Academy Job Shadow Days Report

Emilia Hannula at the Westerdijk Institute

Emilia Hannula (postdoc terrestrial ecology, NIOO) visited Marian Figge (laboratory assistent bacteria collection, Westerdijk Institute).

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We had a very nice double job shadow day last week: first I showed Marian around the NIOO building and then we both went to the Westerdijk Institute in Utrecht.

I’ve been to the Westerdijk Institute (I keep calling it CBS!) on a number of occasions for scientific seminars. And  I have even used their fungal strains on occasion in my own research, but I’ve never had the opportunity  to see the actual collection, which consists of hundreds of thousands of fungal cultures.

They also have a vast archive of bacteria, which are freeze-dried in huge tanks filled with liquid nitrogen. It was almost like walking into a science fiction story. Unfortunately the culture collection is high-security, or I would have tried to take a picture of the cryogenic tanks…

Marian is a laboratory assistant at the bacterial culturing department, where she researches strains of bacteria. She also deals with external orders of bacteria, cultures them, checks their quality and sends them to customers. Her clients are mostly research institutes, but once in a while she’ll get some unusual  orders. Some time ago there was a lemonade factory where a bacteria was growing in their factory under peculiar circumstances, and they asked Marian to research what it could be.

Before going to the Westerdijk Institute, I was slightly afraid that there would be Dutch people only, but Marian was quick to reassure me: the Westerdijk Institute has an international atmosphere with many foreign researchers, similar to NIOO. There is some cooperation between our two institutes in terms of using the Westerdijk Institute’s fungi and bacteria (although they are not allowed to give us a discount!), but there may be other possibilities as well. So this visit was not only a very pleasant one, but also quite useful in a professional way.

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