Microbiology, Metagenomics and Bioinformatics

Johan Bengtsson-Palme, University of Gothenburg | Wisconsin Institute for Discovery

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Leaving Madison

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Jorn's Hall

Jorn's Hall - will not be missed

So this morning, I packed my stuff, cleaned out my room and went to WID for the last time this year. I had time to say goodbye to everyone in the lab but Bailey, and I have to admit that I feel a little bit sad leaving. This is a really good place, filled with very good people, in a very beautiful town. I will miss you Handelsman lab, and I will miss you Madison. On the other hand, tomorrow I will be picking up my daughter after preschool for the first time in a month.

My plane

Waiting for my flight

I am now waiting for my flight at the airport. I prepare for a long night of lost sleep (as I cannot sleep on airplanes). I am endlessly happy that I will be able to combine these two fantastic worlds next year when we are moving here altogether. Until then, farewell Madison – see you soon again.

Wisconsin Institute for Discovery

Wisconsin Institute for Discovery - a place filled with people I will miss

I guess this concludes the blog for this time around. Please check back this winter when we’re going here the next time. This is Johan in Madison – over and out.

Lake Mendota

Lake Mendota

Conjugation and Transduction

Copper to treat Anemia

Copper to treat Anemia

Knockout mice

Knockout mice

Vitamin D derivatives

Vitamin D derivatives

Around the biochemistry building of the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus (and perhaps also elsewhere), there are a lot of these signs, highlighting discoveries that were made in Madison. And they really have a history to be proud of. This place is where both bacterial conjugation and transduction was discovered, paving the way for much of the genome editing and studies we take for granted today. And they also did the basics required to generate knock-out mice for genetics studies. I could go on, but I I think I made my point. This place has a lost of history. And I doubt that my slightly messy project will live up to these groundbreaking discoveries.

Labor day

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My desk at WID

The place I work at WID... for two more days

This Monday is Labor day in the US. Which means, I work. After having Wednesday off from lab work, me and Manuel finished up my final experiments for this round yesterday evening, so I have spent this afternoon doing some data analysis. Or rather, I should have spent the day doing data analysis, but it was boring, so instead I have mostly been scripting this… Hopefully that will pay off at a later date when I analyze more plates…

Before that, I went to see a house, which I liked a lot, so hopefully I will be able to sign a contract for this before I leave for Sweden again on Wednesday. Fingers crossed, over and out!

Farmers Market

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State Capitol and Farmers Market

State Capitol and Farmers Market

Today, I went to the big Saturday thing in Madison – the Farmers Market. Apparently this is one of the largest (if not the largest) farmers markets in America, and it’s huge. Farmers (and sellers of some other stuff like yarn) gather all around the State Capitol, and when I arrived at around half past eleven, there were so many people there that you had to just enter into the crowd and follow it in the given walking direction. The sign “Stay right for hot & spicy cheese bread” was right on it; you had to stay in the right lane to get there. But there was so much nice stuff. And then on the opposite side of the stands, there were families picnicking on the lawn and kids running around. I imagine that this will be a nice Saturday outing next Spring when we bring the kids here. For now, I ended up with three apples and some sprouts. I need to finish the food in the fridge before I go back home on Wednesday. Is it time to go home already? It’s been an eternity, but time has also passed so fast…

Madison Farmers Market

Madison Farmers Market


Stay right for bread

Stay right for hot & spicy cheese bread

The rest of the day I spent walking around by the Lake Monona and Lake Wingra, taking a break for a coffee at Colectivo Coffee. Very nice place with excellent pourovers. But now my feet hurts and I need to get some sleep!

Vegetables

Vegetables

Tomatos

Tomatos

Aubergines

Aubergines

Red peppers

Red peppers or chilies or whatever they are called

Surface tension on 96-well plate

Surface tension - or what we have been working with over the last few days

I’ve spend the lion’s share of the past few days in the lab, working quite late to obtain supercool results that we will now verify over the weekend. It’s very exciting to be able to generate useful data already during your first week in the lab (after not doing wet lab work for years), but mostly this is thanks to Manuel. Anyway, look at the beauty of those plates! My new favorite color must be crystal violet.

Students are back

Students are back, and with that 'all campus worship', whatever that is

Another thing that has happened over the past week is that the students are beginning to come back her for the autumn semester. This means nice little paintings on the ground, lots of things happening downtown, but also that it’s harder to sleep since the previously quiet area of college dorms is not seeing quite a significant amount of nightlife. Large packs of students passing by my window at night, talking loudly. It’s mostly nice though. There are many parallels between Uppsala and Madison – both are cities heavily centered around their universities, and both seem to die a little during summers when the students move out. The differences mainly are that Madison is much more beautifully located between three lakes, that Uppsala has a much older history, and that Madison seems to have quite a bit of nightlife also in the summertime.

