Back to back poster presentations: biology and ethnography on the San Servolo island in the Venetian Lagoon

This September Candida and Maha packed their notebooks, pens, posters and of course their sunscreens and sunglasses and got ready to meet up in Venice, Italy, for the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) workshop entitled: When biology of endocytosis meets physics: Emerging mechanisms and functions (and some gelato).

The workshop was hosted at San Servolo, a 48,442 m2-island 10 minutes by water bus from the Piazza San Marco in Venice. During our five-day stay on San Servolo, we learned more about the island’s religious, medical and scientific history. After Benedictine monks had built a convent and church on the island in 9th century, it was used for seven hundred years by different monastic group. At the beginning of the 18th century the island was converted into a military hospital for sick sailors and injured soldiers. A few years later also people with psychiatric problems were brought to the island, which is documented in the ‘Insane Asylum Museum’ on the island. The asylum was closed following the Italian psychiatric reform of 1978. However, there are many material remnants that reminded the conference visitors of this time, such as the big wall with barred windows around the entire island, the ‘sala anatomica’ where scientists inspected brains of deceased patients, and a large variety of trees that were planted for pharmaceutical purposes. Since the founding of the Venice International University (a collaboration among ten universities from around the world) on San Servolo in 1995, the island has been transformed into a conference center. Despite the architectural changes, we and several other conference participants noticed that San Servolo’s history weighs heavy on the island. One of the workshop participants feared that the island would be haunted. What we can confirm from our experience is that the island is haunted by mosquitos.

From the moment we came across the title of the workshop that reflected the interdisciplinary of it, we knew we had to attend, as the question of interest for the NanoBubbles’ replication project lies just at the interface between physics and cell biology, and from the introductory session we knew we were in the right place.  Throughout the workshop, the experts in the field presented their work both published and not and were asked questions by the audience, challenged by some, and even suggested future directions for their work by others. Also for 3 of the 5 days, the participants (Masters and doctoral students, Post-docs and PIs) had the chance to present their research in poster format.

Serendipitously, Candida and Maha were assigned the same poster board for their poster presentations which gave their audience a glimpse of the interdisciplinary of the NanoBubbles project. Maha presented on setting up the replication project, while Candida showed her work in progress on the history of endocytosis of gold nanoparticles. Candida and Maha felt the encouragement, motivation and enthusiasm of researchers that listened to them explain the NanoBubbles project, through the smiles on their faces and their constant nodding. They could also see the researchers’ surprised expressions and the Aha moment when they explained how the two NanoBubbles sub-projects related. Furthermore several researchers were very excited to contribute to the NanoBubbles’ replication project and suggested historical literature on endocytosis as well as potential collaborators (experts in the field of intracellular trafficking). At the level of networking, the duo of course did not stop at the perimeter of the auditorium or even the island of San Servolo, they networked over pizzas, pastas, gelato and even while catching some sun at the Lido-Venice beach. All in all it was a great experience.

Cite this blog post
ztoure (2023, September 28). Back to back poster presentations: biology and ethnography on the San Servolo island in the Venetian Lagoon. NanoBubbles . Retrieved June 15, 2024, from

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