Belfast, a successful INBIONET secondment in a windy land.

Feb ,13 2017

INBIONET fellows, as part of INBIONET training, spend a period of time in another laboratory of the network. The aim of these secondments is to carry out experiments to complement our research and to learn new techniques, useful for developing our scientific topics. I joined the laboratory of Prof. José Antonio Bengoechea at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) in February 2015. Here I want to share some brief impressions of my three intense months in Northern Ireland, playing a bit with the word “Belfast” and creating an acrostic! (If you don’t know, an acrostic is a form of writing in which the first letter of each line spells out a word)
Let’s start!

Beautiful bacteria

My PhD project at the Institut Pasteur in Paris is focused on the study of the secretion mechanisms of colibactin, a genotoxin produced mainly by some Escherichia coli strains but also by some Klebsiella pneumoniae strains, inducing double-strand DNA breaks leading to tumour formation in colorectal cancer. In particular, my research project is to elucidate why a capsule mutant of Klebsiella pneumoniae is unable to produce a functional toxin. The laboratory of José Bengoechea studies as well different aspects of Klebsiella pneumoniae infection and, during my secondment, I could profit from the expertise of the laboratory and shed light on some open questions of my project. Such a fruitful collaboration!

Exciting environment

The laboratory is formed by a great group of people, very friendly and professional. As soon as I arrived, I felt really welcomed and I got along very easily with all lab members. Moreover, at the time of my arrival, there were two INBIONET fellows from other laboratories, doing as well their secondment in Belfast (Masa and Francisco). This facilitated a lot the adapting time in a new environment. I would say that, in three months, I built friendships and not only professional relationships.

Lively city

When I heard for the first time the name of the city where I was supposed to live for three months for my secondment I was not really excited. Belfast? In the wet Northern Ireland? In the “conflict” area? Are there young and dynamic people? Is there something nice to do? Finally, once again, a lot of stereotypes that we have in our mind are not valid.

Belfast is a very lively and vibrant city with quite a lot of things to do. It is not a big city so you can walk easily from one place to another. It is full of young people, many of them studying or working at the University. Almost every day you can see traditional pubs plenty of people, listening live Irish music, until very late at night. Different concerts and shows are scheduled in cozy concert venues and theatres.

Don’t forget the Belfast Giants! Go to the Arena to enjoy the ice hockey team at work!

Fabulous nature

During my stay in Belfast, I had the opportunity to travel around Northern Ireland. I visited the second largest city of the region, Derry/Londonderry, the city of the sadly well-known “Bloody Sunday”, but I mainly admired cliffs, wild coasts, rock castles, celtic ruins and…a fabulous “green”! The frequently rainy weather leads to a permanent green countryside… The green there is really green!

Amazing rainbows

Not so many words about that… The weather changes really quickly during the day, from sunny to rainy and viceversa, and it is frequent to see incredible rainbows in the sky. From the laboratory that has big glass windows, we took several pictures of this nature phenomenon!

Science is social

I think that what made this secondment successful was the scientific and social spirit present in the group. I spent a lot of time in the laboratory (the working hours were intense) with my colleagues and we shared scientific discussions really fruitful but we also participated to different social events (conferences, university running races, traditional irish dancing classes etc..).
When science is also social, the working time is pleasant and efficient and the exchange of knowledge is easily successful!

Thanks to INBIONET!

Climbing Cave Hill, on the top of Belfast, with colleagues of the lab. So windy!!!