Research stays abroad

Travel report from a three-week research internship in June of 2019 at IGTP Badelona, Spain

April 2020. Author: Niruja Sivakumar. Medical research student at NTNU.

Last summer I was lucky enough to spend three weeks at Germans Trias i Pujol Research Institute (IGTP) in Badelona, Spain where my co-supervisor Marte Dragset was completing her post-doc. We’ve been working on identifying and studying the mechanism of novel virulence genes in pathogenic mycobacteria to both get a better understanding of host-pathogen interactions and to discover possible future treatment targets. We had already identified and verified a handful of novel virulence genes in a clinical strain of Mycobacterium avium through mouse experiments based off a transposon mutant library created by Marte. One of them, a probable MFS transporter, was of special interest and we wanted to study it further in other mycobacterial strains. 

Mycobacteria are notoriously hard to genetically manipulate but with Marte’s expertise in bacterial virulence and the facilities provided at IGTP, a research institute accredited as a Centre of Excellence by the Spanish Government, we succeeded in creating a homologue mutant in Mycobacterium marinum through a specialized transduction method. During my stay there we were also able to perform in vivo infection experiments in common fruit fly since the Drosohpila melanogaster- and M. marinum infection model to study mycobacterial virulence was developed and implemented at IGTP.  

I am grateful for the support I received from IBA and for the opportunity which was valuable in several ways. It was exciting to collaborate with my co-supervisor and successfully get an end product to bring back home for future experiments. I got to learn about the different projects and methods used in her lab group and the experience provided valuable insight into how different approaches shapes a lab environment and how cultural, social and structural barriers plays into that.  As side from the scientific value I was lucky to explore beautiful Barcelona and I am filled with gratitude for the people I met and the hospitality I received. 

Sindre Ullmann is back from a one-week research visit to Cambridge, UK

December 2019. Author: Sindre Ullmann

PhD student from NTNU and IBA member Sindre Ullmann recently went to Cambridge for a research visit.

In the section under, you can read what Sindre has to say about the stay.

UK Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology (photo: private)

As a result of conversations with Felix Randow about our two laboratories research projects it was discovered that the Randow group had developed a fluorescent probe which might have the potential to be very interesting applied in my project. They were so generous that they offered to share this probe with us and invited me to come and visit. This offer was to good to refuse as travelling to visit the UK Medical Research Council Laboratory (MRC) of Molecular Biology and getting hands on with the probe would be a rewarding and valuable experience moving forward in my project.

During my visit I got experience with using and imaging the probe. All the while I also got to see how a different research group approaches investigating host-pathogen interactions between the human immune system and pathogenic bacteria. Visiting the MRC also provided me with many new acquaintances as the people in the Randow group was very welcoming and including, something which led to both evening football playing, Christmas party and numerous communal lunch and coffee breaks.

Travelling back, I carry with me new insights, knowledge and hands on expertise with the fluorescent probe.

The support from The National Graduate School in Infection Biology and Antimicrobials allowed me to make time and budget-room in a busy PhD project to undertake this journey.

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JANINE LIEDTKE IS BACK FROM A THREE WEEK RESEARCH VISIT AT THE VRIJE UNIVERSITEIT IN BRUSSEL, BELGIUM

August 2019. Author: Janine Liedtke

IBA member (from The Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Oslo) and recipient of the IBA travel grant for research stays abroad, Janine Liedtke, has spent three weeks in Belgium working on her PhD. This is what she had to say about it!

Vrije Universiteit, Brussels.

The aim of my PhD project is to investigate bacterial spore surface structures, known as “appendages”. The presence of appendages among many spore forming Bacillus and Clostridium species suggest that they have an important biological function. Despite the fact that several studies already have been on spore appendages, their genetic identity and role remain elusive because of their extreme resistance towards chemical as well as enzymatic treatments. We want to overcome these issues by using state-of-the-art techniques like the latest electron microscopy and mass spectrometric techniques. For these purpose, we work closely together with our national and international partners, since they can provide us with the latest techniques as well as with their expertise.

I have succeeded to develop a method that allows extraction of a high amount and nearly pure appendages. This has already lead to high quality TEM images of the structure of the fibres, which has not been reported yet. However, due to the high resistance and hydrophobic behaviour of the appendages, we faced several difficulties to degrade and solubilize the appendage structure for further mass spectroscopic analyses.

At the same time, our collaboration partner Prof. Ute Krengel (UiO), who became a part of my supervisor team, introduced us to Prof. Han Remaute from the VUB in Belgium. Prof. Remaute has extensive expertise on working with bacterial surface-associated amyloid fibres and he gave me the great opportunity to use state of the art electron microscopy techniques in his lab to study the structure of the appendages in further detail. We decided to have a first “short” visit to test if those techniques are suitable for determining the structure of the appendages. Luckily, it turned out that their technique can provide us with a high-resolution model of our structure. Additionally with the support of the group members Dr. Mike Sleutel and Dr. Jolyon K. Claridge, I was also able to conduct further chemical treatments of appendages to test their solubility and stability.

