S3 2019

Požega, July 28th - August 7th

Projects Workshops Lectures


No driver's license needed!

Self-driving cars are no longer the stuff of science-fiction. This idea is being developed all over the world because many believe that, in principle, all the necessary ingredients are available to make them a reality. This is transformational technology, where robotics, artificial intelligence, software engineering, physics and mechanical engineering meet. If this effort is successful, it stands a good chance to be one of the defining technological breakthroughs of the 21st century and change the world we live in.

There is no better way to understand something than just going out and doing it yourself, which also happens to be exactly what we will do. We will use a raspberry pi (a basic, tiny computer) and try to put wheels under it so the computer can drive itself around a track, using only a camera. This will be a big challenge, involving:
+ Engineering: the car, the camera and the computer are all components of the eventual self-driving car. We will need to figure out how to best build that single machine.
+ Software: Putting all the components together does not only need to happen in the physical world, it also needs to happen inside the "brain" of the car, which would be the computer. We will design the software that makes this happen.
+ Artificial Intelligence: our computer needs to be "intelligent", capable of getting camera-images as inputs and figure out what they mean to stay on track. This will be a challenge in its own right, apart from the software part.

The end-goal of this project is a miniature self-driving car that can drive itself around a track without human intervention.

Elia Van Wolputte
KU Leuven, Belgium

Elia is a PhD student at the University of Leuven in Belgium, where his research is about Machine Learning. Before, he studied AI at KU Leuven and Physics at Ghent University. His spare time is filled with culture, but mostly music. A lot of music. In fact: put him near any audio playing device, and he’ll start to DJ as soon as possible. He also enjoys film, art, literature and an occasional friendly game of basketball.

Do we really need animal testing to keep us safe?

Here is a quick trivia question: is the use of animal experiments sufficiently reliable and relevant to trust our everyday products are safe?

Cosmetics and personal care products play an essential role in all parts of our lives. However, this means we are repeatedly exposed to their ingredients for long periods of time. In recent years, there has been a move against testing on animals due to the potential harm and suffering it causes these species, especially for “vanity products” such as cosmetics. As a result, the European Union banned the testing of cosmetics ingredients in animals from March, 2013. Without being able to use animals, there is a much greater need for alternative methods, which could provide a better understanding of the potential adverse effects of chemicals on humans, and ultimately benefit everyone.

In this project, we will learn how new cosmetic ingredients could be assessed in the European Union without the use of animal tests by analysing the labels of personal care products. We will explore the role of the Three Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) in animal experiments and the existing alternative methods to animal testing. We will apply these principles to cosmetics ingredients using a freely available database of information on harmful effects as well as computer models such as machine learning that allow us to predict potential harmful effects from chemical structure and without the need for testing.

Nicoleta Spinu

Liverpool John Moores University, UK

Nicoleta is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow, based at Liverpool John Moores University in the UK. Her PhD is in computational toxicology with the focus on the development of alternative methods to animal testing. She is passionate about research, regulatory affairs and policymaking. She believes the education is fundamental to create value through innovation, therefore, joined the S3 Summer School of Science. She enjoys reading science-based books, yoga and hiking.


If you were asked to name of one important large molecule that you carry in your cells, your answer would most likely be “DNA”. Indeed, this bearer of genetic information is by far the most famous biological molecule. However, it is less known that almost all functions in cell, such as transport of small molecules (e.g. water) and immune protection, rely on an entirely different set of molecules – proteins. While DNA is made of four nucleotides (A, C, G, T) and has a unique shape, proteins are built using twenty different building blocks (amino acids). The human body produces a part of amino acids, however some of them can’t be produced and instead must be taken by food. Deficiency of some amino acids can lead to development of serious diseases, which are related with growth problems, hair loss, walking problems, etc. To investigate and solve the problems related to proteins, peptides (common name for short proteins) and amino acids, we don’t have to rely on the Nature. Instead, the chemists can prepare all these structures in the lab!

In this chemistry project, we will try to answer how reactions that Nature does very easily can be prepared or even improved in a flask. You will learn about techniques for detecting and characterizing amino acids and peptides, as well as methods for isolation of amino acids from natural sources. You will become familiar with and make models of amino acids, do chemical synthesis in a lab and finally learn how determining the structure of the synthesized molecules is much like solving the puzzle consisting of spectroscopy data (mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance) in our case.

