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Lunch Pitches with Joram Waititu, Aicha Kriaa and Anna Morén with Marianne Eik

To encourage cross pollination of ideas between researchers from different disciplines, IceLab hosts interdisciplinary research lunches with the vision of allowing ideas to meet and mate. During the Lunch Pitch Season, the creative lunches take place at KBC on a Wednesday.
Place: KBC Glasburen
Time: Wednesday 22 May at 12:00.
Registration is open from May 9 until May 20.

Pitch 1: Joram Waititu: Can semi-permeable hydrogel microcapsules (SPCs) take us one step closer to understanding microbial heterogeneous samples?

Excellence by Choice postdoctoral fellow, Department of Molecular Biology

Bacterial populations exhibit significant heterogeneity, allowing distinct cell subgroups to thrive in diverse environmental stress. Recent advancements in single-cell techniques, particularly single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq), offer a powerful means to unravel cellular heterogeneity during environmental stress, infections and discern subpopulation variations that influence individual cell outcomes. However, current bacterial scRNA-seq methods suffer from the low number of cells being sequenced and the low number of transcripts detected in each cell due to leakage of nucleic acids due to mechanical disruption of cell walls during permeabilization for subsequent enzymatic reactions. Here, I will highlight a novel microfluidic bacterial scRNA-seq method we are developing by using the advantage of semi-permeable hydrogel microcapsules (SPCs). Due to the selective permeability of the SPCs, the desirable enzymes and reagents can be loaded, or replaced, in the microcapsule at any given step by simply changing the reaction buffer in which the SPCs are dispersed. Therefore, complex molecular biology workflows can be readily adapted to conduct nucleic acid analysis on encapsulated mammalian cells, or other biological species. The SPCs support sequential multi-step enzymatic reactions and remain intact under different biochemical conditions, such as freezing, thawing, and thermocycling. This comprehensive approach overcomes technical obstacles associated with sequencing bacterial cells, enabling the sequencing over a hundred thousand cells. This method will provide valuable insights that offer a deeper understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying bacterial heterogeneity during infection, thus opening advancements in our understanding of bacterial pathogenesis.

What I am looking for:We’re interested in collaborations

Pitch 2: Aicha Kriaa: Meet Mucinases: Gut bacteria’s hidden weapons

Excellence by Choice postdoctoral fellow, Department of Molecular Biology
Our gut hosts a community of trillions of microbes that have significant effects on many aspects of our health. To achieve a friendly relationship with these microbes, our gut is lined with a layer of mucus that provides a physical shield and slippery coating protecting us against pathogens. 
Under pathological conditions, mainly in patients with Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD), this barrier is compromised. The impairment or loss of this protective mucus layer is often associated with dysregulated proteolysis, which is known to play a key role in the pathophysiology of the disease. Nonetheless, the identity of overactive bacterial proteases especially the ones that target the mucus layer, remains largely unknown. 
So far, very few mucin-degrading enzymes (i.e. mucinases) have been extensively studied. By gaining an overview of the diversity of this repertoire, new paths for characterizing these hitherto overlooked activities will be opened up. Ultimately, this will provide a better vision of gut mucinases and how this functional environment interferes with the disease.

Interested in: discussing avenues for screening and profiling gut mucinases in health and disease. All input is welcome! We’re interested in collaborations.


Pitch 3: Anna Morén and Marianne Eik: Don’t miss out on Umeå’s Researcher’s Grand Prix and Researcher’s Night 2024!

Anna Morén, Marketing, SLU; Marianne Eik, Coordinator, Curiosum

SLU (The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) and The Faculty of Forest Sciences are inviting researchers from both SLU and Umeå university to participate in the local
competition in Researcher’s Grand Prix 2024, that we are arranging Friday the 27th Sepember, in Aula Nordica – a competition where you will get the chance to be thoroughly coached in presenting your research in the most interesting way. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to sharpen your presentation skills and reach out with your research to a new audience! One lucky winner will get the golden ticket to the Finale, which will take place in Stockholm, in autumn 2024.
European Researchers’ Night takes places annually during the last week of September. In Sweden, activities are organised across the country and online under the name ForskarFredag (Researchers’ Friday). This year the festival will take place from the 23rd to the 28th of September 2024. 

In Umeå, Curiosum science center organizes the fun open house ForskarFredagsmys, where you can set up a station and interact directly with families during the evening of September 28th. The purpose is to show that researchers are ordinary people with extraordinary jobs and that research relies on communication and international cooperation. Watch a video featuring this event in 2023! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=levfNmqcEiQ

Another way to take part is to join the ‘Borrow a Researcher‘ school program. The concept, in which schools are invited to ‘borrow a researcher’, has proven to be a popular and successful ForskarFredag activity for many years. Researchers visit schools, non-profit associations or workplaces, to talk about their work as a researcher and the wider societal context of their research – either in person or online. An online booking platform facilitates the booking of researchers.

Interested in: finding researchers to communicate to the general public in September!



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