The College offers a basic Course on Latrex open to all students.  The Course will take place from October until mid December and will involve 16 hours of teaching arranged in 8 sessions of two hours each (one session per week). The College requests that each student at Volta attends a computing Course and, under current arrangements, students can choose between this Latex Course, a Web Design Course and a Course on Computer Coding.  There is no enrolment fee for any of the Course on computing. The poster of the Course can be downeloaded here and a Course flyer can be downloadd here.

The need to prepare and submit documents, from letter of job applications to complex documents such as dissertations, reports, book chapters, etc is an essential feature of life at University and the majority of graduate careers.  LaTeX is the quintessential 'what you see is what you mean' application. It is a high-quality typesetting system, ideal for the production of technical and scientific documents but much valued by scholars and professionals outside science and engineering across the worldwide. The Course will offer students hands-on examples on how to structure documents useing LaTeX with a particular focus on dissertation and reports. The Course is open to all College students, Handaouts of the 2017/18 course are listed below.


Pavlo Burda

01-02. Introduzione, composizione e matematica
03-04. Documenti strutturati & more
05-06. Documenti Strutturati, Figure, Tabelle e Bibliografia 04. Attendance


Web Design

The College offers a short, introductory Course on Web Design open to all students.  The Course will take place from October until mid December and will involve 16 hours of teaching arranged in 8 sessions of two hours each (one session per week). The College requests that each student at Volta attends a computing Course and, under current arrangements, students can choose between this Course on Web Design, a Latex Course and a Course on Computer Coding.  There is no enrolment fee for any of the Course on computing. The poster of the Course can be downeloaded here and a Course flyer can be downloadd here. The impact of the web on daily life and work cannot be underestimated and College feels a dury to provide all its students with the ability to create basic web pages and web journals (so-called blogs). The Course will provide an introduction to HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, Python, MySQ, will offer practical demonstration on how to create web pages useing WordPress and will offer the advice and tools that interested students require in order to take their learning to a higher level.


Antonio Contino

01. Introduzione HTML
02. Esercitazione HTML/CSS
03. Introduzione CSS
04. Forms, tabelle, tag avazanti (HTML5) & CSS
05. Javascript
06. CMS e WordPress
07. Attendance

Graduate Careers

The College offers a short Course on Graduate Careers to final year students both undergraduates and postgraduates.  The Course will take place in the second or third week of October, will last 6 hours arranged in three sessions of two hours each and attendance is compulsory for final year students. There is no enrolment fee for this Course. The poster of the Course can be downeloaded here and a Course flyer can be downloadd here.

The impact of the latest financial crisis on graduate careers has been noticeable across the whole Europe but has been dramatic in countries sich as Greece, Spain and Italy.  The College has a duty to support its newly graduate in their first steps toward employement and the Graduate Careers is key to this effort. The Course will offer: (i) advice on preparation of their cv, (ii) examples and advice on the writing of motivation letters and,  (iii) practice and advice on interview techniques.  Students who had worked on and possess a personal development plan will be given extra coaching on hte best way to capitalise on this work at the job interview. 

Volta has successfully supported a number of  applications for postrgraduate training and/or employment outside Italy for several graduates in Medicine and Engineering.  The Course on Graduate Careers is the first and valuable step in this process. 

Dissertation Writing

The College offers a short Course on how to plan, execute and complete on time a Dissertation.  The Course will take place in the second or third week of October, will last 6 hours and attendance is compulsory for final year students. The main focus of the Course will be on dissertation for undergraduate students but final year MSc students may find the Course valuable and are encouraged to attend. The dissertation constitutes the first piece of extended writing that Volta undergraduates face, as essay writing is seldom used as an assessment tool at the University of Pavia (or other Italian Universities). It is also a common and lamentable fact that dissertations often have to be produced in a short period of time and this is not always conducive to the production of a dissertation of the highest quality,  The Course offered by the College aims to fills this gap and give students a clear understanding of how a dissertation should be thoroughly planned before any writing commences, how the writing of diffierent parts (Introduction, Materials & Methods, Results and Discussion) should be executed in order to meet the desired objectives in the time available and which software is most apprpriate for best results (text editors, graphics packages, bibliograhy tools, etc). This is a truly valuable Course and an essential took in the hands of all College students.



