Portuguese teacher gets hands-on look at cutting-edge research at EMBL, Germany

July 24, 2003

On July 7, 2003, Portuguese teacher Maria Goretti Matos arrived at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany to spend three days in the laboratory, working side-by-side with top scientists.

Maria Goretti was one of 15 teachers taking part in the course organized by the European Learning Laboratory for the Life Sciences (ELLS), a new facility devoted to science education located within the EMBL. Participants came from Portugal, Italy, Germany, United Kingdom, Switzerland and the United States, eager to update their scientific knowledge and to gain the tools to bring the latest research back to their classrooms.

The teachers did experiments ranging from the behaviour of single molecules to the development of several complex organisms, using some of the most advanced tools in molecular biology.

"During the different activities we performed, I kept imagining the best ways to integrate what I learned in my class activities next year," notes Maria Goretti, who teaches chemistry and physics to high school students at Escola Secundária Reynaldo dos Santos in Vila Franca de Xira in the south of Portugal. "The focus on biology was not an obstacle for me as the borders between the different disciplines are blurring - we can no longer teach physics and chemistry without referring to biology."

Although all of the ELLS activities are free of charge, Maria Goretti's teaching salary did not allow her to cover the cost of travel and accomodation for the course. Fortunately, two Portuguese institutions understood the importance of the participation of Portuguese teachers in such international training activities. Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian (Serviço de Educação e Bolsas) and the Biotechnology enterprise STABVIDA both generously provided funds to cover costs for Maria to attend.

"My participation in the ELLS LearningLAB was a unique training opportunity which would not have been possible without the support of Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian and STABVIDA," comments Maria Goretti. "I hope that other funding institutions can help our teachers to update their knowledge and consequently modernize the way we teach science in Portugal."
*The next ELLS workshop will take place Oct 22-24, 2003. For registration, please e-mail: ells@embl.de.

European Molecular Biology Laboratory

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