Physics in Life Sciences

How does a laser work and how can we use it as a tool to watch individual proteins at work and even manipulate them? What is fluorescence and how does it help to better understand biological processes in cells? Why can the actually dangerous radiation from radioactive substances help treat cancer? In this course you will learn which physical methods are used to answer questions in the life sciences. We will work on these and other topics both in XLAB's own laboratories and together with scientists in their research institutes on the campus.

Laser Physics

Lasers emerged from the first quantum revolution and are used in many areas of society. Numerous applications in data transmission, medicine, materials processing, and science benefit from the extraordinary properties of light emitted by lasers. In the second quantum revolution, lasers are now used as versatile tools for precise control and manipulation of individual quantum objects in quantum computing and communication. In the international science camp course on laser physics, you will experience the fascinating science of lasers. You will set up different laser systems, investigate the underlying laws of the quantum world, and learn about applications of lasers. The experimental course focusses on lab work, accompanied by physical modelling and fundamental simulations. Excursions and talks will give you insights into research and applications in the field of laser physics.

Numerical Simulation of Physical Systems

Simulations are widely used in science and technology to investigate complex systems. Examples include the prediction of space missions and weather, the comparison of experiments with physical models, and the development of new products. The simulations use fundamental physical laws, typically given in the form of differential equations, and numerical mathematical methods that have to be reliable and at the same time numerically efficient. In this course, you will learn how to use professional simulation tools and gain insights into the underlying mathematics of numerical methods. The course comprises a combination of lectures, mathematical exercises, simulations, practical experiments and excursions. Addressed topics are mechanics, thermal conductivity and electromagnetic waves.

Light and Matter

In this course, you will learn how scientists use the interaction of light and matter to generate light and colours by chemical processes, up to building an organic light-emitting diode (OLED) yourself. We will also investigate chemical reactions driven by light, such as a photocatalytic model system for photosynthesis. We construct an organic photovoltaic cell to generate electricity and use molecular switch systems to investigate how self-tinting glasses work, for example. In addition, researchers who use the interaction of light and matter will report on their work.

Renewable Energies

In this course we explore the generation of electric energy from renewable energies, possibilities of energy storage and the phenomenon of friction, which accounts for a large fraction of occurring energy losses in the world. All these topics are being researched at the University of Göttingen in the Collaborative Research Center 1073 (CRC 1073), which deals with processes of energy conversion at the atomic scale. In collaboration with the CRC 1073, we will use an atomic force microscope to experimentally investigate energy losses. We will be building new types of solar cells ourselves and inspect parts of them with the aid of electron microscopy. Lastly we will explore ways to chemically store renewable energy and use electrochemical methods to reduce carbon dioxide as a way of filtering it out of the air and making it usable for further processes.

Plastics: Production and Sustainability

Plastic is a double-edged sword: irreplaceable in medicine and other applications, but problematic in terms of production and disposal. In this course, we will investigate the production chains of petroleum-based plastics (e.g. PVC) and plastics based on renewable raw materials (e.g. wood). In addition to fractional distillation, catalytic cracking and decomposition by boiling under reflux, we perform modern analyses like mass spectrometry and gas chromatography. To analyse microparticles formed by decaying plastic, you detect them by fluorescence staining. If plastic waste is collected properly, however, it can be reprocessed with added value. We will produce nonwoven microfiber mashes that are used in modern filter systems by electrospinning. Basic knowledge of organic chemistry and laboratory techniques is recommended.


How can crises such as the emergence of antibiotic resistance or the failure of plants to adapt to environmental stress be overcome in future with the help of biotechnological tools? How is research currently carried out in a molecular biology laboratory? Will it soon be possible to transplant organs grown in a petri dish into humans? The focus of this course is on DNA and protein techniques, plus guide RNA plays a big role. You will perform common and state-of-the-art molecular methods and learn how to plan and evaluate experiments like Cell culture, CRISPR/Cas, Bacteriophage isolation, Immunochemistry, ELISA (Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay), Leukocyte differentiation, qPCR (Real-time polymerase chain reaction) and DNA profiling. A visit to a research laboratory will round off the topic.


What does a kidney look like from the inside? Can you see the sinus node? What is a mitral valve or a hippocampus? You will answer these questions in the course on real organs. After a brief theoretical introduction you will dissect porcine organ systems, including heart and circulation, respiratory organs, gut, kidneys reproductive organs and brain.

21st Century Challenges in Lake Ecosystem Ecology

Lakes are fascinating ecosystems harboring immense biodiversity, providing indispensable services for human well-being and offering opportunities for swimming, boating, fishing, or simply admiring their natural beauty. Based on hypothesis-guided and exploratory field and lab work we will examine physicochemical variables of lakes and different groups of lake organisms, learn how watershed size and basin shape determine fundamental lake characteristics, and address impacts of climate change and eutrophication and their possible interactive effects. You should be prepared to work on boats and wade in shallow water in variable weather.


The high performance of our nervous system is based on a fundamental principle: the formation and controlled conversion of an electric potential at the cell membranes of the neurons. In this course we will record the resting membrane potential of individual cells and active and passive potential changes. We learn how we can influence it chemically and electrically and conclude what this means for the functioning of our nervous system and its health maintenance. As an example for a sensory system, we will compare the visual systems of humans and locusts by means of self-experiments and electroretinograms (ERGs) of the insect eye. Finally, we will explain the neuronal basis of the behaviour and communication of the weakly electric elephant fish. To experience advanced research on the intersection of neuronal function and behaviour, you will visit the German Primate Center.