Monthly Archives: February 2016

The lab project

Graduate courses in Sweden are usually two months long with a 100% time dedication. This is convenient because effort can be focused towards one specific topic . As mentioned in a previous post I’m taking now the Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions  course in Stockholm University, and just this week I started working in the lab project. I think having small research projects within courses is great, because it allows me to submerge myself into real research problems, learn new techniques, meet researchers and acquire more experience. In this case it is even better, because Stockholm University has given master students staff status, what results in access to a shared office, an exclusive lunch room and free coffee. Lots of free coffee.

P house in Stockholm University, where I will be working on the lab project . Picture by Hernán Capador. 

The first week of project has been very exiting, but also intense. Me and my lab partner chose to work with the molecular response of plants to aphids, what is new for me because I haven’t handled this organisms in my short experience as a scientist . Therefore, in just one week I have gone through several articles and reviews, made a presentation and written down a schedule in order to start next week to test hypothesis in the lab.

Experimental plan for next week. Tests will be performed on Arabidopsis thaliana leaves. Drawing by Hernán Capador.

I enjoy research and project planning, hence I’m glad I can learn and improve this skills during my master. Can’t wait to start lab work on monday :mrgreen: !

Do you have any questions or comments about this post? let me know and comment below 🙂



An endless moss carpet

Most Swedish forests are covered by mosses. These small rather simple organisms have important ecological roles, especially regarding to water and nutrient cycling. Last week, my friend Caitlin suggested going to Fjällnora, a natural area with 3 lakes surrounded by a quite conserved fragment of boreal forest covered by an endless moss carpet. It is located 20 km east from Uppsala, and can be reached either by bus or car. In summer people use to go there to swim, but in winter is popular for ice skating over the lake- which we enjoyed a lot. Here are some pictures of it. I feel like  breathing pure air again just by looking at them.

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An endless moss carpet. Picture by Hernán Capdor.
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Rosan and Caitlin skating. Picture by Hernán Capador.
A cabin taken from a fairy tale. It is possible to sleep inside. Picture by Hernán Capador.
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 The lake was so frozen, that even trees were reflected. Picture by Hernán Capador.




Daily commute to Stockholm

In a previous post I mentioned that the MSc. in Plant Biology is collaborative, hence I can take courses in the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala University and Stockholm University. Right now I take the course Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions at Stockholm University, which has been great so far. Consequently, I have to travel every day to Stockholm, but is not a big deal because Uppsala is located just 60 km away from the capital.

Stockholm skyline from Stadshuset. Picutre by Hernán Capador
Stockholm skyline from Stadshuset. Picture by Hernán Capador

The fastest way to get to Stockholm from Uppsala is by Train. The route is covered by two companies: SJ owned by the state, and SL run by Stockholm County. The difference between these two train companies relies on number of stops, travel time and price. A SJ trains takes approximately 38 minutes from Uppsala Central Station to Stockholm Central Station, makes three stops and each trip costs 89 SEK (ca. 10 EUR), whereas SL trains take 55 minutes, makes several stops (Including Arlanda Airport) and costs 230 SEK (25 EUR) for a 24 hour period. Additionally, this ticket allows unlimited travels within the metro and bus system.

When it comes to a daily commute, the best option is to acquire the “UL/SL monthly pass”. Using this card it is possible to travel through all Uppsala and Stockholm County, including busses and trains within each city. It costs around 1000 SEK for students and it is convenient for me, especially during winter when weather is not always good to bike.

Uppsala – Stockholm University. Directions by Google Maps.

Then, how do I get every day to Stockholm University? I take usually bus line 22 at Kungsgärdets center which takes me to Uppsala Central Station in 10 minutes. There I take the commuter train 38, which takes me to Ulriksdal Station. Here I walk around 5 minutes and wait for the bus 540 that will finally take me to Stockholm University after 1.5 hours of travelling. Even though is a long commute I try to use time wisely to read or write blog posts 😀

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post? Then let me know and comment below!




