Student Program in XLAB Göttingen and Explo-Heidelberg, October 2008
Students from all over the world were invited to attend a science workshop, free of charge, which coincided with the NYEX board meeting. Participants were chosen based on their motivation and talent. Their specific interest in Biochemistry and Neurophysiology was of special relevance as that is the focus of the program. XLAB staff members, Dr. Barbara Ritter and Dr. Michael Ferber, constructed a program, which prepared students to carry out various experiments and experience the scientific process first hand. One topic of the course was molecular neurophysiology. Membrane and postsynaptic potentials and the propagation of neuronal signals were investigated. Measurements of electrical and chemical synapses of the leech and of a simple neuronal circuit were carried out. In addition the participants examined how electrical fish can send signals and build up electrical fields using the same electrophysiological principles The program started with a lecture by Dr. Ritter, which provided neurophysiologic background material, including an introduction to the structure of neurons, basic aspects of postsynaptic potential, the transfer of ions and the generation of membrane and action potential. With this introduction each participant could understand the science underlying the fascinating experiments to follow.
After thorough preparations, the first day’s experiment was conducted, using Xenophus Laevus oocytes,. Having been given the extracellular potassium concentration, students measured the inner concentration of the potassium, using Nernst Equation. The experiment required the usage of optical binoculars and special glass needles to penetrate membrane. In a special concluding session attended by all board members, the results were summarized in a common presentation of all the students. Despite the difficulty in summing up their results so briefly, in was evident that those three days provided a unique experience to be cherished for many years to come.
The XLAB workshop was preceded by a two day program in Heidelberg, courtesy of Explo-Heidelberg, another NYEX member. The focus of this program was on hands molecular biology experiments. The students had also a unique opportunity to see both Heidelberg and Göttingen, perhaps the most important and interesting university towns in Germany.
The NYEX and the participants are thankful to both XLAB and Explo-Heidelberg for offering and successfully conducting both programs.