Almost there

Almost there...

On Monday I will go to see a house to rent next year. Please keep your fingers crossed that it’s good and, if so, that we’ll get it! Otherwise housing has been a bit of a hassle, since everyone wants to rent now before the autumn semester. But I hope that that problem will no longer be a problem on Monday. Have a nice weekend!

On my way to work

On my way to work

Okay, first of all this is a shoutout post to Manuel Garavito, who has been putting up with me for the last two days – my first two days in a wet lab for several years. Manuel has been beyond fantastic in showing me their basic protocols and having patience with my rusty lab skills. If this project will work out, it will very much be because of him.

The Hop CatThis weekend, there haven’t been a lot of time for other things than lab work, but I spent Friday evening at the Memorial Union where I happened to stumble into a concert with Brazilian (I think, not sure) music. And on Saturday evening I went out to the Hop Cat, where I tasted the fantastic beer Psychedellic Cat Grass and got taught the basics of American football by a woman who was also there on her own, apparently to watch the game. So, I’m doing my well but working my ass off with things I am not really that good at. Yet.

Eagle Heights

Eagle Heights

Hey, sorry for disappearing for more than a week. The EDAR conference (more on that in a later post) was super-intense and the weekend with my Gothenburg research group in Munising in northern Michigan was fantastic but didn’t really leave any time for writing. And after that I have been quite messed up emotionally, feeling very lonely and started doubting my project and … well everything. But it’s looking better now again. Yesterday evening I was out dancing lindy hop at The Brink. Although I only did a few dances, it was very nice to do something that was all about feeling good and playing, and not so serious.

Shorewood Hills

Shorewood Hills

Today I have instead spent my evening doing grocery shopping at Whole Foods (what a fantastic store that is!) and checking out the areas where the University of Wisconsin keep their university housing. Oh, how I wish that we could get somewhere to live there. The surroundings are absolutely beautiful and there were kids everywhere on the lawns. That said, the queues for staying there are most likely very long. By the way, if anyone would have an insider tip on where and how to find good places to live in Madison, all input is appreciated. Tonight, Madison has been good to me.

Frautschi Point

Frautschi Point

Memorial Union, Madison

Memorial Union, Madison


Today I spent some time walking in the other direction from the University. Gabriel suggested I took the walk by Lake Mendota downtown, and that was a really nice walk through the forest, just by the lake. After dinner, I had ice cream on one of the landings on the picture. Madison is really a nice and beautiful city; I look forward to going here with my family next year.

Tomorrow, I am in for a six hours drive to Lansing and the EDAR conference. I hope to be writing a little about my thoughts on the conference as well, but we’ll see if I will have time to get around to that…

Wisconsin Institute of Discovery

Wisconsin Institute of Discovery

So, I have arrived in Madison, WI. I had a 17 hour flight yesterday, and I am quite messed-up with my perception of time, but except for that i’m good. I spend the morning walking around in Madison (and found a really nice coffee place – Colectivo) and getting a phone contract. Madison really is a very beautiful and green town, which reminds me quite a lot of an “American Uppsala”. After that, I had lunch with the majority of the Jo Handelsman lab at the Wisconsin Institute of Discovery Building, and then Manuel spent the afternoon showing me the experimental system we’re going to use (and its quirks). Lots and lots of new things to take in and choices to consider. This will be an interesting year. Now, I will try to find a place to eat and get a beer before I’m too tired (it’s half past one in the morning in Sweden as I’m writing this…) I look forward to my coming month here, but I also miss my family a lot already.
Lake Mendota

Lake Mendota

Today, I started my new position at the University of Gothenburg as a non-tenured assistant professor (forskarassistent)*. In essence, this means that I have a position funded by my own grant until the end of 2020, although I will be on a leave-of-absence while doing my PostDoc with Jo Handelsman in Wisconsin. Speaking of which, I will be leaving to the US on Thursday next week for a month of setting things up at her lab (and also going to the EDAR4 conference in Lansing). I will return to Sweden in mid-September and leave for the US for real early next year.

In terms of actual work, this change of position will not mean very much at the moment. I will continue to do the same things for some time, and I will remain closely associated with Joakim Larsson’s lab at the Dept. of Infectious Diseases. And luckily, I will retain my lovely roommates for at least the time being. In the long run, however, this means that I will shift my research focus slightly, away from antibiotic resistance risk management towards interactions in microbial communities (still related to antibiotics though). Exciting times ahead!

Note
* For some reason, the university administration refuses to call this position assistant professor in English at this time, instead referring to the position as “Postdoctoral research fellow”. I guess that it might be bloody annoying explaining that this is not the same as “postdoctoral researcher” and virtually everywhere else would be called “(non-tenured) assistant professor”, but then on the other hand, who cares about titles anyway?