Senior citizens, school girls, and systems biology

Participation in Seniorenakademie and Girls’ Day

April 26th saw an active day of communicating science to the public. In the morning, Ivo Sbalzarini, who is affiliated with the Center for Systems Biology Dresden (CSBD), the TU Dresden and the MPI-CBG, gave a lecture within the Dresdner Seniorenakademie program of the TU Dresden. Ivo, who is the professor of scientific computing for systems biology at TU Dresden, introduced the CSBD and the comparably new field of systems biology to the seniors, who formed a very attentive and interested audience. Sbalzarini’s 1.5-hour talk gave insights into how systems biology and bioinformatics can help to understand life. “Computer science will be for 2020 biology what mathematics is for today’s physics,” Ivo summarized his talk.

The "Dresdner Seniorenakademie Wissenschaft und Kunst" was founded in 1994 and is an initiative of active senior citizens supported by the TU Dresden and many other educational and cultural institutions in Dresden. Each semester offers a broad selection of seminars and lectures in various fields to the elder generation.

Later that day, a group of 14 to 15 years old girls visited the CSBD. Their visit was part of the Girls’ Day program organized by the Faculty of Computer Science at TU Dresden. After a short introduction by Ivo Sbalzarini, the pupils took a dive into the practical aspects of computational biology. In the 3D virtual reality cave, the girls literally walked through liver cells of a mouse and watched the first cell divisions in a roundworm C.elegans embryo. Then, the group had to get creative: the girls were programming music based on genome sequences. The compositions were presented to the audience afterwards. Ulrik Günther and Anastasia Solomatina, two doctoral students from Ivo Sbalzarini’s research group at the CSBD, were impressed by the curiosity and excitement of the girls: “You are more active and enthusiastic than the usual visitors to the cave!” Ulrik complimented the girls.

Girls’ Day is a German-wide campaign, in which a wide range of professions and activities is presented to school girls. Particularly, the girls are encouraged to pursue technical professions and fields, where females are still under-represented, such as in the “MINT” fields (Mathematics, Engineering, Natural Sciences and Technology).