Category: Lab

Future Research Leaders

I am extremely happy to share the news that the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research has selected me as one of 16 young research leaders to receive their 15 million SEK grant awarded to give newly established researchers with high scientific and pedagogical competence the opportunity to develop as research leaders.

This grant is one of the more prestigious grants for young researchers in Sweden that I know of and I am very honored and thankful, both towards the foundation and my research group who have made this possible, to receive this grant. In combination with the DDLS funding from the Wallenberg Foundation, this will provide the lab with some very nice opportunities to explore more far-reaching endeavors in the next couple of years, which sets the stage for a very exciting half-decade to come!

Finally, I am also happy to see (after my ten-years old criticism of the gender distributions of these grants) that the distribution of grants this year was approximately gender-equal (seven out of 16 recipient were women). This is a good sign for both future Swedish research and the trustworthiness of these grants themselves.

Thanks for the applications

Our open doctoral student and postdoc positions closed over the weekend, and in total we had 110 applications, although some persons applied to more than one of the positions, bringing the total number of applicants down a bit. Still, this will be a lot of work for me. I will prioritize the postdoc position, as this had the fewest applications. So if you applied to one of the two PhD student positions, please give it some time.

A quick skimming of the applications shows that we have had extraordinary high quality of applications overall, although some of the applicants will be a bit too wet-lab oriented for these specific positions.

Thanks a lot for your interest in the lab’s work! I appreciate all of your efforts!

We’re hiring 2 PhD students and a postdoc

As I wrote a few days ago, I have now started my new position at Chalmers SysBio. This position is funded by the SciLifeLab and Wallenberg National Program for Data-Driven Life Science (DDLS), which also funds PhD and postdoc positions. We are now announcing two doctoral student projects and one postdoc project within the DDLS program in my lab.

Common to all projects is that they will the use of large-scale data-driven approaches (including machine learning and (meta)genomic sequence analysis), high-throughput molecular methods and established theories developed for macro-organism ecology to understand biological phenomena. We are for all three positions looking for people with a background in bioinformatics, computational biology or programming. In all three cases, there will be at least some degree of analysis and interpretation of large-scale data from ongoing and future experiments and studies performed by the group and our collaborators. The positions are all part of the SciLifeLab national research school on data-driven life science, which the students and postdoc will be expected to actively participate in.

The postdoc and one of the doctoral students are expected to be involved in a project aiming to uncover interactions between the bacteria in microbiomes that are important for community stability and resilience to being colonized by pathogens. This project also seeks to unearth which environmental and genetic factors that are important determinants of bacterial invasiveness and community stability. The project tasks may include things like predicting genes involved in pathogenicity and other interactions from sequencing data, and performing large-scale screening for such genes in microbiomes.

The second doctoral student is expected to work in a project dealing with understanding and limiting the spread of antibiotic resistance through the environment, identifying genes involved in antibiotic resistance, defining the conditions that select for antibiotic resistance in different settings, and developing approaches for monitoring for antibiotic resistance in the environment. Specifically, the tasks involved in this project may be things like identifying risk environments for AMR, define potential novel antibiotic resistance genes, and building a platform for AMR monitoring data.

For all these three positions, there is some room for adapting the specific tasks of the projects to the background and requests of the recruited persons!

We are very excited to see your applications and to jointly build the next generation of data driven life scientist! Read more about the positions here.

My first day at Chalmers

Today was a big day, as it was my first ‘real’ working day at SysBio at Chalmers University of Technology. (Quotation marks as I have had access to an office at SysBio for a few weeks, and also because I spend the afternoon on meetings at Sahlgrenska.) Regardless, this marks the start of a transition period where the lab will be moving more and more of our routines to Chalmers, which will culminate when the lab-dependent persons will move into our new labs after the summer.

We also welcomed our Erasmus intern Manuela Seehauser to the lab today, as well as Marius Surleac who is visiting us for a few weeks from Romania.

