Jan 212015


If you are looking for a place of innovative, ready-made teaching resources for the biology classroom, look no further than the ELLS TeachingBASE. Our collection of teaching modules produced by EMBL scientists and ELLS education specialists feature both practical classroom activities as well as computational modules – and it is growing continuously! The latest additions are two resources centring around the use of bioinformatics in school:



GFP treasure hunt

GFP 3D StructureThis resource features the Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) as its protein of choice. Multiple activity steps introduce students to bioinformatics databases and tools used to identify and analyse DNA and protein sequences. In the first part, students identify several genes based on their DNA sequences and learn about sequence alignment. After translating mRNA into amino acid sequences, students then compare different amino acid sequences with each other and analyse the tertiary structure of GFP.

Exploring the evolution of light-sensitive proteins

Heidelberg 13_11_00__15modIn this activity, students utilise a variety of bioinformatic tools and database to explore the evolution of rhodopsin and rhodopsin-related proteins. In multiple steps, students learn how to identify an unknown protein based on its primary structure and how to align multiple amino acid sequences. Based on the sequence alignment, students then create a phylogenetic tree of evolutionary relatedness. In a complementary part of the activity, students may explore the secondary and tertiary structure of opsin proteins.

Multilingual resources

Thanks to our enthusiastic volunteer translators, both new resources are now available in English, Czech, French, Italian, and Greek. Many of the ELLS TeachingBASE resources are available in languages other than English, too. You can explore the ELLS TeachingBASE here.

We are always looking to increase our pool of volunteer translators. So, if you would like to see your favourite ELLS TeachingBASE resource translated into your native language, we would be delighted to hear from you by email.

Dec 052014


Do you fancy some neuroscience this morning but have missed signing up for the EMBL Insight Lecture 2014 which is streamed via the web today?

You can follow the lecture by Dr. Cornelius Gross entitled “Why do we do what we do? Exploring the neural basis of emotions” live from 10:45 am CET onwards via the following link:



EMBL Insight Lecture programme on 5th December 2014
10:30 am (CET): Activation of the live streaming links to EMBL
10:45 am (CET): Start of the EMBL Insight Lecture 2014
12:00 (CET): Lecture live stream ends

Technical requirements
For watching the live stream of the EMBL Insight Lecture you will need:

  • a computer with fast internet connection
  • a web-browser (e.g. Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari)
  • with the free Microsoft Silverlight plugin installed or HTML5 compatibility
Nov 272014
EMBL Insight Lecture: join us via live stream

How do our brains control behaviour? What can mice tell us about our emotions? And: are there different types of fear biologically speaking? If you ever wondered about questions like this, the upcoming EMBL Insight Lecture on the 5th December is for you! Join us for what promises to be an exciting insight into the

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Nov 242014
In full view: structure of the influenza polymerase resolved

After 40 years, the first complete picture of a key flu virus machine
In a nutshell:

First complete structure of one of the flu virus’ key machines: its polymerase
Could prove instrumental in designing new drugs

If you planned to sabotage a factory, a recon trip through the premises would probably be much more useful than just peeping in at the windows. Scientists looking to understand – and potentially thwart – the influenza virus have now gone from a similar window-based view to the full factory tour, thanks to the first complete structure of one of the flu virus’ key machines. The structure, obtained by scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Grenoble, France, allows researchers to finally understand how the machine works as a whole. Published today in two papers in Nature, the work could prove instrumental in designing new drugs to treat serious flu infections and combat flu pandemics.

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Nov 202014
Ageing - the intriguing phenomenon of change

It is fascinating to learn that a tortoise can easily live over 200 years, while humans rarely cross 100 years. Dogs usually reach the age of 12-15, mice can turn three years of age and mayflies only live a single day. But irrespective of the individual life span, the common denominator remains that eventually all organisms age with time. Ageing affects our tissues and organs like heart, nerves, muscles, bones, and even the brain is no exception. Dementia is one of the age-related brain disorders and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is one of the most common contributing factors. The year 2010 marked hundred years since the name Alzheimer was coined for AD and, according to some reports (Alzheimer’s disease International, Alzheimer.net), there are already over 36 million cases worldwide – a number which is predicted to triple by the end of 2050. This raises several important questions for scientists, namely how to understand (a) the process of ageing itself and (b) the fundamental basis of age-related disorders such as AD. While the exact biological cause of ageing…

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Nov 132014
Let's go on a journey: to a comet and into our brains!

