The 2014 Requimte AFM workshop was held during Easter week, 14th to the 17th of April. The course keeps on growing, and this year we had 15 students attend. Once again, they came from far and wide for the course, and it was great to meet them all. It seems this course really fills a worldwide need, because we had students fly from as far as Malaysia and Washington DC to attend. The other students came from the Czech Republic (lots of them!), Germany, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and Poland.
As usual, we split the course into a mostly theoretical first part, with a more practical second part. On the first day, we got to know the students, and Jorge and I gave lectures on AFM instrumentation, modes and applications. The first evening, we took many of the students for dinner at a local Portuguese restaurant, and the students enjoyed discovering all about Portuguese food (and wine!).
“The things I learned during the course are really practical. I can easily use it in my daily work.”
The second day we started with sample preparation. After Jorge’s talk about general considerations, we “selected” volunteers prepared samples of blood, epithelial cells, nanoparticles and hair. It is always interesting to see how reluctant some students are to prick their fingers with a needle! The day continued with talks on AFM operation, data processing, and artifacts. Finally, we had a fantastic talk from Rui Rocha, who introduced us to some applications from materials science, and showed some few interesting AFM techniques and tricks as well.
“I like [the course’s] composition (theory lectures/ application lectures/practical lessons). Moreover, there were people with different focus of their work, which could be inspiring in what I could do in our lab.! Since our AFM is very automatized, I discovered the basics which are just essential for the work. Moreover, I was surprised in how many modes could AFM work. We'll definitely try to exploit our AFM in new applications”
One wednesday, the students all got to use the AFMs in the practical classes. This year we managed to have three instruments, all from AFM workshop, so all used the same software, but we set up for different samples, so we had one setup for “large samples”, one for “small things” (high resolution), and one was setup for biological samples on microscope slides. The practical sessions are the most fun part of the course, and I am always surprised at the great images the students produce, even those who have never used an AFM before. Some of the images collected by the students are shown on this page, and more can be seen at this link. For this day the students were split into two groups, and so they all got half a day free to explore the city of Porto, and they got great weather for it too.
“Organization was good, the time spent in the course was reasonable, that we also could explore the city :). Moreover, it's always good to meet new people from around the world, so it was great, that you had participants from different countries and institutes.”
In the evening we had our course meal, for which we visited Taylor’s Port wine lodge, to find out all about Port production, and soak up the amazing atmosphere in the cellar, followed by drinks on the terrace, with the sun just going down, and a really nice meal of Portuguese food. As usual Taylors were great hosts, and everyone seemed to enjoy this. The Port wine bottle certainly made a few trips around the table!
“The night out in Taylor was extraordinary: the view of Porto from the balcony, the wine and the food, and the stimulating conversations. Where in the world can you find such a perfect combination?”
On the last morning, we had our data-analysis class, and everyone learned all about the different methods for processing, and analysis of AFM data. This is one of the most popular parts of the course, and I think the students who are already producing their own AFM data find it genuinely useful. Finally, Dr. Filomena Carvalho came from Lisbon to give us a talk all about some of the more exotic experiments that can be carried out using AFM, including mechanical and force spectroscopy measurements on living cells.
Thanks once again to AFM Workshop for sponsoring the course, and to the University of Porto, and the chemistry and biochemistry department for their support as well. A special acknowledgement must go to Maria Feio, without whose administrative assistance, the course could not have gone so smoothly.
“Thank you for the course, its good organization and great hospitality!”
Finally, congratulations to María Virumbrales Muñoz from Zaragoza University, on winning the imaging and processing competition, with the nice image of erythrocytes on the right (sample kindly donated by Hannie!). Maria, your prize is on it's way!
Course tutors: Dr. Peter Eaton, Dr. Jorge Caldeira
Course organisation and administration: Dr. Maria Feio
Invited lecturers: Rui Rocha, and Dr. Filomena Carvalho.