Scholarship in Sweden
Annabel Large in action. Foto: Murilo Sandroni

Scholarship in Sweden

Text: Annabel Large Publicerad: 15 september 2020
Annabel Large är förmodligen SLU: s första Fulbright-stipendiat och har tillbringat ett år vid SLU i Alnarp. Läs Annabel Larges reflektioner över året i Sverige, om potatis- och cassavaforskning, nobelmiddag och hundslädfärd. Annabels text publiceras endast på engelska.

I completed a Fulbright research fellowship with Dr. Erik Alexandersson, from the plant protection unit here at SLU-Alnarp. My fellowship term was from September 2019 to May 2020. My primary role is as a bioinformatician for the group, with special interests in multi-omics data integration. It sounds fancy, but what it means is this: I look at all the data from plant experiments and try to find a cohesive story using statistical methods, network analyses, and machine learning. It’s like solving a living puzzle!
When I return home, I will begin in the joint bioengineering PhD program at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, San Francisco. I will also be getting my masters along the way (in the US, it is more common to jump straight from your bachelor’s to your PhD).

How did I end up at SLU-Alnarp?

I was approached by my undergraduate institution about applying for a Fulbright fellowship in… July 2018, I believe. The first step for US citizens applying for a Fulbright is to find an overseas advisor who is willing to host you. I asked my boss at the time, Dr. Daniel Jacobson of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA) if he had any suggestions. He and my advisor in Sweden, Dr. Erik Alexandersson, are strong collaborators; so naturally, Erik was one of his first suggestions. Erik visited Oak Ridge that month, and we all discussed what kind of research project to propose to the Fulbright committee. From there, I wrote up the project proposal, and the folks at Fulbright liked it enough to send me to Sweden!

I cannot emphasize enough how essential Erik and Daniel’s input were to my grant proposal. This whole experience came together because of them, and I am so grateful for their guidance!

What have I done with my time in Sweden?

My Fulbright project was actually a huge collaboration between Erik, Dr. Kristina Gruden and Dr. Ziva Ramsak (both from the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia), Dr. Oren Tzfadia (from the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium), and me. Kristina and Ziva had already built a network map of the interactions that are triggered by the potato immune system when the plant is under attack. This network map had been built from data gathered from Arabidopsis, a model plant species, as well as some potato experiments done in Slovenia. My role in the project was to help get network map version 2 off the ground. There were more potato datasets from Erik and the folks in Slovenia we wanted to incorporate, as well as a new tool from our Belgium advisor that we wanted to improve and implement. This is what I have primarily focused on this year.

I also had a couple side projects with Erik. One was a collaboration with Priscilla Olayide, his PhD student in Nairobi, Kenya. She had a couple different datasets from cassava experiments, and we wanted to integrate this data to find the best kind of cassava root for further tissue experiments. My other side project involved many people from SLU-Alnarp as well as some folks from Lund University. They had planted potatoes in both Borgeby and Umeå, and we were interested in finding the effects that these very different environments had on the potato immune system.

While the systems and experiments for these projects have varied, they all have the same theme: What kind of story can we extract from these many complicated layers of data? Different types of data will give you different information, and by integrating them, we can build a more comprehensive picture of our system (whether it be a potato or a cassava root!).

Finally, I got to be an instructor for a PhD course this past April- ”Accelerating climate resilient plant breeding by applying – omics and artificial intelligence.” I wrote up a student assignment challenging them to integrate some data from the previously mentioned North-South potato project. I also did a short demonstration for the students during one of the lecture slots.

Whew, guess I did more this year than I thought! And of course, I can’t thank all my advisors enough, as none of this would have been possible without them!

Unrelated to my research, I did a lot of traveling around Sweden and Europe as a whole. In total, I visited 12 other countries outside of Sweden. From swimming in the Medditerrenean Sea to dogsledding in Kiruna, and everything in between, it has been a year of adventure!

What does this scholarship mean to me?

First and foremost, I am grateful for all of the friendships and connections I have made. My research advisors are more than just that; they are people I trust and look up to. Whenever I need career advice, I know who I will be emailing! I have also met folks here who, no joke, are going to be my best friends for the rest of my life. That would have never happened without the Fulbright program!

The Fulbright program offered more than just research funding. Every month, all the Fulbright grantees would gather for one-of-a-kind Swedish experiences. I will never forget attending the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony or exploring the rare collections at the Uppsala University library. The Fulbright staff made sure we were experiencing and living in Sweden, instead of getting sucked into our work. The staff have also been endlessly supportive through this year, and I am grateful for all that they do!

This fall, I will be starting in my own masters+PhD program. More practically, this year has allowed me to test drive the graduate student experience. How should I balance my time? What is my preferred advising style? How do I distinguish between success and failure? These are all questions I have explored this year, and no doubt will continue to explore as I navigate my own graduate school experience.

In conclusion, this scholarship has changed my life, for all these reasons and more!

Fakta

Fulbright

Fulbright är ett internationellt utbytesprogram mellan USA och andra länder för utbyte av idéer, kunskap, färdigheter och erfarenheter. Stipendiet är etablerat i Sverige 1952.