Matteo Turchetti

01. Prima di iniziare
02. La stesura passo per passo
03. Discussione e bibliografia
04. Attendance.


Personal Development

Volta offers a short Course in Personal Development Planning. The Course will involve a total of 6 hours of coaching, will take place in the second week of October and full details of will be published in September and discussed in the Annual General Assembly of October 2nd. There is no enrolment fee.  All freshers need to attend this Course. Personal Development Plans are an important tool in the hands of University students and serve a dual role: on the one hand they constitute a faithful intellectual diary of a student's journey through his/her Course years.  On the other hand they demonstrate a student's abilty to identify areas of strength and weakness and to take measures in order to overcome weaknesses and difficulties.  Personal Development Plans have become particularly valuable tools in graduate careers because, unlike a strandard cv, personal development plans can demonstrate the problem-solving ability and the strategic thinking of a candidate.


Pietro Balagna

01. Tackling your University Course
02. Recognising your strengths and weaknesses
03. Making your personal development plan


Halving Premature Death

25th May 2017. 
Richard Peto, Oxford University

The 2016/17 Volta lecture will be given in the College lecture theatre at 5.00 pm on May 25th by Sir Richard Peto of Oxford University.  The will illustrate the social, scientific and medical steps that could halve the number of premature deaths worldwide in the next two decades.  Sir Richard, is one of the world foremost epidemiologist. He contributed extensively to the methodological foundations  of medical statistics and epidemiology and has applied his methodology to disease and control worldwide.  The poster of the lecture can be downloaded here.

Lecture Synopsis
Death in old age is inevitable, but death before old age is not. Except where HIV or political disturbances predominated, mortality rates have been decreasing for decades, helped by sanitation, health care, and social changes. If disease control keeps progressing, then within the next few decades—except where disasters or new epidemics supervene—under-50 mortality and under-70 mortality should fall to less than half of the 2010 global risks of, respectively, 15% and 36%.  Non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, stroke, heart disease, and emphysema, cause about 1/4 of all deaths before age 50, plus four-fifths of those at ages 50 to 69, but although the global population is rising, under-70 NCD death rates are falling by about 15% per decade. The most important external factor is smoking, which in 2010 was causing about a quarter of all cancer deaths in the European Union and 30% of all cancer deaths in the US. Options for reducing this and other major cancer causes will be reviewed.

Biographical Sketch.
Richard Peto is Professor of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology at the University of Oxford. His epidemiological studies in Europe, America, India, China and Russia have shown that in many populations the importance of major causes such as tobacco, blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol has been much underestimated. He has also helped widen international perspectives on the main ways of reducing premature death.

Selected publications
[1] R Peto et al. Halving premature death. Science 345:1272 (2014)
[2] R Peto. The big causes of death from noncommunicable disease. Bull World Health Organ 94:413 (2016)

Cemetery Skyline by Estruda (


Gene Targeting in the 21st Century. Mouse Models of Human Disease.

6th April 2017. 
Mario Capecchi, University of Utah, Salt Lake City

The 4th Marco Fraccaro lecture, organised jointly by Collegio Volta and Collegio Cairoli will be given by Mario Capecchi of the University of Utah. The lecture will take place in the main University Lecture theatre (Aula Magna dell' Università) at 5.00 pm on the 6th of April. The lecture is named after the late Marco Fraccaro, Professor of Medical Genetics at Pavia for over three decades and a pioneer in the study of human chromosomes and chromosomal abnormalities and is organised annually by Collegio Volta and Colegio Cairoli. The 2016/17 lecture will focus on gene targeting, an area of genetic research to which Mario Capecchi has made outstanding contributions that culminated in the award of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2007.  The poster of the lecture can be downloaded here.

