Text written by Nóra Lehotai and Björn O. Schröder. Pictures owned by Björn O. Schröder.
Björn joined MIMS in 2019 as a group leader. I had a chat with him to get to know how he ended up in Umeå and what does he like to do when he is not at work. Björn was born in Germany and has lived in France, in sunny California and of course, in Sweden and Germany. He shares his adventures with his wife.
Can you tell us about your role at MIMS, what are you working on now?
I am a group leader at MIMS and together with my amazing team we are interested in the interaction between diet, gut microbiota and
the mucosal barrier in the intestine. Specifically, we focus on mucus and antimicrobial peptides, which are two important defense systems of the gut to prevent infections and microbial translocation of the gut bacteria into the body. In the group we use in vivo, ex vivo and in vitro studies to better understand how the mucosal barrier and the microbiota influence each other, since it seems that a specific microbial community is required to keep the defense systems active and functional.
Intestinal defense is impaired in inflammatory bowel diseases and metabolic diseases and appears to depend on the gut microbiota, so we try to identify how the microbiota can be used to strengthen the intestinal barrier to prevent or treat these diseases.
What were you doing before you joined MIMS and what attracted you to start a position here?
Before coming to Umeå, I have been working in Gothenburg in the lab of Fredrik Bäckhed with a focus on gut microbiota and metabolic diseases. This is where I became interested in the gut microbiota and their relationship to diet. A close collaboration in Gothenburg with the Mucin biology groups attracted me to intestinal mucus function, and now here at MIMS I combine those interests with my previous research on antimicrobial peptides, which I worked on during my PhD thesis. This position here at MIMS was attractive to me because of the great start-up support, the research environment on infection biology, and also the collaborative working atmosphere here in Umeå.
If you would not have your current profession, what do you think you would be doing?
That’s an interesting question. I am interested in many different things, and one of them is fermenting microorganisms and their products. I am hosting a water kefir for more than 4 years now at home, from which we produce and drink about 10 liters per week. I could imagine doing this in a larger scale, as it is a pretty healthy probiotic drink. Also, I like scientific writing, so I could also picture something in that direction.
What do you do in your free time and what are you most enjoying in living in Umeå, Sweden?
I really like having seasons, with the cold and dark winters and the bright summers (which are also comparably mild). I recentlylearned cross-country skiing which I enjoy doing in the winter. And of course, watching the Northern lights from my window.
In the summer I like being out in the nature, either with a SUP on nearby lakes or in the nearby forests. It is great that everything is pretty close here within biking distance – I bike year-round – so that one can stay active even without going to the gym every day.
Is there a little known/interesting fact about yourself?
Well, many people probably don’t know that I have jumped out of planes more than 10 times and once from a 111m high bridge – on a parachute or bungee rope, of course.