Text written by Nóra Lehotai and Barbara Forró. Photo credits: Csaba Guti.
I had a chat with Barbara, who is a postdoctoral fellow in Maria Fällman’s group. After living in Hungary and Canada, she moved to Umeå in August 2020. She shares her home with her husband and “never enough” number of plants.
Can you tell us about your role at MIMS; what are you working on now?
My main project is about shedding light on the molecular mechanism of Salmonella enterica serovar typhimurium invasion and persistence. I am being fortunate to analyze a huge bulk of RNA seq data from an in vivo mice experiment, that would drive us closer to understand the mechanisms of the bacterial persistence in the host and, as always in science, would raise more fascinating questions regarding the topic. Outside of the main project, I am taking the time to learn more about mechanisms of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis invasion and persistence in the host.
What were you doing before you joined MIMS and what attracted you to start a position here?
I studied molecular biology, then I gained experience at the fish parasitology field. Bioinformatics caught my interest meanwhile and luckily, I could learn and improve my skills in bioinformatics, allowing me to change my field towards studying a wide range of pathogens. I joined the Novel Pathogen Discovery Team at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 2015. I was partially working on basic wet lab tasks however, my main role was to handle the huge data that my former team provided as a next generation sequencing service for a range of customers. I was in charge of data analysis, genome assemblies, annotations, data interpretation and communication towards the clients. Meanwhile, I completed my PhD on the topic of molecular epidemiology of rabies in Hungary using molecular epidemiological and evolutionary methods to study spatial dispersion on RABV and EBLV inside and between countries, with the focus on the recently happened Hungarian outbreak (2013-2014).
After completing my PhD, my aim was to work in an inspiring international environment and learn more about bioinformatics, programing, sequence data analyses and the available role in Maria Fällman’s group was a perfect fit.
How was it to start at a new workplace during the pandemic?
I am very fortunate to be able to join Maria’s group despite the pandemic situation. She was a great help in adjusting to the new environment by showing us around, helping with bureaucracy and providing a very thoughtful “survival” package. It was quite challenging to travel to Umeå. My husband and I stayed with family members for the 2-week quarantine in Västerås, then we had to cancel our flight from Stockholm due to the meanwhile reworked regulations and drive up to Umeå. I am a social individual; therefore, it is also challenging to get to know and meet people in this situation. However, I am amazed by the University’s system regarding how they handle the pandemic. The fact that we can still participate in academic presentations, conferences, lectures online, is very helpful.
If you would not have your current profession, what do you think you would be doing?
I dreamed about to be a researcher since I was in kindergarten. Therefore, I am sure I would still do something that is related to science.
Photo: Barbara stands on the frozen water of Bothnia Bay, near Sangis locality, wearing snow shoes.
What do you do in your free time and what are you most enjoying in living in Umeå, Sweden?
I love the fact that living in Umeå gives the opportunity to enjoy nature. I love to run along the river and in the forest. I enjoy fishing and I appreciate the several campfire places in an easy to reach distance. The Arboretum Norr has quickly become one of my favorite places. I am waiting for the time when we can experience the city’s vividness as we heard it was before the pandemic. I am looking forward to visit Västerbottens museum, Bildmuseet, and also going to concerts.
Is there a little known/interesting fact about yourself?
I love practicing and teaching yoga. I believe that physical activity is healing and essential for a healthy, balanced life.