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Sicily, Italy

Applications of Biotechnology to Historical Preservation

Course Number: 
Semester(s) Offered: 
Summer 2023
Credit Hours: 

This course is central to the Temple Summer in Sicily Study Abroad experience, the Sicily Applied Biotechnology Program. In collaboration with Prof. Franco Palla, coordinator of the 5-year degree in conservation of cultural heritage at the University of Palermo, Italy, students will apply the tools of enzyme biochemistry, protein purification and biochemical techniques, microbe specific metabolic pathways, and biotechnological techniques of DNA sequencing to artifact preservation and restoration. Students will visit specific archeological sites and receive demonstrations of preservation and restoration field work. Students in their sophomore or junior year of study in degree programs within the Biology or Chemistry departments are eligible.

Other students, particularly those in Engineering or Architecture programs, may also be considered. Students interested in applying will be considered on a case by case basis and should contact the Program Director, Dr. Gianfranco Bellipanni, for more information. 

What is the value of taking this course in Sicily?
This course will include lectures, some laboratory experiences as well as guided visits to relevant historic sites around Sicily.

Students will explore biotechnology applied to the conservation of cultural assets in Sicily. The course is focused on the application of biotechnological protocols to reveal and characterize microbial "biodeterioration" of historic-artistic manufacts. Moreover, biotechnology can play an important role in the identification, isolation and application of bioactive molecules useful in artwork "biocleaning" procedures or to control microbial colonization acting as "biocide". During the academic track scientific disciplines such as biology, chemistry, physics, geology and biotechnology are developed conceptually and applied in the laboratory.

Students will gain theoretic and manual skills in the use of biotechnology for artifact preservation and restoration, and they will participate in visits to archaeological sites where field work will be demonstrated. The course has no prerequisites, however, typically sophomores and juniors studying biology, chemistry, biochemistry and other related disciplines would be the most ideal participant. Students from other majors in engineering or architecture could be qualified.

There will be three type of lectures: in class lectures, applied work lectures in the laboratory and on site lectures with class visits to major artistic and historical sites. Students will be engaged in one of these activities for 4-5 days a week.


Introductory organismal biology (Biology 1111 or 1911 at Temple) and introductory cellular and molecular biology (Biology 2112 or 2912 at Temple), or equivalent, with a minimum grade of C; or, permission of instructor (for students interested in the program but for whom have not fulfilled the pre-requisite courses and have received permission from the program director before the application deadline). 

Non-Temple students who have questions about their eligiblity for this course should contact Education Abroad.