Currently I am taking Plant Pathology, the last course before I start my master thesis. During this course I have read many papers and prepared questions to discuss with
other classmates. Among the papers I have read, I found a series published by Molecular Plant Pathology particularly interesting. The journal has made surveys among authors, reviewers and editors to find out what are the top 10 pathogens in plants. They have published one article for each pathogen group: viruses, fungi, bacteria, nematodes and oomycetes. Each article includes a one page description of the top 10 pathogens.
Those that made the cut into the top 10 on each category are either economically important such as Magnaporthe oryzae (top 1) a fungus that causes the most destructive disease of rice, or scientifically important such as Tobacco Mosaic Virus (TMV) (top 1) which does not cause major economic losses anymore but has become a biological model to understand how viruses work. Additionally there are included pathogens with historical significance such as Phytophthora infestans (top 1), an Oomycete responsible for the Irish famine in the XIX century and pathogens that nowadays threaten food security in developing countries.
I believe this approach is important because it helps defining what makes a pathogen relevant for the scientific community. Also I believe it is an excellent teaching tool, because gives students a concise and broad perspective of plant diseases.
I am glad to say. If I look back today I honestly feel nostalgic, as the first year of my MSc. was incredible! I did not only grew academically and personally, but also met wonderful people from all around the world. Now, if I look ahead I have nothing but higher expectations for this upcoming academic year.
During the first year of studies I realized how good can I be at what I am doing right now, what made me more confident to pursue my professional goals and go even further in the science career (yes PhD, I’m coming after you!). Also, the courses I took challenged my learning abilities and improved my knowledge and skills in plant sciences.
Additionally, I consider that I have grown as a person too. I have now a much healthier life style (regardless of the intense student social life in Uppsala, hehe), and have acquired more discipline and responsibility with my studies and with my life in general.
Another aspect I have liked about studying abroad is meeting many interesting and intelligent people, because it has broadened up my perspective on science and on the world. Indeed, that was one of my motivations to interview my classmates in “Meet the Plant Biologists” , where I have had the chance to show other people what I have learned from my classmates experiences.
In all, it was a great year. Right now I am hoping for more challenges to come in my second year as a master student in Sweden that will assuredly help me to achieve my future goals. Of course, I will also be glad to write about them in my blog.
Every semester new students arrive to SLU. As you could imagine, it is challenging to start studying abroad. However, Ultuna’s Union (A student association from SLU) arranges every semester the so called Welcoming Weeks for international and master students, what makes the start of semester much funnier and easier for the newcomers. Inside the Union there are several committees in charge of different tasks, and the ones who organize and plan the Welcoming Weeks are the Master Committee (MC)and the International Committee (IC). This year I decided to help in the Master Committee, and honestly it was a pleasure to work with such a dynamic, smart and fun group of people. I specially have to thank Saga, the chairwoman of MC who I consider is a great leader!
During the previous semester we had meetings to plan ahead all the activities, and once the semester started, we had to organize and make everything work smoothly. There were dinners, a BBQ, a picnic, a flash mob, a hike in the forest and a tour in Uppsala among other things. Although I could not attend to some activities in the beginning due to a bad cold I got, I could witness how helpful and fun the Welcoming Weeks were for many new students, and that is precisely the goal we had as MC.
As I mentioned in my previous post, after having a great time in Colombia I visited the Netherlands. Literally crossed the country by train: from Amsterdam in the middle to Friesland in the north, then to Wageningen-Utrecht in the middle and finally Maastricht in the south. All beautiful places. I did this trip because during my stay in Sweden I have met many nice dutch people who made me very curious about the Netherlands (including Luuk and Rosan. They decided to be tourists in their own country to show me around, I love you both ♥).
I enjoyed very much my time in there. Learned about Dutch culture after vising a few museums and speaking to locals, and succeed on having the dutch experience: sailed, kayaked and swam in Sneekemeer, ate Dutch fries and chocolate sprinkles almost every day, biked through Amsterdam, learned some dutch words, and went clubbing. When in clubs, I heard twice a funny song called Sex met die Kale, which literally translates Sex with the Bald guy and has the same melody as Sex on Fire by Kings of Lion. Ohh, Netherlands.
