Virtual One Health International Bachelor and Master Summer School 2021

`Hidden players in the food chain`

Improving health at the interfaces between environment, plants, animals and humans


When: 16-20 August 2021
Where: Online
Participants: Bachelor students (third year) and masters` students (first year) with a background in life sciences. The number of places is limited

A healthy environment, including healthy soils, plants and animals, is essential for human well-being. One Health is an interdisciplinary framework that helps us to understand the processes that shape and connect global health.

In response to the ongoing pandemic, we have decided to operate the One Health International Bachelor and Master Summer School in distance learning mode in 2021. The virtual course offers a unique opportunity to explore the methods and current knowledge on the health of terrestrial food chains, from soils to plants, animals and humans. Students participating in the event will explore the interfaces between the different compartments and learn about health connections in agroecosystems. Participants will:

  • Explore connections between soil, plant, animal and human health in different food production systems.
  • Experience cutting-edge research and connect with scientists during virtual visits to multiple research laboratories working on One Health projects.
  • Team up with peers from all around the world and use their own skills as health detectives to find potential solutions to some of the most pressing problems of the future.

Virtual teaching within the summer school is led by the following leading scientists of the University of Bern:

Professor Matthias Erb  (Executive Director of Institute of Plant Sciences, Director of One Health, Head of section Biotic Interactions)

Professor Sigi Hapfelmeier (Head of Gut Microbiology, Institute for Infectious Diseases)

Professor Adrien Mestrot (Head of Soil Science, Geography Institute)

Professor Rupert Bruckmeier (Head of Veterinary Physiology, Vetsuisse)

Dr. Moritz Bigalke (Senior Scientist, Soil Science, Geography Institute)  

Dr. Josef Gross (Senior Scientist, Veterinary Physiology, Vetsuisse)

What are the benefits of attending the Summer School?


Experience health connections along the food chain

To explore connections between plants, animal and human health, participants will learn about different food production systems, their challenges, benefits and future perspectives. Together with scientific experts, the participants will explore management strategies that promote healthy agroecosystems.


Get first-hand experience in cutting edge interdisciplinary research

The students will have the opportunity to connect virtually with scientists working along the food chain, from soils to plants, to ruminants and humans across different laboratories of the University of Bern. World-leading scientists together with their research teams will introduce the students to their work and efforts to promote healthy food chains.

Challenge yourself.

Develop your own solutions for important one-health challenges 

During the week, you will follow a scientific story in several episodes. Use your own skills as a health detective to develop hypotheses about the storyline and solve the mystery. At the end of the week, the students will be given a challenge to work on in small teams. Combine your own knowledge, creativity and team spirit to find creative solutions to some of the most pressing problems of humanity. During the last day of the school, the teams will present their solutions to each other online.


Comments from the One Health academics involved in the first Summer School...

Note: These comments refer to the 2019 Summer School which took place in Bern. 

Prof. Matthias Erb (Executive Director of Institute of Plant Sciences, Director of One Health, Head of section Biotic Interactions)

“Connecting single research fields and combining knowledge and skills across disciplines to address important social and ecological problems has great potential for developing powerful and creative solutions. This was also evident during the One Health BSc/MSc summer school, where talented young scientists with very different backgrounds, ranging from veterinary sciences to geology, came together, learned in a transdisciplinary way about mechanisms and consequences of terrestrial food chains and “joined forces” to work on questions by themselves. During the visit of the Plant Science laboratory, the students explored the role of plant metabolites and their benefits and risks in agricultural food chains and interacted with the One Health scientists working there. It was impressive and rewarding to see the curiosity and creativity with which they participated in the activities during the week.”

Prof. Rupert Bruckmeier, (Head of Veterinary Physiology, Vetsuisse) and Dr. Josef Gross (Senior Scientist, Veterinary Physiology, Vetsuisse)

“The One Health BSc/MSc summer school brings together international students of many disciplines. Although natural sciences are the common ground, understanding interactions between different One Health aspects and trophic levels requires an open-minded exchange between students and scientists. Students can explore and realize the link between plant nutrients and human nutrition, which is provided by farm animals when visiting the research facilities with dairy cows. They will be able to track changes across all stages in soils and plants to human food such as milk and meat. Interactive discussions are benefitting all participants of this event.”

Prof. Siegfried Hapfelmeier-Balmer (Head of Gut Microbiology, Institute for Infectious Diseases)

“Our 2019 One Health BSc/MSc summer school was a very rewarding activity. It was great to meet so many talented and enthusiastic young scientists from many different disciplines. The summer school revolves around the big question of how food chains in nature and, more specifically, in human agriculture are modulated – for better or worse – by the microbiomes of soil, plants, animals and humans. Together we discussed how our own gut microbiome effectively is an integral part of the human food chain and how this relates to today’s medical and ecological problems. The students saw unique research facilities and got a lasting impression of how such an interdisciplinary consortium can work together, and I am happy to be still in touch with some of last year’s participants.”

Prof. Adrien Mestrot (Head of Soil Science, Geography Institute)

“The One Health BSc/MSc summer school was a very nice event, it was great to have students from very different background come and visit our Soil Science Laboratory and interact with our PhD students and postdocs. They saw our analytical facilities as well as the greenhouses where we conduct bigger experiments aimed at understanding soil-plant transfer of trace elements. The whole week was very interactive and, as an academic, it was very motivating to see interested students asking complex questions. The students were very creative and came up with great ideas on how to solve the question asked at the beginning of the week.”