Lecture Synopsis.
To date, gene targeting has been used primarily to disrupt genes, producing so called knockout mice. However gene targeting can be used to alter the sequences of a chosen genetic locus in the mouse in any conceivable manner, thus providing a very general means for editing the mouse genome. It can be used to generate gain-of-function mutations or partial loss-of-function mu- tations. Gene targeting can also be used to restrict the loss of function of a chosen gene to particular tissues, yielding so-called conditional mutations. This is most commonly achieved by combining exogenous (nonmammalian) site-specific recombination systems, such as those derived from bacteriophages or yeast (i.e. Cre/loxP or Flp/FRT respectively), with gene targeting, to mediate excision of a gene only where the appropriate recombinase is produced. By control of where Cre- or Flp-recombinase is expressed, for example in the liver, a gene, flanked by loxP or FRT recognition sequences, respectively, can be excised in the desired tissue (e.g. liver) tempo- ral control of gene function has also been achieved by making the production of the functional recombinase dependent upon the administration of small molecules or even on physical stimuli, such as light. Such conditional mutagenesis has been very effective for more accurate modelingof human cancers, which are often restricted to particular tissues and even to specific cells within those tissue as well as being initiated post birth. Inhuman cancers, the interactions between the host tissues and the malignant cells are often critical to its initiation and progression. Thus, inclusion of these interactions in the mouse model also becomes critical if the mouse model is to accurately recapitulate the human malignancy. Gene targeting is an evolving technology and we can anticipate further extensions to its repertoire. To date it has been used primarily to perturb the function of one gene at a time. We can anticipate development of efficient multiplexing sys- tems that will allow simultaneous conditional or non-conditional modulation of multiple genes. We can also anticipate improvements in exogenous reporter genes with parallel improvements in their detection, particularly with respect to capture times, resolution improvements will undoubt- edly be necessary if this technology is to make significant inroads in addressing truly complex biological questions, such as the molecular mechanisms underlying higher cognitive functions in mammals.

Biographical Sketch.
M Capecchi was born in Verona (Italy) in 1937. He graduated in Chemistry and Physics at the Antioch College in Ohio and completed a PhD in Biophysics at Harvard in 1967.  He was an Associate Professor at Harvard until 1973 when he move to the University of Utah to take up the position of Professor of Biology, Cancer Science and Human Genetics. He was awarded the Kyoto Prize in 1996, the Franklin Medal in 1997, the National Science Medal in 2001 and Wolf Prize in 2002.  He shared the 2007 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with Oliver Smithies and Martin Evans.

Selected publications
[1] M Capecchi. Gene targeting. Nobel Lecture (2007)



From ChIP-Seq to a Role for Tropomyosin-4 in Platelet Biogenesis

10th April 2017.  
Marloes Tijssen, Department of Haematology, University of Cambridge

Platelets are anuclear cells that are essential for blood clotting. They are produced by large polyploid precursor cells called megakaryocytes. Previous genome-wide association studies in nearly 70,000 individuals indicated that single nucleotide variants (SNVs) in the gene encoding the actin cytoskeletal regulator tropomyosin 4 (TPM4) exert an effect on the count and volume of platelets. Platelet number and volume are independent risk factors for heart attack and stroke. We have identified 2 unrelated families in the BRIDGE Bleeding and Platelet Disorders (BPD) collection who carry a TPM4 variant that causes truncation of the TPM4 protein and segregates with macrothrombocytopenia, a disorder characterized by low platelet count. N-Ethyl-N-nitrosourea-induced (ENU-induced) missense mutations in Tpm4 or targeted inactivation of the Tpm4 locus led to gene dosage-dependent macrothrombocytopenia in mice. All other blood cell counts in Tpm4-deficient mice were normal. Insufficient TPM4 expression in human and mouse megakaryocytes resulted in a defect in the terminal stages of platelet production and had a mild effect on platelet function. Together, our findings demonstrate a nonredundant role for TPM4 in platelet biogenesis in humans and mice and reveal that truncating variants in TPM4 cause a previously undescribed dominant Mendelian platelet disorder.

