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Six weeks in Woods Hole

Posted by , on 23 July 2013

Six weeks of Science.

Forty-four days of lectures, discussions and (sometimes crazy) experiments at the bench.

One thousand fifty-six hours in Woods Hole, attending to the 125th Embryology Course organized by MBL.

I look at the pictures taken during this period and I see a time lapse of the development of 24 students who discovered new models, techniques and perspectives to look at their research and at the world.

Which is the answer at the question “What is the Embryology Course in Woods Hole?”

The Embryology Course in Woods Hole is lectures in the auditory room with major experts in the field of development, it is the possibility of getting into a true scientific discussion after the lecture, it is the experiments in the laboratory at each time of the day and night, it is sharing of knowledge and skills and, much more than this, it consists of a continued cultural exchange thanks to the thirteen Countries represented by the 24 students.

During the Embryology Course we had the unique opportunity of using invertebrate and vertebrate models. After sea urchin, nematodes and arthropods (weeks 1 and 2) and then Xenopus, zebrafish, chick and mouse (weeks 3 and 4), we could approach to Cnidaria, Planaria, Spiralians, Ctenophores, Ascidians and Annelids. Most of these animals are non-model organisms for developmental biology and most of us had never worked on them. The laboratory was full of these organisms with uncommon shape and different colors. The week 5 was dedicated to regeneration and transplant. We evaluated the regeneration ability of the anemone Nematostella, of different species of Planaria and we transplanted tissues from one labeled Hydra to another. We spent days doing movies of the ascidian metamorphosis and of fertilized worm egg development. After each experiments, we did antibody staining or in situ hybridization and we spent hours and hours facing the microscope in order to capture our results. Surprisingly this life-style is not hard, your brain is always activate and your body full of adrenalin, and like playing children, we were never ready to go to bed.

But the Embryology Course is also outside the laboratory. On July 4th all Woods Hole was involved in the parade and the Embryology class bring colors and laughs in the street. During these weeks we train both the mind and the body. With great pleasure I can state I belong to the class, that, after many years, won the Softball match “Embryology vs. Physiology”. We were a real good team not only on the softball field but also in the kitchen. In the laboratory we share our skills and in the kitchen we shared the typical foods of our country. On the table there was pasta, salads, sushi, tandoori chicken, guacamole, turkish salad, chocolate cakes and sweets with peanut butter.

And finally, it is arrived, the dreadful final week 6, the last six days in this Wonderland of Science. Alice, the time is over, and you must wake up, even though there are nor Queen neither playing cards running after you-. The time for the cleaning up of your bench is arrived, suddenly.

Thank you Embryology Course, thank you all the student, thank you the faculties, thank you the TAs, thank you MBL, thank you all the people that makes it possible each year and thank you Woods Hole, the watering landscape of this great experience.

I am thinking that exactly one years ago 24 students were leaving this place with our same feelings, scientifically and personally enriched as we are now. How many Embriology Course students look at this sea and say goodbye to this shore? But I hope. I really do hope that the bonds that link us will be more strong than the distance and the time. And maybe one of us will get back as a lecturer or invited speaker for the 150 year Anniversary Symposium.

Above all, I hope that this Course will be organized over and over, because it is a unique occasion for improving knowledge, acquiring new techniques, working with a vast choice of models, interact with experts in the different fields of development.

During the 2013 Embryology Course, we won several times. We won in the softball match and we won as developing researchers. May those will attend to the 2014 Embryology Course feel grateful and satisfied as I feel now.

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