Martí Quevedo, postdoc in Åsa Strand’s group, is granted a two-year postdoctoral fellowship from the AGenT postdoctoral programme at the Centre for Research in Agricultural Genomics in Barcelona (CRAG). This multidisciplinary and intersectoral programme is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie COFUND Programme and very competitive. Martí Quevedo will start his new, independently developed project on chromatin architecture beginning of next year.
What was motivating you to apply for this competitive fellowship?
"This fellowship really felt like stars aligning. This call offers funding for post-docs to pursue your own independent projects and aims to be a bridge towards starting your own group in the short future. All of this at CRAG in Barcelona, an excellent plant research institute near my hometown. In order to pursue a career in academia I needed to move to a new lab after 4 years at UPSC. So, I was extra motivated for this application."
How did you choose your future lab and with whom will you work?
"I first went through several PIs at CRAG that interested me and reached out to meet them online before the application. I found this call extremely helpful not only to select the group that interested me, but also for networking. Finally, I decided to join Elena Monte’s group. Besides sharing a similar background in chloroplast and light signalling, what really attracted me about her group is the range of plant model systems they are working with, ranging from the green algae Chlamydomonas to Arabidopsis and rice."
What do you plan to do in your project?
"Similarly as I did at UPSC, I will focus on establishing new methods to study how plants modulate their DNA. Continuing with my background in transcription regulation I will study how plants cope with stress at the nuclear level. In detail, I am interested in how the architecture of the chromatin changes and how the 3D conformation of the DNA could be engineered to improve crop traits in the long run."
Do you think your experiences from your time at UPSC will benefit your future project?
"Absolutely, coming from a PhD in Medical Genetics, my stay at UPSC has had an enormous impact on my career, starting with the drastic change to study plants. In Åsa Strand’s lab I had the freedom and funding to establish new lines of research related to my experience in epigenetics while assimilating their deep knowledge in plant physiology. Moreover, thanks to the rich post-doc community at UPSC, I met colleagues (and friends) that were experts in a vast range of topics and methodologies. Last but not least, the exceptional team at the UPSC bioinformatics facility significantly elevated my data analysis skills. All of this will benefit developing my future project."
Which were the biggest challenges writing your proposal?
"Mostly time! As most post-docs, that are also parents, know, it is especially hard to juggle around to find free time in your day-to-day schedule. Writing a proposal while keeping up at the lab and at home is always demanding. Another challenge was to come up with a new line of research that is innovative enough to get attention but still feasible to do in the context of the host group. For that, experience from previous (failed) applications helped a lot, as ideas become more mature when you chew on them for a while."
Do you have some tips for other postdocs or PhD students applying for similar competitive fellowships that are funded by the European Union?
"Every situation is different, and I am not an expert to be giving advice. In fact, I reached out to other colleagues and PIs for advice and even fished for past successful applications to learn from them. It is normal to fail most of the time. I tried many applications even if I believed I had little chance. That helped me to develop my writing skills and to have a backbone proposal ready to reformat for every new application."
Do you think you will miss UPSC and Umeå and if yes, what do you think you will miss most?
"After almost 5 years at UPSC and in Umeå I will miss a lot of things from here. From Umeå, I will be missing the tranquillity and easy-going life. Raising a child was less stressful here for sure! On that site, it may sound simple, but having such a gorgeous sport centre so close to work has made resisting those dark months of winter a bit easier. Also learning a bit of Swedish folk music and playing at UmeFolk was an amazing experience. From Northern Sweden, I will miss the outdoors. Skiing, fishing and hiking were marvellous in the boreal forest. Oh and of course Västerbotten cheese!"
"At the personal level, being a post-doc in a foreign country makes you in a constant state of loss, as friends you make from work are coming and going constantly. So, I have been missing friends from the first year I was here, and I will be missing friends when I am gone. I hope that many of the bonds I have made during this journey up North remain strong."
For more information, please contact:
Umeå Plant Science Centre
Department Plant Physiology