Dr Marloes Tijssen is a Research Scientist – Programme Leader at the University of Cambridge. Dr Tijssen graduated from the VU University Amsterdam with an MSc in ‘Medical biology’ and completed her PhD studies at Sanquin Research/University of Amsterdam. In 2008 she moved to the Department of Haematology at the University of Cambridge and secured a prestigious Rubicon Fellowship from the Dutch government and a Marie Curie Intra European Fellowship. In the laboratory of Prof Göttgens she generated a genome-wide catalogue of transcription factor binding in megakaryocytes, the precursors of platelets, leading to the discovery of novel regulators of megakaryopoiesis. She was awarded a European Hematology Fellowship and a British Heart Foundation project grant to further characterise these novel regulators, including Tropomyosin 4 (TPM4). In collaboration with the BRIDGE consortium and Prof Ouwehand’s group they have shown that a mutation in TPM4 causes macrothrombocytopenia.

[1]  Pleines I, Woods J, Chappaz S, Kew V, Foad N, Ballester-Beltrán J, Aurbach K, Lincetto C, Lane RM, Schevzov G, Alexander WS, Hilton DJ, Astle WJ, Downes K, Nurden P, Westbury SK, Mumford AD, Obaji SG, Collins PW, Delerue F, Ittner LM, Bryce NS, Holliday M, Lucas CA, Hardeman EC, Ouwehand WH, Gunning PW, Turro E, Tijssen MR, Kile BT. Mutations in tropomyosin 4 underlie a rare form of human macrothrombocytopenia. J Clin Invest. 2017 Mar 1;127(3):814-829.

[2]  Tijssen MR, Cvejic A, Joshi A, Hannah RL, Ferreira R, Forrai A, Bellissimo DC, Oram SH, Smethurst PA, Wilson NK, Wang X, Ottersbach K, Stemple DL, Green AR, Ouwehand WH, Göttgens B. Genome-wide analysis of simultaneous GATA1/2, RUNX1, FLI1, and SCL binding in megakaryocytes identifies hematopoietic regulators. Dev Cell. 2011 May 17;20(5):597-609.

Image: Red blood cells entangled by fibrin. Courtesy of Science Photo Library.

All College students are warmly encouraged to participate. The poster of the seminar can be downloaded here





Making Platelets in vitro: an environmental question and making it count.

10th April 2017.  
Cédric Ghevaert, Wellcome Trust - MRC Stem Cell Institute, Cambridge

The production of megakaryocytes (MKs)--the precursors of blood platelets--from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) offers exciting clinical opportunities for transfusion medicine. Here we describe an original approach for the large-scale generation of MKs in chemically defined conditions using a forward programming strategy relying on the concurrent exogenous expression of three transcription factors: GATA1, FLI1 and TAL1. The forward programmed MKs proliferate and differentiate in culture for several months with MK purity over 90% reaching up to 2 × 10(5) mature MKs per input hPSC. Functional platelets are generated throughout the culture allowing the prospective collection of several transfusion units from as few as 1 million starting hPSCs. The high cell purity and yield achieved by MK forward programming, combined with efficient cryopreservation and good manufacturing practice (GMP)-compatible culture, make this approach eminently suitable to both in vitro production of platelets for transfusion and basic research in MK and platelet biology.

