Email received. From Nina, our project manager. She asked us to compile our own drafts for the project’s blog. “It will be a draft for a blog post, or possibly, it may be the first post for our blog”, I thought. Yes. That was how we, the early stage researchers (ESRs) from PATHSENSE (Pathogen sensing) project, started writing our first lines to tell you the stories about our new journeys  to confront new challenges.

Welcome to one of the first of many blogs from 13 ESRs of PATHSENSE. I am Buu Minh Tran, known as ESR1 for people from the same network, just like a code name for secret services. My host institution in this project is the University of Groningen (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, RUG), and I am going to focus my research on the expression, localization, and diffusion of Listeria monocytogenes stressosome in response to osmotic stress by mainly using super-resolution microscopes. However, I am not going to bore you with more scientific details, instead, I will share with you my life lessons during my first 3 months in the beautiful Groningen city in the north of the Netherlands after introducing myself a little bit.

I come from Viet Nam, a small country in Southeast Asia. If you want to look for our country using a miniature globe, firstly take a look at the East side of Asia and notice a charming S line in the south. To be more precise, my hometown is Can Tho, a central city of Mekong delta in the south of Viet Nam. That is a peaceful and friendly city, which is famous for floating markets, Buddhist pagodas, delicious foods and extremely fresh tropical fruits representing for the beauty of Mekong delta. It is also known as a “Western capital” of Viet Nam. Located in the heart of the city is Can Tho University where I obtained my BSc of biotechnology in an advanced program in cooperating with Michigan State University in US. Can Tho is not so big as Ho Chi Minh city, not so crowded and well-known as Ha Noi, but will be charming and distinctive enough for you to explore a real city of Viet Nam. I hope you will be there someday.

Back to the interview in June last year in Amsterdam. That was the first time I stood on the land of the old continent, Europe. I took the flight not from Viet Nam, but Seoul, South Korea, where I did my master degree for 2 year and worked as a researcher for one year. It was a very long flight and I was totally exhausted as I arrived to Schiphol airport. Regardless this tiredness, I immediately rented a bike and travelled around this gorgeous city for hours before having a real bed to rest in the hotel. Amsterdam was not so totally strange for me as I expected, I did not know why, but it was as if a familiar city with me. It could be either I had read through the books about Amsterdam or I overcame the difficulties in a completely new place thanks to my experiences studying abroad. Among candidates, I was the one who came from the furthest place, which actually put a certain pressure on me but also, it was sort of cool because I felt myself being a real adventurer. Eventually, the intensive interview finished, I went out with new friends who were also candidates in this interview to quickly explore Amsterdam in the evening before taking the early flight in the next morning back to Seoul.

pathsense, esr1. buu minh tran, amsterdam,

My short but wonderful trip in Amsterdam (June 2017)

Fortunately, I was offered for the position based at RUG. Time flies quickly, three months later,  in September 2017, I was standing in the Netherlands again, but this time, it was Groningen instead of Amsterdam. Groningen greeted me, a tropical citizen, by the cold in the days of late autumn and early winter. My first impression to Groningen was the tremendous number of bicycles. Bicycles are everywhere. The second was a youthful population. It was mentioned on the RUG website: “More than a quarter of the city’s 200,000 inhabitants consists of students. You will find them everywhere: studying in the park, having a drink with fellow students in one of the many pubs, or riding their bicycles”. Above all of these impressions was RUG. I was so excited realizing that I was going to work at one of the oldest and largest university in the Netherlands.

Academy Building, RUG

Where is my bike? (Academy Building, RUG)

At RUG, I work in an amazing Membrane Enzymology group with full of talented people. I can stop and ask them any question and always receive back great answers without any hesitation and unwelcomeness. Boards and chalks are everywhere around the lab that we can always have any discussion. We have group work discussion, journal club, and subgroup meeting every week, which are to assure that questions will be answered, problems will be addressed, and outcomes will be discussed. Three months are not a long time, but so far, I like working in the group as well as my life in Groningen.

One of my favorite thing in my group, chalk talk and free discussion

I have many other stories to tell you, but I will stop here for the first blog. I will see you in the next blog with my story in Galway for the kick-off meeting, other 12 wonderful PhD fellows in the project, and what I have learnt and prepared until now in the lab for my individual research. I wish you all the best with you research. I strongly believe that we will have a great time together as well as fruitful findings in this project. Bye for now and see you again!