Three similarities between Sweden and Colombia

(Este post también está en español. Léelo aquí)

I don’t know if everyone who moves abroad does the same, but since I arrived to Sweden I couldn’t contain myself from compare it to Colombia. Surprisingly, I have found some similarities despite the distance.

Coffee intake

Typical swedish fika at Ofvandahls in Uppsala. Picture by Hernán Capador
Typical Swedish fika at Ofvandahls in Uppsala. Picture by Hernán Capador

In Colombia we drink several cups of coffee every day. Certainly, this is not surprising because Colombia is one of the biggest coffee producers and its coffee is known for having a fruity and smooth flavor. What surprised me is that in Sweden people drink even more coffee. Actually there is a word in Swedish language for the occasion when people gather to have coffee (or tea) and snacks: fika. It is hard to translate, but in Colombia it would be “Tomémonos un tinto, seamos amigos” (Let’s have a coffee, let’s be friends).  Fika can happen at any time, but most commonly at mid-morning or late-afternoon. That takes me directly to Bogotá, where a cup of coffee is an excuse for everything. In addition, it is incredible how at every workplace, study room, kitchen or store there is a coffee machine. What I’ve liked the most about drinking coffee in Sweden is that I’ve been able to taste many new flavors, because coffee from all around the world is available. Colombian coffee will always be my favorite, though.

Unpredictable weather

How could ever Colombian and Swedish weather be alike? Well, they are both unpredictable (read more about Swedish cold here). In Colombia, weather forecast is a bad joke. Actually, sometimes I expect the opposite and works better for me. In Sweden forecasts are more accurate. However, exactly as in Colombia, all weather conditions can be seen in 24h: Sun, clouds, light rain, sun again, rain again, snow, snow-rain, rain-snow, wind, sun again, and so forth. Also, weather is an excellent conversation topic to break an awkward silence in both countries: Hmm, it’s so cold today. Ahh, did you see how sunny was it this morning? This weather is unbelievable. Do you think is going to rain tomorrow?. This morning I read it was going to be sunny, now look at this rain.


Both Sweden and Colombia, people like dancing. Even when in both countries you can find troncos (tree trunks, clumsy and uncoordinated), at some point everyone enjoys moving to the sound of nice beats. Actually, Latin rhythms such as salsa, bachata and reguetón are popular among all generations in Sweden, and almost in every town there are Latin clubs, or Latin dance lessons. For instance, in Uppsala there are salsa and bachata lessons free for students at least twice a week, and in every party at least once El Perdón, Bailando o Danza Kuduro will sound. Pretty much the same as in Colombia.

Similarities between Sweden and Colombia: people like reguetón.

A video posted by Hernán Capador (@capadorr) on


I hope you liked this post! Do you have any thoughts or questions about it? Then comment below 😀



Tres semejanzas entre Suecia y Colombia

(This post is also in English, read it here)

No sé si todos los que se mudan a otro país hacen lo mismo, pero desde que yo llegué a Suecia no he podido dejar de compararlo con Colombia. Sorpresivamente, he encontrado varias semejanzas a pesar de la distancia.


Typical swedish fika at Ofvandahls in Uppsala. Picture by Hernán Capador
Típica fika sueca en Ofvandahls en Uppsala. Foto por Hernán Capador

En Colombia nosotros tomamos varias tazas de café al día y no es para sorprenderse, pues Colombia es uno de los mayores productores de café y éste tiene un sabor suave y frutal. Lo que sí fue novedad para mí es que en Suecia la gente toma incluso más café. De hecho, en sueco existe una palabra para el momento en el que la gente se reúne a tomar café (o té) y snacks: Fika. Es difícil de traducir, pero en Colombia nosotros diríamos “Tomémonos un tinto, seamos amigos” o “Vamos a tomar onces”. Fika puede suceder a cualquier momento del día, pero usualmente es en la media mañana o por la tarde. Esto me transporta inmediatamente a Bogotá, en donde una taza de café es excusa para todo. Además, es increíble como en todos los sitios de trabajo o estudio, cocinas y tiendas hay una cafetera. Lo que más me ha gustado de tomar café en Suecia es que he podido probar muchos sabores nuevos, porque acá se consigue café de todo el mundo. Pero mi favorito siempre será el colombiano.

