My two months at Michigan State University, Michigan, USA

 

IBA student and the recipient of the IBA travel grant for research stays abroad, Erik Paulshus, has spent two months in the US working on his PhD (he is currently enrolled at NMBU, Ås). This is what he had to say about it!

  

Michigan State University, Michigan, USA

My PhD project aims at identifying the major sources of antibiotic resistance in urban wastewaters. Approaching this issue, we have looked at phenotypic and resistance profiles in bacterial isolates cultivated from wastewater samples and measured the levels of antibiotics. The third approach was to look at the prevalence of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in the corresponding samples. The project was initially run in parallel to a European project in which the same method for detecting ARGs was used. The European counterpart was however finished before my sampling campaign was ready, and the plan of shipping my samples alongside the European ones to MSU had to be altered. Since I had many samples to analyze, the research group at MSU offered to host me at their labs so that I could assist with the analysis to reduce the time needed as well as learn the methods.

Erik at Lansing Capitol Building (Capitol of Michigan)

IBA was very generous in accepting my application for a travel grant to stay the two months in Michigan to do the intended work. James Tiedje is a University Distinguished Professor and Director at MSU and has vast experience in the field of environmental microbiology. The method I would be using to analyze my samples involves a very large array of qPCR reactions that are run in parallel at the Research Technology Support Facility (RTSF). A very big thanks to Professor Syed Hashsham who leads the environmental engineering lab where the preparation of samples was performed and his colleagues for help with the lab work. Some thanks are also allotted to James Cole, director of the ribosomal database project for allowing me a desk space in his computer labs at times when my designated office area was completely uninhabited.

 

Erik at Sleeping Bear Dunes

Several complications leading up to my stay at MSU and during my stay did make the whole experience a little bit less successful then we would have hoped, but I did learn a great deal about American bureaucracy! I was lucky enough to find a student housing options that relieved some of the strain on the IBA grant budget, and I was also able to travel a bit and see several places in Michigan, including a two-night stay in Chicago and a visit to my American second cousin Krista near Grand Rapids, whom I’ve not met in person until now.

I am very thankful for meeting so many positive and encouraging researchers in a country that has recently been given a very harsh reputation, and even though things don't always work out as planned, I am also forever grateful to IBA for granting me this opportunity.

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