During my first visit, we made good progress in improving the resolution of the appendage structure and gained more information of the chemical properties of the appendages. At the same time, I got the chance to join a highly motivated group with who I discussed many new ideas and from who I learned another way to approach my project.

My research visit would not had been possible without the grant from the National Graduate School in Infection Biology and Antimicrobials (IBA) and I am very grateful for the support. I have been invited to a longer research visit in Prof. Han Remautes lab and a plan to go there to continue and finalize the work on the structure on the spore appendages.

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MY SIX MONTHS AT UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS MEDICAL SCHOOL, USA

July 2019. Author: Hera Kim

IBA student and recipient of the IBA travel grant for research stays abroad, Hera Kim, has spent six months in the US working on her PhD (she is currently enrolled at NTNU in Trondheim). This is what she had to say about it!

University of Massachusetts Medical School, June 2019.

In the period of January to June 2019, I conducted research at University of Massachusetts Medical School, USA as a visiting student researcher in Dr. Kate Fitzgerald’s lab. The purpose of this research visit was to continue the functional studies of my gene of interest and get trained in advanced in vitro and in vivo infection models that can be applied to my Ph.D. studies.

Immunometabolism, or interplay between immunity and metabolism, is a rapidly growing field in immunology. As many studies have clearly highlighted how crucial metabolism is and its remodeling during infection and inflammation, our research group, led by Prof. Richard K. Kandasamy is particularly interested in changes in metabolism and associated changes in metabolite levels regulating the immune response. We have identified novel differentially regulated metabolites in Toll-like receptors signaling pathway from our initial metabolomics screen and aim to identify the role of these novel metabolites in innate immune signaling. Just then, I got a great opportunity to go abroad to continue my functional studies.

Boston, MA, January 2019.

 The most important and interesting part of my stay was to get trained in in vivo infection models. Hands-on-training with in vivo model definitely improved my understanding of physiologic concepts and increased the confidence in handling the model and a number of related techniques. I was also highly encouraged to meet researchers from other labs and share research ideas with colleagues, which helped me to build the key networks and increased opportunities for collaboration and publication. Moreover, attending several departmental presentations and related activities allowed meto gain in-depth knowledge in molecular mechanisms controlling the inflammatory responses. Now I believe that these skills and experiences will allow me to complete a larger-scale project in Trondheim and I hope to share this knowledge with my colleagues. 

Overall, the stay has been productive on both a professional and personal front and I can highly recommend going for a research stay aboard to others. It is great for gaining research experience in a different environment, building your network, and broaden your perspective. 

Lastly, I would like to thank the IBA school for the financial support. This funding has allowed me to truly grow as a researcher in my profession. 

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My six months at Washington University, St. Louis and at Icahn School of Medicine, New York, USA

January 2019. Author: Anders Madsen.

IBA student and the recipient of the IBA travel grant for research stays abroad, Anders Madsen, has spent six months in the US working on his PhD (he is currently enrolled at The University of Bergen). This is what he had to say about it!

Anders at Washington University in St. Louis, September 2018

From July to December 2018 I conducted research in Dr. Ali Ellebedy’s lab at Washington University in St. Louis and in Professor Florian Krammer’s lab at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. As a medical research student at University of Bergen, my project aims at better understanding the antibody response to influenza. The purpose of this research visit was to address fundamental questions about the immune response to influenza by generating monoclonal antibodies from human B-cells. 

Manhattan, New York, November 2018

Although influenza is a harmless disease for most people, it accounts for around 300 000 to 600 000 deaths every year. A major goal in the field of influenza is to develop an efficient prophylactic vaccine that provides long-lasting protection against a broad range of influenza viruses. The current seasonal influenza vaccines do not have these traits. My research project in USA involved generating monoclonal antibodies against neuraminidase (NA), which is a protein located on the surface of the influenza virus. We found that the antibodies targeting NA could bind to a broad range of influenza viruses, and were able to protect mice from lethal influenza infection. Our findings will bring valuable insight into the NA-specific antibody response to influenza. We plan to publish our results in a high-ranking international journal, and hope that it will contribute to generate better vaccination strategies for influenza in the future. 

Anders at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, December 2018

What I bring back to Norway is an increased knowledge of immunology and influenza, and a broader view of research in general. I have learned many new laboratory techniques and experiments, which we plan to establish here at the Influenza Centre, University of Bergen. The research visit has strengthened the collaboration with the research groups in USA, and I have made lifelong friends. To be given the opportunity to learn from world leading influenza researchers has been an invaluable experience for me as a young scientist. I will always remember my six months in USA – not because of the country itself, or because it is the longest I’ve ever been away from home, or even because it was the most hardworking months of my life, but because of the inspiring people I worked with.

I am very thankful for the IBA travel grant, which made this research visit possible.