Sophie Tronnet was born and raised in France and after living in Germany for a short period of time during her PhD, she moved to Umeå to join MIMS in March 2017. Her passion: pastries and showing the magical world of science.
Picture: Sophie standing in Luleå's historical town. Credit: Pascale Le Clei.
Can you tell us about your role at MIMS, what are you working on now?
“I am a postdoc in the Andrea Puhar lab and I am working on the response to extracellular ATP in intestinal bacteria. I have been involved in this project for 5 years and it has advanced well. I am wrapping up our results now and writing the first manuscript.”
What were you doing before you joined MIMS and what attracted you to start a position here?
“I did my PhD in Toulouse, in Southern France. I studied host-pathogen interactions, which is a topic I really enjoyed. I worked on the regulation of the toxin colibactin, produced by bacteria, including gut-colonizing bacteria. I worked on different strains of E. coli, commensal or pathogenic.”
Colibactin has two sides: it is a genotoxin which has deleterious effects on host DNA and is associated with colon cancer (toxic side) but it is also associated to the probiotic effect (helpful side) of some probiotic strains, like E. coli Nissle 1917. And the determining factors?
“We don´t know yet, but I guess the regulation, the concentration and the bacteria producing it”, says Sophie.
Sophie explains that it is not possible to purify this chemically unstable small molecule thus, the molecular structure of colibactin is unknown. This makes it a challenging compound to work with.
“We could quantify it indirectly by mass-spectrometry. It is a non-ribosomal polyketide-peptide, undergoing several steps of modifications, leading to the production of several compounds. Several research groups are trying to solve its structure since its discovery in 2006.”
Sophie came to Umeå for the first time in December 2016, to interview for a postdoc position in Andrea’s group.
“I thought that it would be the worst time to be in Umeå because it was very dark and cold, but I was amazed by the frozen river and all the snow.”
She really liked the project Andrea wanted her to work on and the atmosphere she felt at MIMS and Umeå University.
“I was happy to join MIMS right after I defended my PhD thesis. My research experience from my PhD studies got placed into a new perspective on host-pathogen interactions when taking up my postdoc research topic. MIMS is a very dynamic environment with a lot of opportunity for networking and collaborating. The fact that it is renewed through novel group leaders joining in cycles, it opens so many opportunities to collaborate.”
If you would not have your current profession, what do you think you would be doing?
“Many things but probably I would have a small patisserie* of my own. I love baking and my group mates never complain eating the “test sweets.”
*: a bakery specializing in pastries and sweets.
Picture: Babka praliné (left) and banoffee pie (right), made by Sophie. Private pictures owned by Sophie Tronnet.
What do you do in your free time and what are you most enjoying in living in Umeå, Sweden?
Apart of baking, Sophie plays piano, and she likes to be outdoor.
“Picking mushrooms, hiking and camping, walking in the forest or national parks, watching the Northern lights, winter sports” - she lists her activities.
To the question of what she enjoys the most while living in Umeå and Sweden, she replies:
“The kindness of the people and the quality of life in Sweden. In the Umeå environment, very high-quality research is carried out, but I do not feel strong hierarchy. Everyone is listened to and treated equally.” Sophie also explains that she enjoys living in Umeå because you are just a few minutes away from beautiful nature spots, and because of the constant daylight during summer."
Is there a little known/interesting fact about yourself?
“I am part of the Umeå Postdoc Society (UPS), which includes all postdocs from Umeå University and is such a great and needed initiative.”
UPS was launched two years ago, and it provides a platform to postdocs at Umeå University for career development, networking, and social events.
Sophie is also a popular science advocate. She works together with Curiosum to show the kids how fascinating microbes and other forms of life are.
“A colleague and I also have an Instagram account, where we upload all kinds of pictures related to my work as a researcher or other topics/objects we find interesting or funny. We were proud that some of our posts have been re-tweeted by the Microbiology Society of England, for example.”
You can find Sophie’s Instagram account under the name of @HappyTinyShow.
Sophie has one year left on her SSMF (Svenska Sällskapet för Medicinsk Forskning) postdoctoral fellowship. When I ask her about what she is planning after that, she says:
“I will see what comes but I am not stressed about the future. Maybe rest a bit and travel, catch up with friends and family.”
She would be happy to stay in Sweden, she says, if an opportunity arose.
Picture: Some of the adventures by Sophie - canoeing on Tavelsjö (Credit: Selma Dahmane), mushroom picking (Credit: private picture of Sophie Tronnet) and visiting Senja island in Norway (Credit: private picture of Sophie Tronnet).