Science Education

Formerly known as European Learning Laboratory for the Life Sciences

Our inspiring educational experiences share the scientific discoveries of EMBL with young learners aged 10-19 years and teachers in Europe and beyond. We belong to EMBL’s Science Education and Public Engagement office.

EMBL Insight Lecture 2022

“The shapes of life: modelling how cells self-organise”

Event description

The EMBL Insight Lecture 2022 will be presented by Dr James Sharpe, head of EMBL Barcelona, on 2 December 2022, 10:30-12:00 CET.

Each of the organs in our bodies is a beautiful and complex three-dimensional arrangement of billions of cells. Creating these amazing structures during embryo development involves a breath-taking choreography in which the cells crawl over each other and change into different types such as skin cells, muscle cells, bone cells and others. But how is this dance of cells coordinated? Where is the choreographer? Over the last few decades, biology has taught us that there is in fact no choreographer of this dance, no conductor of the orchestra. Each cell in your body has the exact same set of instructions – the genome and senses only its immediate neighbours. The construction of an organ is therefore an amazing example of self-organisation.

In the 2022 EMBL Insight Lecture, Dr James Sharpe will introduce the topic of multicellular self-organisation and show how computer modelling is becoming essential to understand this fascinating feature of our bodies. He will shed light on how an old mathematical theory by Alan Turing turned out to explain the patterning of our fingers, and give insights into how a swirling population of cells can be understood by studying a swarm of robots.

Q&A session

The lecture will include a Question & Answer session, and we encourage you and your students to ask questions to the speaker via the “Q&A” text chat function of Zoom throughout the event. Those questions will be addressed in the final section of the lecture.


The lecture will be streamed using the “Zoom Webinar” tool. The access details will be shared with registered participants in the days preceding the event.

To watch the live stream, you will need a computer with sound output and stable internet connection (ideally Ethernet connection, not WiFi). If you watch the lecture in class, you may want to connect your computer to a projector and a sound system to stream the event to the group.

You do not need a Zoom account to participate. You can access the lecture either via the Zoom Client or via your web browser. For the best audio and video quality during the event, we recommend using the client.

Your privacy: please note that participants will join the lecture in “listen-only” mode. Attendees will not be visible to others and will not be able to interact via audio or camera. The list of attendees is only visible to the organisers, not to other participants.

Lecture series

More information on the concept behind EMBL Insight Lectures and recordings of previous lectures may be found here.

Artistic representation of a hand being formed from merging spheres.

Date: 2 - 2 December 2022

Registration deadline: 25 November 2022

Topic area:  Cell biology

Age group:  16-19

Contact: SEPE Team

Organiser: SEPE