Läs mer om Fulbright här: https://www.fulbright.se/

 

Summary in English

Scholarship in Sweden

Annabel Large is probably SLU’s first Fulbright scholar and has spent a year at SLU Alnarp. Read her reflections on her year in Sweden, on potato and cassava research, Nobel award ceremonies and dogsleigh trips. The text is only published in English.

I completed a Fulbright research fellowship with Dr. Erik Alexandersson, from the plant protection unit here at SLU-Alnarp. My fellowship term was from September 2019 to May 2020. My primary role is as a bioinformatician for the group, with special interests in multi-omics data integration. It sounds fancy, but what it means is this: I look at all the data from plant experiments and try to find a cohesive story using statistical methods, network analyses, and machine learning. It's like solving a living puzzle!

When I return home, I will begin in the joint bioengineering PhD program at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, San Francisco. I will also be getting my masters along the way (in the US, it is more common to jump straight from your bachelor's to your PhD).

How did I end up at SLU-Alnarp?

I was approached by my undergraduate institution about applying for a Fulbright fellowship in... July 2018, I believe. The first step for US citizens applying for a Fulbright is to find an overseas advisor who is willing to host you. I asked my boss at the time, Dr. Daniel Jacobson of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA) if he had any suggestions. He and my advisor in Sweden, Dr. Erik Alexandersson, are strong collaborators; so naturally, Erik was one of his first suggestions. Erik visited Oak Ridge that month, and we all discussed what kind of research project to propose to the Fulbright committee. From there, I wrote up the project proposal, and the folks at Fulbright liked it enough to send me to Sweden!

I cannot emphasize enough how essential Erik and Daniel's input were to my grant proposal. This whole experience came together because of them, and I am so grateful for their guidance!

What have I done with my time in Sweden?

My Fulbright project was actually a huge collaboration between Erik, Dr. Kristina Gruden and Dr. Ziva Ramsak (both from the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia), Dr. Oren Tzfadia (from the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium), and me. Kristina and Ziva had already built a network map of the interactions that are triggered by the potato immune system when the plant is under attack. This network map had been built from data gathered from Arabidopsis, a model plant species, as well as some potato experiments done in Slovenia. My role in the project was to help get network map version 2 off the ground. There were more potato datasets from Erik and the folks in Slovenia we wanted to incorporate, as well as a new tool from our Belgium advisor that we wanted to improve and implement. This is what I have primarily focused on this year.

I also had a couple side projects with Erik. One was a collaboration with Priscilla Olayide, his PhD student in Nairobi, Kenya. She had a couple different datasets from cassava experiments, and we wanted to integrate this data to find the best kind of cassava root for further tissue experiments. My other side project involved many people from SLU-Alnarp as well as some folks from Lund University. They had planted potatoes in both Borgeby and Umeå, and we were interested in finding the effects that these very different environments had on the potato immune system.

While the systems and experiments for these projects have varied, they all have the same theme: What kind of story can we extract from these many complicated layers of data? Different types of data will give you different information, and by integrating them, we can build a more comprehensive picture of our system (whether it be a potato or a cassava root!).

Finally, I got to be an instructor for a PhD course this past April- "Accelerating climate resilient plant breeding by applying – omics and artificial intelligence." I wrote up a student assignment challenging them to integrate some data from the previously mentioned North-South potato project. I also did a short demonstration for the students during one of the lecture slots.

Whew, guess I did more this year than I thought! And of course, I can't thank all my advisors enough, as none of this would have been possible without them!

Unrelated to my research, I did a lot of traveling around Sweden and Europe as a whole. In total, I visited 12 other countries outside of Sweden. From swimming in the Medditerrenean Sea to dogsledding in Kiruna, and everything in between, it has been a year of adventure!

What does this scholarship mean to me?

First and foremost, I am grateful for all of the friendships and connections I have made. My research advisors are more than just that; they are people I trust and look up to. Whenever I need career advice, I know who I will be emailing! I have also met folks here who, no joke, are going to be my best friends for the rest of my life. That would have never happened without the Fulbright program!

The Fulbright program offered more than just research funding. Every month, all the Fulbright grantees would gather for one-of-a-kind Swedish experiences. I will never forget attending the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony or exploring the rare collections at the Uppsala University library. The Fulbright staff made sure we were experiencing and living in Sweden, instead of getting sucked into our work. The staff have also been endlessly supportive through this year, and I am grateful for all that they do!

This fall, I will be starting in my own masters+PhD program. More practically, this year has allowed me to test drive the graduate student experience. How should I balance my time? What is my preferred advising style? How do I distinguish between success and failure? These are all questions I have explored this year, and no doubt will continue to explore as I navigate my own graduate school experience.

In conclusion, this scholarship has changed my life, for all these reasons and more!

Facts

Fulbright is an international exchange programme between Sweden and the United States and other countries for the exchange of ideas, knowledge, skills and experience. The Fulbright programme was established in Sweden in 1952.

More information about Fulbright: https://www.fulbright.se/

 

15 september 2020 2
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