Finally, we have announced new positions related to my new Chalmers-funding. More on those soon. Speaking of jobs, if you’re interested in doing a bioinformatics postdoc with me and Joakim Larsson you have two more days to apply for that position!

Open postdoc position

Together with Joakim Larsson‘s lab, we now have an open two-year postdoc position in bioinformatics on antibiotic resistance and biocide resistance. The development of antibiotic resistance has been driven by use of antibiotics, but antibacterial biocides also have the potential to select for antibiotic resistance. However, knowledge of which genes that contribute to biocide resistance and could be associated with antibiotic resistance is sparse. To some extent, such genes are documented in the BacMet database which we have developed, but this collection of resistance genes is only scratching the surface of all biocide resistance that exists among bacteria in the environment.

We are now looking for a postdoctoral fellow to continue the important work on bioinformatic analysis of biocide and antibiotic resistance to answer the question whether increasing biocide resistance would be a threat to human health. The postdoc will be working with the development of the BacMet database to make it more targeted towards biocidal substances and products in addition to resistance genes. The tasks include bioinformatic sequence analysis, literature studies and database and web programming. The work will also include investigations of the prevalence of the identified resistance genes in genomes and metagenomes.

The recruited person will work closely with both my group and the group of Prof. Joakim Larsson, and will participate in the JPIAMR-funded BIOCIDE project. You can apply to the postdoc position at the University of Gothenburg application portal: https://web103.reachmee.com/ext/I005/1035/job?site=7&lang=UK&validator=9b89bead79bb7258ad55c8d75228e5b7&job_id=25122

The deadline is May 4, 2022. Come work with us on this exciting topic in the intersect between two great research environments (if I may say it myself!) We look forward to your application!

BIG NEWS: We’re moving to Chalmers

I have very big and exciting news to share with you. After more than 10 years at the Sahlgrenska Academy, me and my lab will be moving from the University of Gothenburg to Chalmers University of Technology (which is physically a move of less than a kilometer, so still within Gothenburg). I have been offered a position at the Division of Systems Biology, funded by the SciLifeLab and Wallenberg National Program for Data-Driven Life Science (DDLS). The total funding to my lab will be 17 million SEK, with some co-funding from Chalmers added in on top of that.

I am of course very excited about this opportunity, which will bring some infrastructure that we need in-house that we don’t have easy access to today. At the same time, I am sad to leave my academic ‘home’, and the fantastic people we have been working with there for the years. I am also endlessly thankful for the support and trust that the Sahlgrenska Academy, the Institute of Biomedicine and the Department of Infectious Diseases have put into me and my research over the past years.

The transition to Chalmers will start already in May, but will be gradual and continue for a long time. We have close ties to the Sahlgrenska Academy and we will keep closely collaborating with researchers there. I will also retain an affiliation to the University of Gothenburg, at least for the near future.

All in all, this year will bring very interesting development, and this additional funding from the DDLS program will allow us to venture into new areas of bioinformatics and try out ideas that have previously been out of reach. I look forward to work with our new colleagues at Chalmers and within the DDLS program in the coming years!

Portrait on my research

As part of a series highlighting the research at the Institute of Biomedicine, I was a few weeks a go interviewed about the research in the lab and my history. This interview has now been published on the department website, both in Swedish and English. I think it is a pretty nice read and a good introduction to our work and why we do what we do. Could make for a good weekend read!

Update on the PhD candidate evaluation

Thanks a lot to all of those who applied to the PhD position opening that closed a week ago. In total we received 59 applications, of which the vast majority were of high quality – I am sure that at least half the candidates would have made a great job in the position. However, we have to make a selection among these 59 candidates, so after reading and evaluating all 59 applications, we have now nailed down ten top candidates that we will initially move forward with. Those ten candidates should have received an e-mail today about how the process will move forward.

If you have not received an e-mail from us, the most likely explanation is that you were not among these top ten candidates (but remember to also check your spam!) In that case, you will get a follow-up once the position is filled.