Mladena Glavaš
Ruđer Bošković Institute, Croatia

Mladena is a third year PhD student of organic chemistry in Zagreb. She works on organic synthesis of macrocycle compounds. Every year, she participates on a few chemistry conferences, schools and workshops in Croatia and abroad. She very much likes animals and because of that she is a vegan. In her free time she likes jogging, hiking, riding a bike, traveling and learning Spanish language.

Peaking inside the Mind

Every one of us makes a billion decisions every day. Should I turn right or left here? Should I eat my snack now or save it for later? Some of the decisions we make require knowledge obtained through many years of studying, while others are simply based on our senses and intuition. Some decisions we make unconsciously and fast, while others require days and weeks of preparations. How do people make such decisions is a mystery that fascinated scientists for centuries, from philosopher Renee Descartes to the Nobel-prize laureate cognitive scientist Daniel Kahneman. Answering this question requires an effort from various scientific fields, including neuroscience, cognitive science and computer science.

A great polygon to study how humans make decisions are video games: they allow us to quickly analyse large quantities of decisions and adapt the scenario on demand. To better understand how humans make decisions, the following two projects will investigate the problem from two different perspectives - neuroscience and artificial intelligence - by means of video games.

Decoding the human brain (project leader: Alexandre Kempf): In this project, the participants will learn the basics of neuroscience and study the cognitive functions in human brain. Our main tool to peak insight the brain will be EEG measurements - a popular method to study cognitive functions. We will explain and analyse the pros and cons of most of the techniques used in neurosciences, and will dive into the numerous signals the brain emits. The final goal of the project will be to play the game of "Breakout" through a brain-computer interface realised by EEG: the player will be able to play the game by performing some mental activity instead of using a keyboard. To achieve this, we will need some help from computer science. In short: It's going to be a lot of fun!

Mimicking the brain (project leader: Sebastijan Dumančić): In this project, we will reverse-engineer the process of human decision making. We will develop an artificially intelligence agent, a computer program, that plays the game of "Breakout". We will pay the special attention to modelling the process of learning - instead of programming every possible situation an agent can experience, we will give it ability to learn from the demonstrations. In order to do so, we will have to collect a large collection of demonstration how to play the game and develop a mathematical model of how we, humans, learn. The main challenge will be to boil down the learning ability to an algorithm a computer can execute. In short: it's going to be super fun!

Alexandre Kempf
PandaScore, France

Alex holds a PhD in neurosciences and machine learning from CNRS Paris. He was a mentor in the previous two editions of the Summer School, and he enjoyed it so much he decided to sign up for yet another round! He loves sports, especially volleyball and badminton. He is listening music all day long and playing the guitar or the piano occasionally. He enjoy spending time on his computer to do 3D modeling and video games.

Sebastijan Dumančić
KU Leuven, Belgium

Sebastijan is a postdoctoral research fellow at KU Leuven in Belgium. He is a computer scientist with a specialisation in artificial intelligence. His main interest is to enable computers and algorithms to think logically. In his free time, Sebastijan enjoys travelling, reading and an occasional game of squash.

Let’s slow down the aging!

As a byproduct of stress, unhealthy eating habits, and exposure to pollution and other toxic substances, waste molecules are produced by the cells inside our body. These molecules are called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) - they are very unstable and in order to become stable they start reacting to other molecules in the cell, including the DNA. If left unchecked, these molecules can contribute to the development of chronic diseases, heart disease, cancer immune deficiency and Parkinson disease, but most importantly they speed up the process of aging. Luckily for us, we have anti-oxidants to save the day! Anti-oxidants are substances that can prevent or slow damage to cells caused by ROS by binding to them and stabilizing them. Examples of these are vitamins A, C, E and beta-carotenes. Most organisms have their own internal factories of anti-oxidants, but majority of the anti-oxidants we use actually come from our food, especially from plant-based sources such as fruits and vegetables.

In this project we will get to not only create anti-oxidant super organism, but to also see the impact of these on the survival. Using genetic modification methodologies, we will create a specie that will express high levels of anti-oxidants, we will test its ability to survive and compare it to the non-genetically modified specie that does not possess this special super power. During this project we will learn a great deal about genes, how they work, their function and genes expression and use that to design gene sequences. In addition, we will learn to build our own scientific equipment and machines using simple everyday things. Finally, we will learn how to think critically and scientifically, pose research questions and test different hypothesis. The findings of this project will be transferred to our everyday life, where we learn about healthy eating and how we can help our bodies by reducing the production of oxidative stress.

