The International Burch University recently hosted a workshop that delved into the fascinating world of biological research using fruit flies. The workshops were designed for high school students who were interested in exploring the small but powerful creatures that have played a crucial role in some of the most significant scientific discoveries of the past century.
The workshops were held by an IBU graduate, Kenan Krakovic, who completed his postgraduate studies at Harvard University. Kenan, along with a Ph.D. student at IBU, Adna Sijerčić, worked tirelessly for more than a month to select the students who are the right match for the workshops, prepare the teaching materials and experiments and finally teach the students about the wonders of the fly.
The workshops were held for four days, from April 20, 2023, for an online workshop, and from April 24-26, 2023, for three consecutive days, for in-person workshops at the International Burch University's Department of Genetics and Bioengineering labs.
The students who participated in the workshop had the unique opportunity to learn about the use of fruit flies in biological research and how these tiny insects can help researchers understand human genetics and diseases. The workshops were conducted by experienced scientists and educators who guided the students through a series of hands-on activities, including how to culture fruit flies, how to observe and identify different characteristics of the insects, and how to conduct genetic experiments, with a special emphasis on the nervous system.
Each day of the workshops, one internationally recognised Drosophila expert gave a talk through videoconferencing, to illustrate the diverse science using the fly. Dr Andreas Prokop, from the University of Manchester, gave a lecture about studying cytoskeleton in neurodegenerative disease with Drosophila. The second day, Dr Shabab Hannan, a post-doc from the Baylor College of Medicine spoke about how he uses the fly to study genes related to Alzheimer's disease. Finally, on the third day, Dr Lukas Neukomm, from the University of Lausanne, told the students about studying neuronal metabolism in the context of neurodegeneration, again, using Drosophila as the main model organism.
The students were amazed by the capabilities of the fruit flies and the potential of the knowledge they could gain from studying them. They were also able to appreciate the importance of scientific research and how it can impact our daily lives.
"Talking about science with the amount of excitement in Kenan's and also Adna's performance is just worth mentioning. In my opinion, the best thing about these workshops were lab lectures where we could see the true value of these little flies.", said Amina Bašović, a high school student from Gymnasium Visoko, who attended the workshops.
Overall, the workshop was a great success, with the students leaving with a newfound appreciation for the role of fruit flies in biological research and the excitement of the possibility of pursuing a career in the field. The International Burch University hopes to continue to host workshops like this in the future to inspire the next generation of scientists.