Foster (left - selfie taken at the public night using infrared) and Dr Nate Adams (right, with [real!] snake).

Prof Simon Foster and Dr Nate Adams