After completing his MD at the Universite Libre de Bruxelles (which also included a whole year studying at the University of Bristol, UK) in 1997, Dr Ghevaert started his career training in Internal Medicine in the United Kingdom and became a member of the Royal College of Physicians in 2000. He went on to specialize in Haematology (completing his training in 2005). His intention was always to have an academic career and he therefore started a PhD at the University of Cambridge. He completed his PhD in 2008 and moved on as a post-doctoral clinical fellow to Prof Steve Watson laboratory at the University of Birmingham where he obtained a personal Intermediate Clinical Fellowship from the British Heart Foundation. This programme of research allowed him to further his knowledge of platelet and megakaryocyte biology. In 2010 he obtained a tenure post as Senior Lecturer in Transfusion Medicine in the Department of Haematology at the University of Cambridge where he now runs a research group with a special interest in two main fields of research: 1. production in vitro of blood cells for transfusion in humans using pluripotent stem cells technologies and 2. in vitro modelling of inherited platelet disorders. His research is supported by various funding bodies including NHS Blood and Transplant, the British Heart Foundation, National Institute for Health and Research.

[1] Moreau T, Evans AL, Vasquez L, Tijssen MR, Yan Y, Trotter MW, Howard D, Colzani M, Arumugam M, Wu WH, Dalby A, Lampela R, Bouet G, Hobbs CM, Pask DC, Payne H, Ponomaryov T, Brill A, Soranzo N, Ouwehand WH, Pedersen RA, Ghevaert C. Large-scale production of megakaryocytes from human pluripotent stem cells by chemically defined forward programming. Nat Commun. 2016 Apr 7;7:11208.

[2] Guerrero JA, Bennett C, van der Weyden L, McKinney H, Chin M, Nurden P, McIntyre Z, Cambridge EL, Estabel J, Wardle-Jones H, Speak AO, Erber WN, Rendon A, Ouwehand WH, Ghevaert C. Gray platelet syndrome: proinflammatory megakaryocytes and α-granule loss cause myelofibrosis and confer metastasis resistance in mice. Blood. 2014 Dec 4;124(24):3624-35.

Image: A drawing by G Bizzozero describing a platelet rich thrombus. Giulio Bizzozero, although not the first to observe 'blood corpuscles' later known as platelets, was the scientist who defined their role in coagulation adn thrombosis. Original reference: G Bizzozero. Ueber einen neuen Forrnbestandteil des Blutes und dessen Rolle bei der Thrombose
und Blutgerinnung.  Archiv fur pathologische Anatomie und Physiologie und fur klinische Medicin 90: 261–332 (1882)

All College students are warmly encouraged to participate. The poster of the seminar can be downloaded here





A Life Passion for Vaccines. How the Vaccines for Pertussis and Meningitis Were Developed.

21th March 2017.  
Mariagrazia Pizza, GSK Vaccines, Siena

Since the beginning of human evolution, approximately 3 million years ago to the mid 1700’s, life expectancy has been between 25 and 35 years. Today is more than 80 years. One of the major contributors in the increase in life expectancy has been the use of vaccines in preventing infectious diseases. However, most of the vaccines available today, although very effective, have been developed at the end of last century using conventional technologies. The vaccinology field is evolving very rapidly, with the modern technologies providing alternative ways in designing improved vaccines or novel vaccines against infections for which preventive measures do not exist. Today is possible to identify new antigens directly from the genome (Reverse Vaccinology), and apply a structure-based design to deliver more stable and more immunogenic antigens (Structural Vaccinology). The Reverse Vaccinology approach has been instrumental for the development of a new vaccine against Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B, a bacterium causing a devastating disease characterized by meningitis and sepsis.

Mariagrazia Pizza was educated as a pharmaceutical chemist at the University of Naples, Italy. After a fellowship at the EMBL laboratories in Heidelberg, Germany, she moved to Siena, Italy, where she stayed ever since as a scientist and Project leader, responsible for many bacterial projects. During this period, she has contributed to the discovery and licensure of two innovative bacterial vaccines, against pertussis and meningococcus B. She is currently a Discovery Project Leader at the Research and Development Centre of GSK Vaccines, in Siena. During her career, she received many scientific awards. She is co-author of over 180 publications in International peer-reviewed journals and over 150 patents.

All College students are warmly encouraged to participate. The poster of the seminar can be downloaded here

Image: Scanning electron micrograph of N meninigitidis, a bacterium causing meninigitis.




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