People already warned me that it is abnormal to go to the Middle-North of Sweden in October and November because of its harsh half raining-snowing mostly dark weather. I did not believe that. I thought when I tried something at its most extreme condition meaning that I already experienced that. Yes, I wanted to experience winter in Sweden. I left Groningen (Netherlands) on the last days of October and went to Umea (Sweden). And the reality slapped me so hard to the face. While I was still enjoying a bit of the autumn in Groningen, the winter was already there by that time. I could spot the darkness coming so early when I reached Stockholm airport for the connecting flight and Umea greeted by heavy snow in the next morning. However, apart from the distasteful weather, I had a fabulous secondment in Umea.

 

The differences of weather between Groningen and Umea at the end of October 2019

My first secondment is in the group of Prof. Jörgen Johansson at Umea University in one month. The objective is construct strains of L. monocytogenes carried fluorescent protein fused to the sensory component of the stressosome complex(es). The fluorescent protein is at the N-terminal of the proteins of interest connecting each other by a hexapeptide linker. Once obtained these strains, I will bring them back to our lab in Groningen for the further test on the fluorescent microscope. The ultimate goal is to localize as well as to examine the diffusion of stressosome complex in Listeria in vivo.

To insert the fluorescent gene into the genome of Listeria, I used the suicidal temperature-sensitive vector. The method employed many basic molecular biology techniques such as restriction cloning, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), transformation, genome integration and excision.

In the beginning, I was worried because I need to work in the new lab (different equipment, chemicals, or conditions) and the PCR/transformation sometimes does not work for no particular reason as well as my time in Umea was not so long. The procedure was not extremely difficult but quite time-consuming. The step-by-step workflow has to be completed strictly.

In the end, thanks to the expertise and the help of people in Prof. Johansson’s lab, particularly Teresa and Ana, I had constructed Listeria strains with fluorescent gene integrated at the position of interest and sent them back to Groningen, where I will check the expression of the fusion as well as its behaviour in the living cells.

Friendly and helpful people in the lab. Left to right: Teresa, Jörgen, me, Hassan, Ana at the weekly meeting

…and Sophie (and me again) working in the lab

To sum things up, though the trip was short, it was effective. I have got what I planned for. I have learned many other things from the lab with a lot of experiences working with Listeria. Not only the lab, but the department is also really interesting. I had time to attend several meetings and work discussions. I have met and made friends with some amazing people in the cosy lunch corner. That was a good memory. Now I am looking forward to the findings coming out from a super-resolution microscope.