This week space enthusiasts are curiously following the European Space Agency’s manoeuvres to place a small lander on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko – more than 400 million kilometers away from Earth. The Rosetta spacecraft was launched 10 years ago and has been travelling this huge distance through the solar system to finally reach the comet this week. The Philae lander

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Nov 032014
ELLS LearningLAB “Structural biology – shining light onto the fabric of life”

Apply now  for ELLS LearningLAB at EMBL Grenoble – 9-10 February 2015! The European Learning Laboratory for the Life Sciences (ELLS), in collaboration with La Casemate Grenoble, invites European secondary school science teachers to apply for the ELLS LearningLAB “Structural biology – shining light onto the fabric of life” at EMBL Grenoble (France). The LearningLAB will provide

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Oct 202014
From worm muscle to spinal discs

 An evolutionary surprise Thoughts of the family tree may not be uppermost in the mind of a person suffering from a slipped disc, but those spinal discs provide a window into our evolutionary past. They are remnants of the first vertebrate skeleton, whose origins now appear to be older than had been assumed. Scientists at

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Oct 132014
Registration now open for EMBL Insight Lecture live streaming

Have you ever wondered why we do what we do?…biologically speaking, of course. On Friday 5th December 2014 Cornelius Gross, EMBL group leader, will attempt to answer this question from a neuroscientific point of view in this year’s EMBL Insight Lecture entitled “Why do we do what we do? Exploring the neural basis of emotions”.

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Oct 102014
log2EMBL: 26 biology teachers explored virtual research institute

26 German secondary school biology teachers gathered at EMBL Heidelberg last week to attend the LearningLAB “Log in to Science – Forschern auf der Spur: Forschungssimulation am Beispiel der Eisenspeicherkrankheit (Hämochromatose)” – a joint CPD course organised by ELLS, the out-of-school lab ExploHeidelberg, and the Regierungspräsidium Karlsruhe (regional administrative council).
Over two days, teachers had the opportunity to explore the virtual research institute log2EMBL which has been developed by teachers, students and ELLS staff as part of the Robert Bosch Stiftung-funded iNEXT (interactive Network for Experimental Training) project. iNEXT has been a 3-year project to develop and disseminate state-of-the-art resources for teaching molecular biology at the advanced level in German schools (www.inext-embl.de).
The virtual research institute log2EMBL is a platform to offer inquiry-based research projects for students.

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Sep 162014
Public film event in Heidelberg

Cell fate: Journeys to specialisation Have you ever wondered how cells differentiate into specific cell types? How do our blood, skin and muscle cells get their distinct abilities and shapes? And how are these processes controlled on a molecular and cellular level? Join us on Sunday 12th October 2014 at 18:00 at the Deutsch-Amerikanisches Institut

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Sep 082014
Scientists for a day

For just one day, PhD students could no longer claim the title of ‘youngest researchers’ at EMBL. That honour went to the 13 students aged 11 to 17 who conducted a full-day experiment in the EMBL training labs as part of the Tschira-Jugendakademie at the end of August this year. Initially created as a one-time

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Sep 032014
Will we ever win the race against all the viruses?

As a fresh outbreak of Ebola takes its toll in West Africa, I ask myself why we know a lot about viruses and yet do not have a vaccine or a drug against a lot of them. A little over two hundred years ago, in 1796, Edward Jenner developed the first antiviral vaccine to treat smallpox virus and since then scientists have developed vaccines for various viral diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, polio, hepatitis, influenza and rotavirus. However, we still have no vaccines against the common cold and many other, often deadly, viral infections such as Lassa, Marburg, SARS and H1N1. This seems perplexing at first, but let’s take a closer look into why handling a virus is not just challenging but actually quite tricky.

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Aug 292014
Fascinated by proteins? Join the next ELLS Webinar!

Have you ever wondered what proteins look like on the molecular level? Are you curious what methods scientists use to find out? If you are keen to get an insight into the fascinating world of protein X-ray crystallography, the next ELLS webinar by EMBL visiting scientist Kanchan Anand will present the ideal opportunity! Don’t worry,

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Aug 052014
Ask EMBL… anything!

Have you ever wondered… How do you pronounce “Helicobacter pylori”? How does genetic sequencing work? How do I become the director general of a top international research facility? As part of our 40th anniversary celebration, we’re asking you to ask EMBL…anything! Submit your question via Facebook, Twitter @EMBLorg, Google+ or YouTube, tagged #EMBL40Q, or via the form

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Jul 312014
International Summer Science School Heidelberg 2014 at EMBL

We immensely enjoyed interacting with the participants of the International Summer Science School Heidelberg 2014. It has been an impressing group of international students who have joined us for the practical workshop at EMBL. We have done hands-on experiments in the training labs of the EMBL Advanced Training Center, explored the biology of the model system Zebrafish in the EMBL

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Jul 302014
International Summer Science School Heidelberg 2014

In a few minutes we will be starting the International Summer Science School Heidelberg 2014 at EMBL. A group of international students will visit EMBL and during the course we will do exciting wet-lab experiments together, visit EMBL research facilities and perform a bioinformatics treasure hunt to find out more about our “molecule of the

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