Innovating research, policy and education in synthetic and systems biology

Hands-on Research at Summer School

For the second year  Dr.Teuta Pilizota took part in a two-week long summer school called Hands-On Research for Complex Systems at ICTP in Trieste, Italy ( She was joined by her post grad student Dario Miroli and demonstrated an experiment on osmosis in individual bacterial cells using a custom built microscope worth ~£400.

The School is designed to introduce graduate students and young faculty from developing countries to table-top scientific research on problems at the frontiers of science. The table top design should either serve as an example of a teaching lab project for educational purposes, or, even better, exemplify how cutting-edge questions can still be asked with very limited monetary resources.  Experiments on physical, chemical, and biological systems are conducted with modern yet inexpensive digital instrumentation, and the laboratory work is complemented by mathematical modeling and data analysis using Matlab. The Hands-On Schools foster the development of scientific leaders in less developed countries.

Each day for two weeks, small groups of 2-6 participants and two instructors work closely together on an experimental project, where the projects are rotated. In addition, the participants work with faculty on professional development skills (writing, poster presentations and flash talks). They can then apply the learning on their own poster and a flash talk, which are presented during the two weeks with a prospect of winning poster awards.

The School faculty are all eminent scientists who have conducted frontier table-top research published in leading international scientific journals such as NatureScience and Physical Review Letters. While many areas of research now involve large numbers of collaborators using very expensive instrumentation, the Hands-on Research Schools focus on frontier research that can be conducted by individuals or small groups using rather modest instrumentation. Examples are taken from the research of the faculty members.

Dario and Teuta describe the experience at the School as probably the most intense and rewarding teaching experience they have had.

You can find out more about the two-week long summer school on the website (