Tag Archive | science

8th edition of the PRBB Open Day

Have you ever been in a research center? Would you like to get to know one from within? Take some minutes to read this blog, and explore what happens when a research center opens its doors to the general public. The Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (PRBB) does this once a year.

The PRBB Open Day is an event that 
aims at getting to know what scientists do, how their day-to-day activity is, and where they work. It is planned to make everyone enjoy, and make all of us understand, maybe even love, science. In the event everyone is invited to play with science, to participate in workshops, to listen and talk about appealing subjects. You can also visit the labs, look at the equipment used, and walk around the building looking for a wide range of activities. But the most interesting is that you will not be alone: the scientists and professionals that work in the PRBB will be there to interact with those participating.

Jornada de portes obertes 2015

This year, there were 296 of them, volunteering on a Saturday to show us all how much fun science is. Some of the highlights of the event included a children’s space, where little girls and boys aged 3 to 8 could become real scientists for a day and learn whether fly larvae have a good sense of smell (the surprising answer -for the little ones- is yes!).

Jornada de portes obertes 2015Jornada de portes obertes 2015

Another very interactive activity were the experiments, including growing your own microbes. Did you think your skin is clean? Well, think twice. More than 500 people used a cotton bud to take a sample of the army of microbes living in their skin and grew them in a Petri dish. Half of the dish was then sprayed with a deodorant. The result? You can check all 500 plaques here – look for yours if you were there!

 Resultats plaques franja horària de 12.00 a 14.00h

Other activities included scientific talks aimed at the general public and the most successful one, with more than 2,300 people participating: the guided visits within the building. There were 11 paral·lel routes, distinguished by colours, and each passed through two laboratories where the scientists explained their work.

Jornada de portes obertes 2015

The day finished with a scientific cafè with three experts on vaccines, which  was recorded and you can watch full here (in Spanish).

cafe cientific vacunes

he success of the event was echoed in several mentions in the media, for example this article in the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia, this announcement in the Catalunya Radio or a couple of TV appearances you can see here and here.

Also, some of the visitors were real fans and tweeted during the event using the #openprbb. You will soon be able to check all tweets and photos in a Storify we are getting ready  for you!

For the time being, we leave you here with an interview Jonas Krebs did to some of the visitors, who were repeating after their good experience last year.


And with Roser’s testimony, who was there last Saturday, and has this to say about her first-hand experience:

“I was at the PRBB last Saturday for the #openPRBB. As part of my Intervals course “Make your research viral”,  I interviewed someone working at the volunteers room and they explained us how the volunteers organize the guided visits, with as many as eleven different coloured routes. My family actually took the pink route at 10:30 – which went through the microscopy unit at the CRG and the Multicell genome lab at the IBE- and they really enjoyed it. Most of the people booked their entry in advance, as we did, so we didn´t have to be in the cue for long. It was very well organized.”

If you missed the PRBB Open Day this year, have a look at this introductory video and make sure you note down the date for next year – October 1st, 2016!


This article has been written by Silvia Moriana, Jonas Krebs, Roser Busquets and Carlos Company, students attending the #viralPRBB Intervals course at the PRBB.


Why are we so few? About women in science



Mar Albà, a PI at the IMIM, one of the centres at the PRBB, has just published in her group’s blog a reflection on the issue of the under-representation of women in permanent academic positions. A topic that has gained new impetus following the recent controversial comments by Tim Hunt.

A rare event which should not be that rare encouraged her to write it. We invite you to read her post entitled “Why are we so few?” and to reflect on this, sadly, still current topic.


You can read a related interview to Joan Steitz (Yale) published in the PRBB’s magainze El·lipse and in this blog here.

“Being in the minority is part of the problem”, Joan Steitz (Yale University and HHMI)

6, Joan Steitz

Joan Steitz, professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, came to Barcelona in January 2015 to participate in the CRG faculty retreat. Considered one of the founders in the field of RNA biology and world-renowned for her many seminal contributions, she is also a prominent activist, promoting scientific careers for women. Mother to a son who followed in her footsteps and wife to a Nobel Prize winner, during her stay at the PRBB she gave a talk about her research into non-coding RNAs and participated in a round table about women in science.