Clima impredecible

¿Cómo es posible que el clima en Colombia y Suecia se parezcan? Bueno, ambos países es impredecible (lee más sobre el frio sueco en inglés acá). En Colombia la predicción del clima es un chiste. De hecho, a veces espero lo contrario y me va mejor. En Suecia las predicciones son mejores. Sin embargo, igual que en Colombia, todos los climas se pueden ver en 24h: Sol, nubes, llovizna, sol de nuevo, lluvia otra vez, nieve, nieve-lluvia, lluvia-nieve, viento, sol una vez más, etc. Además, hablar sobre el clima es un tema excelente para romper un silencio incómodo en ambos países: Hmm, está haciendo mucho frio hoy. Ahh, ¿viste el sol esta mañana? Este clima es increíble. ¿Tú crees que va a llover mañana? Esta mañana leí que iba a hacer sol, y mira esta lluvia.


Tanto en Suecia como en Colombia, a la gente le gusta bailar. Aunque en ambos países se encuentran troncos, en algún momento todos disfrutan moverse al ritmo de buena música. De hecho, ritmos latinos como salsa, bachata y reguetón son populares en todas las generaciones en Suecia y prácticamente en todas las ciudades hay discotecas latinas, o clases de bailes latinos. Por ejemplo, en Uppsala hay clases de salsa y bachata gratis para estudiantes al menos dos veces a la semana y en todas las fiesta suena al menos una vez El Perdón, Bailando o Danza Kuduro. Prácticamente lo mismo que en Colombia.

Similarities between Sweden and Colombia: people like reguetón.

A video posted by Hernán Capador (@capadorr) on

¡Espero que les haya gustado este post! ¿Tienes alguna opinión o pregunta? entonces deja un comentario abajo 😀

¡Buenas energías!


Genetic Diversity and Plant Breeding 15c

The second mandatory course of the master’s program is taught by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and it is called Genetic Diversity and Plant Breeding (Read more about the program here and about the previous course here).

This course was more lecture-intensive than the previous one, which makes learning outcome different. One of the problems with an intensive course in plant genetics or plant breeding is that  laboratory work cannot be performed in such a short time, because usually there are needed at least two generations of plants to evaluate genetic features and this cannot be achieved in two months, even using Arabidopsis thaliana. However, it was possible during the course to locate  one plant gene in using molecular and bioinformatic techniques.

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QTL for traits associated with the gene ERECTA from Arabidopsis thaliana. Picture by Hernán Capador

The first part of the course covered topics related to population genetics and domestication of plants, whilst the second part was focused on plant breeding and QTL mapping. Even though I was not 100% satisfied with this course and find that some of the suggested literature was inaccurate for the proposed objectives (for instance Principles of Plant Genetics and Breeding by Acquaah George), I have to admit that I learned many new and cool things. One of the aspects I liked about this course is that there were many invited lecturers from breeding companies, Swedish governmental agencies, and international organizations. One of my favorite lectures was given by Matti Leino, who does plant-based research for the Swedish Museum of Cultural History. In one of his articles published in Heredity he and his colleagues analyzed pea populations cultivated traditionally by Swedish farmers. They used extant pea samples collected recently in Swedish farms, but also analyzed pea seeds that belong to the seed collection of the Swedish Museum of Cultural History. These seeds have been stored for more than 100 years in sealed glass containers, and believe it or not DNA in those peas is still in good condition.

Leino MW, Boström E & Hagenblad J. 2013. Twentieth-century changes in the genetic composition of Swedish field pea metapopulations. Heredity. 110:338-346

According to their results, pea populations from the nineteenth century are very homogeneous, probably because of seed exchange between farmers. Contrastingly, extant pea populations are different from each other and tend to form groups according to its geographical origin. This is apparently due to the modernization of Swedish agricultural practices and the usage of new commercial varieties in the twentieth century, that led to a less frequent seed exchange.

I found this article very interesting. You can find it here.

More about the course can be found here.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post? Then comment below 😀