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Pedro Paulo Oliveira Jr.

Some initial notes from lessons learned during FreeSurfer course in São Paulo, Brazil 11 & 12 March, 2009

Note: The opinions expressed here are the views of mine and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the FreeSurfer Development Team.

We had a wonderful FreeSurfer course in HCFMUSP in São Paulo, Brazil in March, 2009. In order to save you some time if you are thinking about organizing a Freesurfer course, I've put some of my personal notes in this page. I think this is a compilation of what we have learned from my mistakes and some of our successes.

I'm not sure that the people from the FreeSurfer development team can make more than few courses per year especially if they are outside the US. So try to book your course with enough time, check with your sponsor is fine with the idea and your institution has scientific skills to have at least 20-30 people who make research in neuroscience or intend to use this tool.


  • "Measure Twice, Cut Once"


Keep in mind that you should provide one computer per pair of attendees. It's strongly advisable to test all computers before the course.

Ideal configuration

  • 19" LCD Monitor
  • Core2Duo or AMD X2

  • 2GB RAM
  • 10/100/1000 Lan or 802.11g/n Wifi

Min configuration

  • 15" LCD Monitor (if you can provide 17" at least it would be better)
  • Pentium D or superior
  • 1GB RAM
  • 10/100 Lan or 802.11g Wifi

Laptop notes Laptops can be handy if you have limited space; however it's advisable to provide a proper mouse and to check the video board of the Notebook. Intel Video boards sometimes can create trouble.

Virtual Machine All FreeSurfer GUI tools runs fine in VirtualBox. If people want to try it in their own computers probably it's a good idea to give them a DVD with a VDI image that runs inside Windows.

  • If there is interest I can provide a VDI distribution.

The computers must have:

Travel Arrangements

  • The distance the instructors have to travel is an important factor. If your sponsor can afford buying C tickets it would be kind to you do so. However if you can only afford Y tickets keep at least 24 hours between the arrival and the beginning of the course.
  • If you live outside US check with the immigration authorities of your country weather there's some Visa need to US citizens to enter your country. It´s advisable to ask if all the instructors are US citizens and take the proper action. It would be very nice if you pay the expenses for the Visas.
  • Make health/accident/luggage insurance for the instructors. It's very affordable and it can be useful if anything goes wrong.


  • Book a hotel close to the place where the event will take place.
  • Check how they will go from the Hotel to the Course. If English is not widely spoken in your country give the opportune direction to the information desk of the Hotel to them to inform the cab.

Course Room

You'll need:

  • A proper desk for each pair of students is preferable over other configurations (auditorium seats, notebooks on the lap, etc.)
  • A projector, microphone if the room is large.
  • Laser pointer.


  • "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong." -- Murphy's Law

A nice way to avoid Murphy's Law is to have a backup plan to each critical step. If you don't consider a step critical, think twice or Murphy can pay you a visit.

Network, computers, power network and other electronics can be nasty when it comes to Murphy's so be prepared to work in full panic mode.


Some ideas:

  • Provide badges to the attendees. Since a good badge program is hard to find I did a script to create it (BadgeCreator).

  • Have the certificates ready. If you need ask for a template.
  • A dress code is fine in some place. Check the attached template.

  • It's useful to have a print of all the PPT that will be shown in the course for each student.


  • Wireless is a very good system to get rid of cabling. Check if your router has capacity to handle n simultaneous workstations.
  • Keep a backup solution (either an secondary wireless or a plain old wired UTP network)

Power supply

  • It didn't happen but you should be aware of it: if you plug more computers in the rooms than the power supply has been designed to you can have a random shutdown or if the breaker don't work a nice fire.
  • Ask the place where the event will take place if you can use n computers in that room (plus a projector, air conditioning, etc)

Special needs

  • It's kind to check if there is someone who'll attend the course who has some special needs (mobility, etc.) and take the proper actions.


  • "May the Force be with you" Star Wars, 1977.


  • Evaluation forms can be given as a Web form. There are some tools that can grab information from a page and send it to a worksheet.
  • We can send you one in Google Forms format.
  • Ask everybody to fill the form as soon as the course ends. People tend to forget it if they procrastinate.

Putting people to work

  • A great way to thank the people who gave the course is make the people who attended it to put in practice what they have learned.
  • It would be interesting if you set up another small event few weeks after the course to exchange research ideas with the participants.

FreeSurfer List

  • Don't forget to insist to the participants to subscribe the FreeSurfer mailing list.

  • Also refer them to the FAQ

If you have more questions: ppaulojr AT gmail DOT com

Pedro Paulo Oliveira Jr.

OrganizingFSCourse (last edited 2009-09-15 08:24:21 by PedroOliveira)