The following account is written by Anna Laddach and describes her experience at the Advanced School on Biomolecular Simulation: Rosette from Fundamental Principles to Tutorials in Brasil.

In September I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a Rosetta course in Brazil. “I’m about to come face to face with zika virus, dengue, malaria and yellow fever!” I thought. Luckily Recife, where the course was held, is one of the few Yellow Fever free zones. It is located on the Eastern most bulge of Brazil which juts out into the Atlantic ocean. The strong sea breeze results in a less than ideal environment for mosquitos.

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Experiencing Brazilian culture in Olinda

 

The course was held at the Jangadiero hotel located by the seafront, most participants also stayed at the hotel. Each participant was scheduled to give a five minute talk during the first few days; mine was scheduled for the first day, Sunday, at 5 o’clock. After afternoon introductory talks the clock was ticking closer to five and out came a great keg of beer! All participants were marched down to the beach front to listen to some impromptu Brazilian drumming – we even got to have a go ourselves! Thoroughly relaxed after some beer and music, the talks started about three hours later than scheduled.

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Participants in full concentration during a practical – proof we were working hard!

Rosetta is not a single program but a suite of tools for macromolecular modelling, protein design and structure prediction. This was the first course held which attempted to give an overview of all of Rosetta’s functionality. Throughout the week our two lecturers, Prof. Sinisa Bjelic
 and Prof. Ingemar André from Sweden, took us through Rosetta energy functions, model refinement, protein-protein docking and protein design, with a mixture of theoretical and practical sessions. I learnt that incredibly cool things have been achieved with Rosetta, from the de novo design of enzymes and the design of self assembling coiled-coil structures which vary their oligomeric state according to pH, to the de novo prediction of small protein structures. I came away feeling inspired to be creative with Rosetta!

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Night time carnival in Olinda

Other highlights included a trip to Porto de Galinhas, where I got to try Scuba diving for the first time in my life – an opportunity I could not pass up, a trip to the beautiful world-heritage town of Olinda, munching tapioca at the local market and watching live capoeira (a dance based on martial arts). I had expected a stimulating learning experience but I had not anticipated the numerous opportunities to soak up Brazilian culture. Every day the course attendees who lived locally made sure we could experience as much as possible in the evenings. It was a jam packed trip! Back in the UK I will miss the vibrancy and colours of Brazil, it is a shame I will no longer be able to stroll along the beach drinking coconut water in lunch breaks!

Scuba diving!          Drinking coconut milk on the beach during a break