Rose Esmander
Almerys & Ecole Superieur de Commerce de Paris, France

Rose is a researcher, an enthusiast, and a dreamer. She is currently doing her PhD at ESCP Paris. She is fascinated by being healthy and all the underlying biological, behavioral, psychological, and technological factors that underlie health. Rose did her undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto in Biology and her master’s in interdisciplinary studies in Paris. She firmly believes that you do not need much to do science, all you need is a curious mind, outside the box thinking, and dedication to learning. Rose’s motto in life is: “live like you are going to die tomorrow and learn like you are going to live forever”.


Innovation lab: Pokerbot

The Innovation Lab of Faculty of Engineering Science at KU Leuven in Belgium is an initiative to enthuse high school students to become engineers and scientists by giving them a chance to participate in different projects.

This year, thanks to the collaboration with KU Leuven, we will once again host a project developed within Innovation Lab, entitled Pokerbot: Build your own artificially intelligent poker player. With our project leader Sebastijan, all S3 camp participants will get immersed into the world of artificial intelligence and probabilities. After putting together their pokerbots and teaching them the playing strategies, the students’ robots will compete against each other in a poker tournament.

Workshop leader: Sebastijan Dumančić, KU Leuven, Belgium



Lecture schedule

Date TBA
Pearl Pu (EPFL Lausanne, Switzerland): Emotion analysis in natural language

Date TBA
Dragana Ilić (University of Belgrade, Serbia): TBA

Date TBA
William F. Martin (Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany): TBA

Date TBA
Ivanka Jerić (Ruđer Bošković Institute, Croatia): How to mimic nature?

July 31st, 2019
Vladimir Dzyuba (FlandersMake, Belgium): TBA

About the lecturers

Pearl Pu
EPFL Lausanne, Switzerland

Pearl Pu currently leads the Human-Computer Interaction Group in the School of Computer and Communication Sciences at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). A native from Shanghai, she obtained her degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, USA.
Dr. Pu’s research is multi-disciplinary and focuses on issues in the intersection of human-computer interaction, artificial intelligence, and behavioral science. She is well known for designing novel user study experiments and pioneering user-centered recommender technology. Dr. Pu is the recipient of numerous awards, as well as the co-founder of three startups, for which she received the 2008 CHINICT Award and the 2014 Worldwide Innovation Challenge Award.

Dragana Ilić
University of Belgrade, Serbia

Dragana Ilić is a professor at the University of Belgrade and winner of L’Oreal UNESCO For Women in Science award.
She has obtained her Ph.D. in astronomy from Universities of Belgrade and Padova. Her current research is focused on spectroscopy of active galactic nuclei and description of black holes in centres of galaxies. Being exceptionally active in education, Dr. Ilić is also a winner of the Belgrade astronomy observatory award for contribution to the education of young researchers.

William F. Martin
Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany

William F. Martin is the Head of the Institute for Molecular Evolution at the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf. He has completed his undergraduate degree in Biology at the University of Hannover and obtained his Ph.D. in Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne.
Dr. Martin's research has had an important role in explaining the main processes in two of the most important evolutionary transitions - endosymbiosis in the origin of eukaryotes and geochemistry in the origin of life. His two papers - Hydrogen Hypothesis on Origin of Mitochondria and Origin of Life and Hydrothermal Vents - had the great impact on modern science.

Ivanka Jerić
Ruđer Bošković Institute, Croatia

Ivanka Jerić is a Senior Scientist at the Ruđer Bošković Institute, Zagreb, Croatia, Head of the Laboratory for biomimetic chemistry, and currently acts as Assistant Director. Ivanka received her PhD degree from the Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb in 2000. She has extensive experience through her participation in various research projects, and gained educational experience through teaching at three Postgraduate PhD Study Programmes and the supervision of student theses in various graduate and postgraduate programmes. Furthermore, she has acted as the Coordinator or a member of the Organising Committee of several workshops and international conferences.
Ivanka is interested in mimicking some of the important Nature’s components, mostly from the rich pool of peptide and carbohydrate compounds. Main goal of her group is development of methods and strategies to assemble structurally complex, polyfunctional molecular architectures.