BioExcel Summer School 2018 in Sardinia

For each of our BioExcel training events we make a limited number of travel bursaries available. We ask the beneficiaries of the BioExcel travel grant to write a blog post for us, either about their experiences at the course, their research interests (in layman’s terms) or a relevant scientific topic.
The following posts are from travel beneficiaries from our recent summer school in Sardinia.


Saheen Shehnaz Begum

Department of Chemical Sciences, Tezpur University

Getting selected for the BioExcel Summer School held at Sardinia, Italy from June 17-22 2018 was exciting. Attending the school and learning first hand from people who are currently developing the software has become an experience of a lifetime.

Although I had to cover a distance of about 7700 km and change between 9 flights during the journey, it was all worth it. Italy is a beautiful country and Sardinia an amazing place. The place of stay (Hotel Mare Pineta) was lovely and so were the people. The organizers really took care of every detail.

The school presented all the contents in a very interesting way. One software each day: It began with a lecture on GROMACS by Mark Abraham and team, which culminated with a tutorial for us to experience what we learned. The second day was dedicated to HADDOCK – theory and tutorial by Alexandre Bonvin, the third to CPMD and finally PMX. Somewhere in between, we, the participants were also given the opportunity to present a flash talk to learn about each other and our research interests, that lead to discussions and talks transforming into friendships :) . The schedule had a perfect balance between learning theory, hands-on experience of using different software, food and of course beach-time!

Before winding up the event, there was a “Get your answers” sessions, where the giants of the field gave answers to all our questions (that we could write in a designated place, whenever we had one) and they even asked for our suggestions, this made us feel like an integral part of what they are planning to do.

Personally, I felt lucky to have had the opportunity to talk to the experts of the field that I am currently working on. I discussed a few problems that I stumbled upon while working with CNT on GROMACS with Mark Abraham and all I can is he has put me in the right direction.

Plus, I met the researchers from different countries who had similar concerns and wonderful ideas that I could delve upon. This Summer School has given me very good friends from different countries, whom I may not have known otherwise.

As of now, I am patiently trying to implement all that I could learn in those 5 days, in my research. I am hoping for BioExcel to continue flourishing and helping researchers all around the globe. I will surely be waiting for my second chance :)


Susana Barrera-Vilarmau

Institute of Advanced Chemistry of Catalonia, Barcelona

The long-awaited moment of finishing my doctorate arrived and now, while I write my thesis, I think of all these years; in the things I wanted to do and in the things I have done, in what I have learned and what I expected to learn. When one starts a large project like a doctoral thesis, our research and learning can end up in unexpected places, which were not one’s first idea. This is not bad, but sometimes one feels that we should have been able to invest some time in something else or something different. That has happened to me with a few computational tools, such as Gromacs (which I would have liked to learn much more during my thesis) or HADDOCK (with which I would have liked to play with a little :P ).

Definitely, the BioExcel Summer School 2018 was a great opportunity :D I am so happy and grateful to had been able to attend! No doubt for me it has been like a friendly pat on the back saying “do you see how you can do it? Do you see how you can understand it?”. For me, apart from knowing the tools and learning how to use them, this stimulus has been the most important.

I have felt very well surrounded by people so different from me, doing such different things and at such diverse scientific and professional career stages. BioExcel assembled a heterogeneous group where we were all different and in which I have felt very comfortable. I have no problem with being different, having followed a different path, but it is boring to be in contexts where there are always people who ask you to justify it.

Move always in congresses that are about “our” protein, “our” biological context, “our” main technique (in my case structural biology, intrinsically disordered proteins, cancer, apoptosis, NMR) makes you feel that your work or story is more of the same, and in science it is necessary to have an open mind to new horizons because that is how new ideas arise, that is how new answers are obtained. That is why it has been so pleasing and stimulating for me to be surrounded by diverse people with diverse problems.

The teachers during the course had an impeccable attitude: close, didactic, even fun. And their tutorials are more than useful :)

I missed having time to visit a bit more of the island. Sardinia must be a paradise for diving. I have no doubt that I will return to check it. Maybe in the next BioExcel Summer School? I would love to be present again :)

Thanks BioExcel! :)


Eddy Elisée

Institut de Chimie des Substances Naturelles

More than a workshop, BioExcel Summer School is a human experience. It allows to meet people working in your field from all over the world (PhD students, Post- doctoral fellows, researchers, team leaders) in a friendly atmosphere. It is the kind of event where you learn, teach, share and exchange the scientific (or not) knowledge.

This summer, BioExcel Summer School took place in Pula, in the wonderful island of Sardinia (Italy). We spent our time between the Research Centre and the hotel, hernear the beach. The program was a mix of expert lectures, well- explained tutorials and student presentations where all questions found an answer.

I really enjoyed the whole summer school since I learnt a lot of things and tips about how to use new bioinformatic tools and how to improve those I frequently use during my PhD. As far as I am concerned, this latter point is very important and exciting since this event gives you the opportunity to directly approach developers or creators of well-known software. You can easily ask questions, state your issues or more interestingly, discuss what you developed using from the current version of the software.

Above all, I met exceptional people coming from Spain, Switzerland, England, Italy, Russia, Armenia, Czech Republic and Netherlands. There was no barrier between organizers and participants: everyone talked with everyone, at lunches, social dinners, during a walk in the ancient city of Nora, or while chilling on the beach. I really recommend people to attend one of the amazing and well-organised BioExcel events in order to find new international friends, new collaborations, or, in general, to enrich your network which is our best ally in Science since together we are stronger than alone.

Let’s share science!


Núbia Prates

Federal University of Minas Gerais

The Summer School on Biomolecular Simulations organized by BioExcel held in Pula, Italy was the first international event that I had participated. They were five amazing days.

The BioExcel offered many lectures related to my research, which was very important for better understanding of the methods that I have been using in my project. It is focused on understanding key elements for the potency and selectivity of chagasin, an endogenous inhibitor of cysteine proteases, against cruzain, the major protease of Trypanosoma cruzi, and its homologous human cathepsin L. The content of the lectures and courses were very interesting and inspired me to try different approaches to answer some questions about my project.

One of the most exciting moments in the school was meeting the researches which I have read some papers or using those programs developed by them. Those moments were like dreams come true. Before that moment I always imagined some scientists as a type of God, impossible to meet them personally, or even to appreciate a good wine together while talking about science and life. Now I know that all these things are possible and they are a human being like me. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in this summer school.

Also, during the school I enjoyed having the opportunity to meet students from different part of the world, giving me an insight into their history and culture. Fortunately, some of them became good friends, and I look forward to seeing soon, perhaps in another course organized by BioExcel, that by the way, I would apply again with no doubt.