And if it was not enough, few days after coming to Sweden from the Netherlands I went to Helsinki in Finland by boat. It was certainly nice to go again in a boat trip and see another European city. Even though a Nordic-Scandinavian vibe can still be perceived, Helsinki was different from all I have seen before in this continent- mainly because of the language and architecture. One of the highlights of my day there was SALVE, a typical Finish restaurant soon to be closed recommended by the salesman of a hipster local store of bottled drinks (yeah, they pretty much sell anything on a glass bottle).
I am very grateful for all what happened during this summer vacations, and would not change any part of it!
This summer was amazing. There is no other statement to start this post. After 9 months of hard studying I had 3 months to rest, travel and learn. But specially, I had time to fly back to Colombia and see family and friends.
After I completed my first year’s last course (read about it here) I enjoyed a few weeks of Swedish summer in Uppsala (which is not precisely warm). Then, I went to Tallinn in Estonia by cruise and certainly enjoyed it, the old town is specially beautiful and all houses have colorful doors.
Few days after coming back from Tallinn, I flew back to Colombia. It was very very nice to see my parents again and catch up with friends and family. I feel very fortunate, because had the chance to travel within the country and visit beautiful and unique places: a sacred lagoon 3000 meters above sea level, a boats parade in the Caribbean and a natural reserve only accesible by an old railroad used nowadays by modified motorcycles. All that confirmed how much I like the country I was born in.
My stay in Colombia also was meaningful because I could witness the last day of war: the FARC and the government finally agreed to stop one of the longest civil wars in history- they have been fighting each other for 50 years. I am extremely happy about the peace agreement both sides have been working in, and truly hope and believe that it will contribute to build a better country for generations to come. But about this, I will elaborate more in another post soon.
After a hard goodbye at home I took a flight to Amsterdam and travelled a little bit more before coming back to Sweden. Read about it in my next post!
Before summer I completed “Research Training”, the 4th course of my MSc. This course is basically an internship, and its name clarifies its aim: provide training in research. The course has 15 credits, and demands 100% time dedication.
In a previous post (read it here) I explained how I started my research training at the Forest Mycology and Plant Pathology Department at SLU and made clear how excited I was with it. After finishing it, I reaffirmed the excitement I had in the beginning, since the outcome of the project fulfilled either my expectations and my supervisor’s.
Briefly, the project dealt with Thekopsora areolata, a fungus that causes major losses in Norway spruce seed orchards (read more about the disease here). My first aim was to isolate molecular markers from genomic DNA using a tricky technique called FIASCO (I know, name is funny. Good it was not a fiasco in the end). My second aim was to develop an in vitro cultivation system. Because T. areolata is a biotrophic pathogen, to be grown in the laboratory it needs a living host, so that makes things a little bit more complicated. In the end, I was able to achieve the two aims after manyl PCR reactions :).
The course is no graded, one can only pass or fail. To pass, it is needed to complete a literature task, hand in a written report, show the results in a short presentation and obviously, the approval of the supervisors. I strongly recommend to take courses like this one. I personally learned A LOT, because had the chance to read in depth about this fungus and gain more expertise in the lab. Actually, it is very likely that I continue with this project as my master thesis. But about that, I will write later on 😉
Sweden is covered mostly by forests. Therefore, when it comes to research in plant sciences forestry is important. Just before summer I did small research project at the Department of Forest Mycology and Plant Pathology at SLU, working with Thekopsora areolata a fungus that infects cones from Norway spruce (Picea abies)a common tree in Swedish forests.
This pathogen is of interest because it reduces seed viability up to 10 fold in seed orchards. And seed production is important for reforestation and establishment of new plantations. Thereby, some insight is needed in its epidemiology, which is not very clear yet. This, mainly because the fungus causing the disease belongs to the commonly called “rusts” (Read more about a rust fungus threatening global food production here), which among other many facts are well known for their complicated life cycle: different spores that infect different hosts, with different characteristics and number of nuclei. Precisely, this combination of variables makes its epidemiology hard to unveil, and consequently the management of the disease in the fields hard to define.
This problem motivated the project in which I did my Research Training course, which I have mentioned in previous posts and will dedicate a whole new post soon.