Secondment from NUIG, Galway, Ireland to UGOT, Gothenburg, Sweden.
ESR12 – Chetan Chintha (India)
I am from India, starting PhD program as a MSCA fellow at NUI Galway in 2016 was a total game changer. I was super excited when I knew about the research stay (secondment) in Gothenburg, Sweden. I always wanted to have research experience in Sweden as the Swedish institutes are home to some pioneering work in the field of Computer Simulation for Biomolecular Systems.
So this trip was a special one to me. The much awaited time came in March 2017, when I started working in Prof. Leif Eriksson’s lab in Gothenburg. First few days were quite an adventure. The first day I woke up to see a heavy snowfall and what a sight it was! I stood and watched by the window, stunned by the beauty of the city covered in snow. I’d never experienced snow before (so far not in Galway, obviously no chance in South India). Anyway what was supposed to be a 10 min walk (according to Google Maps), took me an hour, to reach the lab – skidding and slipping with little penguin steps. Beautiful snow and periodic days of bright sunlight were a welcome change from the perennially raining Galway weather.
Personally, coming from a computational background, this stay was exciting to me. Leif’s lab is a core computational research group. It felt amazing having access to fancy supercomputers, software and fantastic facilities.
Lab meetings with different project updates were beneficial to me to know who does what. Apart from the science behind each project, we often discussed interesting practical Geek problems- software error codes and computing time for a given task on cluster etc. It was an entirely different from Galway meetings, no western blots, no “which antibody did you use?” discussions!
Lab mates were friendly and polite, thanks to Antonio (partner in crime and science). I quickly adapted to lab routines and started working on some exciting projects. Together with Antonio, we finished virtual screening for two key targets in Unfolded Protein Response. The screening is a computationally demanding task, it would usually take ages for a regular computer (thousands of CPU hours). We finished it in a couple of weeks time using the supercomputing facility and got some exciting results. Leif was always available for quick feedback and troubleshooting.
Min’s suggestions on Steered Molecular Dynamics directly helped in my project. Several talks with Anna about the DNA-protein systems were insightful. Apart from the science, the Fika (coffee) sessions were fun with informal conversations and laughter with some free cakes. While Antonio jumped onto bread with extra cheese and/or butter, the rest did the talking. It was a great team – Antonio, Sonali, Jae, Johanna, Anna, Min, Chunxia, and Samuel. Frequent night outs on Fridays, group cooking (barbecue with Anna’s baking lessons), ferry rides to the Archipelago Islands (Vrångö, Donsö), we had it all. A cherry on top was the beautiful locations- Slottsskogen and Botaniska (you guessed it right, a botanical garden) close to my apartment.
All in all, it was a fantastic spring – both professionally and personally. Special thanks to Leif and of course Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) for making this happen.