Barcelona does research: IRB Barcelona scientists lead hands-on workshop at Fes Recerca!

IRB Barcelona researcher Eli Castellanos explains techniques scientists use to study cancer in fruit flies. (Pepe Encinas, copyright Fundació Caixa Catalunya)
IRB Barcelona researcher Eli Castellanos explains techniques scientists use to study cancer in fruit flies. (Pepe Encinas, copyright Fundació Caixa Catalunya)
  • <p>IRB Barcelona researcher Eli Castellanos explains techniques scientists use to study cancer in fruit flies. (Pepe Encinas, copyright Fundació Caixa Catalunya)<br /></p>
  • <p>Ana Janic helps new workshop participants to compare normal and mutant flies under the microscope. (Pepe Encinas, copyright Fundació Caixa Catalunya)</p>

What would motivate anyone to wake up early on a lazy springtime weekend morning, get dressed, and head to town? Research, of course! Fifty would-be scientists made their way to the Caixa Catalunya Cultural Centre in the "Pedrera" building in Barcelona on Saturday, March 3 for a day filled with science and fun. The occasion was Fes Recerca!, a series of hands-on science workshops aimed at the general public. The events, organized by the Parc Cientific de Barcelona over four weekends in February and March, provide an opportunity for amateur science buffs to experience what it is like to do research and learn about science projects that are currently being carried out at the Park.

IRB Barcelona PhD students Elisabeth Castellanos and Ana Janic, from Cayetano Gonzalez’s lab, presented their latest research projects on cancer in the fruit fly, Drosophila. Participants heard about the mechanisms that Drosophila cells normally use to divide, and learned what happens when these mechanisms fail, causing cells to divide out of control ultimately producing cancer.

Once the theoretical lesson was over, participants put on lab coats, rolled up their sleeves and got down to some good old science. They sorted normal and mutant fly larvae, examined them under the microscope, and dissected the specimens to isolate the larval brains. In just a short time, these new researchers had succesfully mastered basic research techniques.

"It’s great that activities like this are organized. They really bring today’s research right to the public," affirms a 41-year-old clerk who participated in the event. "We enjoyed doing the experiments, and the scientists did a great job of explaining their research. It couldn’t have been easier to understand!"

"The success of this event shows that there is considerable interest and curiosity about science among the public" says Rosina Malagrida, Head of Communications at the PCB and organizer of the event. "What we need to do is create the opportunity for these two worlds to meet. Organizing such an event in La Pedrera, a famous building in the heart of Barcelona, is a wonderful idea. If the public can’t always come to the scientists, then the scientists must go to the public."