Is science a particularly sexist field?

Not really. I would say it’s comparable to law, finances… all high-pressure and competitive professions seem to have the same problem! Actually, a recent issue of Science shows that the most sexist fields seem to be those which people think you need to be a genius to work in – like physics, and even philosophy! Within science, the biosciences are typically viewed as the most gender-balanced.

When you started, there were virtually no female role models in research… how did that affect you?

Well, as student and even a postdoc, it didn’t even enter my mind that I would become a group leader! I was shocked when I had a job offer. Molecular biology was a new field and there were hardly any US universities that had molecular biologists, so that helped. But I didn’t feel prepared for it at all! However, I always like to rise to challenges and I thought if someone can do it, why not me? But it was scary. There were only a couple of other women at Yale at the time.

Have you ever experienced discrimination due to your gender?

I have seen terrible things happen to others but I have only experienced minor issues. Probably like a lot of women in my generation, I feel I’ve been very lucky and escaped major discrimination.

How has the situation improved over the last 20 years?

Things haven’t changed enough, but they have changed incredibly! There used to be very overt discriminatory comments. Now everyone is more sensitised and these things are not said overtly – that doesn’t mean they are not said in private, at dinner tables, for example. And women still get paid less than men for the same job. So we’re still not there.

What can be done and who should do it?

All we have to do is increase the number of women in science, because being in the minority is definitely not helpful; it’s part of the problem! I don’t know how to do that, though. But changes should come from the top. I’ve seen things improving with a new director, only to go backwards again with another. Also, funding agencies and governments should collect information about the percentages of women applying for and getting grants, make it public, give it to people who are taking the decisions, use it to compare over time and see how things are changing. We need to keep an eye on this.

Some countries are better than others…

A good example is the “120% support grant” in Switzerland. A female researcher who has a small child can choose to work part-time and have a 20% reduction in her salary. She then receives 40% of her salary from the government, which she can use for hiring someone to help in her research, or for child care.

Any advice?

There are implicit bias tests which have uncovered really impressive things. You don’t realise how biased you yourself are and how subject to stereotypes until you do the tests. So, I would suggest all researchers do them and reflect on their own attitudes! Maybe part of the change can come from within.


This interview was published by Maruxa Martínez-Campos in the March 2015 edition of El·lipse, the monthly newspaper of the PRBB

Horses with spots and giraffes with stripes

Shigeru Kondo (Institute of Frontier Biosciences, Osaka University, Japan) gave one of the last talks at the “Computational approaches to networks, cells and tissues” meeting that took place this week  at the PRBB Auditorium.

Co-organised by James Sharpe (CRG) and Hernán López-Schier (HZM), the meeting was supported by QuanTissue, a collaborative European network to bridge the gap between the traditional developmental cell biology, biophysics and systems biology. And so it did!

Most of the nearly 200 participants were physicysts or mathematicians, as one could tell from their presentations and posters full of complicated mathematical formulae. But the subjects they studied were all related to the development of tissues and organs within organisms.

Kondo, for example, talked about the pigmentation pattern of zebrafish and how the Turing model could explain it.

Although his lab found there is no actual diffusion of any molecules, they showed that the interaction between the two types of pigment cells that define the skin patterns in the fish can still be explained by the Turing reaction-diffusion model. Melanophores, one of the cell types, elongate long projections towards xanthophores, the other cell type, and the effect of this is mathematically equivalent to the classical Turing model. Interestingly, he showed how, changing one single gene his lab was able to generate fish with skin patterns resembling most of those present in nature, from leopards and jaguars to zebras. Hence, the title of this posts, with which he finished his talk: “If you want horses with spots or giraffes with stripes, I can make it!”.

The meeting is still going on – another two hours of good science if you rush!

A report by Maruxa Martinez, Scientific Editor at the PRBB

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