Microbiology, Metagenomics and Bioinformatics

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

Browsing Posts tagged PostDoc

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

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.

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?

So 2017 has begun, and this year will bring new challenges and exciting opportunities. First of all, my application for a 3.5 year grant from the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (FORMAS) to go to Prof. Jo Handelsman’s lab in the US was granted. Since Prof. Handelsman in is moving her lab to University of Wisconsin in Madison, where she will be heading the Wisconsin Institute of Discovery (after returning from the White House), it means that this summer I will be moving to Wisconsin. I will retain a link to the University of Gothenburg and the Joakim Larsson lab though, and part of the grant is actually for covering my salary after returning from the US, so Gothenburg won’t get rid of me so easily.

The granted project will use high-throughput sequencing techniques to identify genes improving colonization and invasion ability or resistance to invasion in microbial communities, using a model system developed by the Handelsman lab. The project will focus on genes important for colonization, invasion and resistance to invasion under exposure to sub-lethal antibiotics concentrations. The project will contribute important knowledge towards the understanding of microbial colonization and invasion and highlight disturbances to the interactions in microbial communities caused by anthropogenic activities. In addition, the results of the project will hopefully allow for prediction of secondary effects of antibiotic exposure in the environment, and the preparation for future challenges related to infections with pathogenic bacteria. The project has already been highlighted by CARe (although this was before Jo announced her move from Yale) and a FORMAS press release (in Swedish).

The project will go under the acronym InSiDER, and I intend to write about it in a special section of the website, called the Wisconsin Blog. My intention is to include personal reflections on life in Wisconsin and work in the Handelsman lab there, but we’ll see how those plans turn out. Anyway, I am very thankful for FORMAS funding this project and giving me the opportunity to work with one of the leading scientists within microbial ecology in the world!