Again, thanks a lot for your interest. I have been overwhelmed by the high quality and relevance of the applications.

Open PhD position

We are hiring a PhD student to work with interactions between the bacteria in human and environmental microbiomes that are important for community stability and resilience to being colonized by unwanted bacteria (including pathogens). The project seeks to unearth which environmental and genetic factors that are important determinants of bacterial invasiveness and community stability. You can read more at our Open Positions page.

We are looking for a candidate with experience with both bioinformatics and experimental microbiology. Previous experience with microbial communities is a plus, but not a must, as is work with human cell lines.

The project is fully funded by a grant from the Swedish Research Council and the position is planned for 4.5 years, with 4 years of research and course work and half a year of teaching.

If you feel that you are the right person for this position, you can apply hereWe look forward to your application! The deadline for applications is October 21.

Published paper: Temperature affects community interactions

I am very happy to announce that Emil Burman‘s (doctoral student in the lab) first first-author paper was published today in Frontiers in Microbiology. In this paper (1), we explored how temperature affected the interactions in the model microbial community THOR (2). Somewhat surprisingly, we found that even a small difference in temperature changed the community intrinsic properties (3) of this model community a lot. We furthermore find that changes in growth rates of the members of the community partially explains the changed interaction patterns, but only to some extent. Finally, we also found that biofilm production overall was much higher at lower temperatures (9-15°C) than at room temperature, and that at around 25°C and above the community formed virtually no biofilm.

The temperature range we tested is not unlikely to be encountered when incubating the community in a thermally unregulated environment. Thus, our results show that a high degree of temperature control is crucial between experiments, particularly when reproducing results across different laboratories, equipment, and personnel. This highlights the need for standards and transparency in research on microbial model communities (4).

Another important, related, aspect is that disruptive factors that discriminate against single members of the community are not unique to THOR. Instead, this is likely to be the case for other microbial model (as well as natural communities). Since only a few of these model communities have been elucidated for community behaviors outside of specific culturing conditions they were first contrived under, this may severely limit our view of interactions between microbes to specific laboratory settings. This casts some doubt on the validity of extrapolation from results obtained from microbial model communities. It seems to be important moving forward to establish that community-intrinsic behaviors in model communities are stable in the face of variable environmental conditions, such as temperature, pH, nutrient availability, and initial inoculum size.

A short backstory to this paper: this begun when Emil could not consistently replicate the results I had obtained during my postdoc (working on THOR) in Prof. Jo Handelsman’s lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After a long time of troubleshooting, we realized that our lab did not hold a stable room temperature. We bought a cold incubator, and – boom – after that the expected community behavior came back. This made us realize the importance of temperature for the community-intrinsic properties of THOR, which then led to this more systematic investigation.

Great work Emil! It is nice to finally see this in its published form. Read the entire paper (open access) here!

References

  1. Burman E, Bengtsson-Palme J: Microbial community interactions are sensitive to small differences in temperature. Frontiers in Microbiology, 12, 672910 (2021). doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2021.672910
  2. Lozano GL, Bravo JI, Garavito Diago MF, Park HB, Hurley A, Peterson SB, Stabb EV, Crawford JM, Broderick NA, Handelsman J: Introducing THOR, a Model Microbiome for Genetic Dissection of Community Behavior. mBio, 10, 2, e02846-18 (2019). doi: 10.1128/mBio.02846-18
  3. Madsen JS, Sørensen SJ, Burmølle M: Bacterial social interactions and the emergence of community-intrinsic properties. Current Opinion in Microbiology 42, 104–109 (2018). doi: 10.1016/j.mib.2017.11.018
  4. Bengtsson-Palme J: Microbial model communities: To understand complexity, harness the power of simplicity. Computational and Structural Biotechnology Journal, 18, 3987-4001 (2020). doi: 10.1016/j.csbj.2020.11.043