Two months have passed since my last post, so it seems a good moment to keep you updated on my last experiences here in Belfast. Following my colleagues initiative I will focus on my working experiences during these months. But first of all… 5 months already? Time really flies!
As you know from my previous blog, I am ESR4 from FoodSmartphone project and I’m working on Rapid plasmonic detection of food spoilage organisms in finished dairy products. This means I have to come up with the manner to detect the main undesirable microorganisms in milk products by using gold nanoparticles, my supervisor’s advice and all the wit I can gather. A simple idea thus explained, but you are right if you think it’s not so simple to carry out.
So after the first months stuck to the computer working on the literature review with particular interest in detection platforms for biosensors, I have started doing some lab work. As I said, my aim is to develop a biosensor that allows to detect specific bacteria present in milk samples, in an inexpensive, fast and sensitive way. So during this time I have been synthesizing gold nanoparticles and stabilizing them to use them in the future biosensor. On the other hand, I have also started working with the bioelements that the biosensor needs to recognize, what will conform the second part of the biosensor (target biomolecules as receptor and gold nanoparticles as transducer element). As you might guess, there are a lot of different possible configurations for a biosensor, so I have started trying some predesigned transducer elements to be sure that the biomolecules chosen for the recognition work and are specific. To do so, I have chosen a very common paper strips and loaded my samples there, observing a test line in all of them (on the top) to ensure that the strip is working and another band (on the bottom) only present in the samples that contain the chosen bioelement. A simple biosensor to start working with and help me develop my own.
Figure 1. Paper strips used to detect target bacteria
There’s still a long road to the development of a final biosensor, with many problems arising at any step. However, sharing office with Jack and Jordi is very helpful to discuss about how the projects are going and any unexpected issue.
Apart from the lab work and getting used to the permanent drizzle, I have also been working recently on the video for the RAFA conference, which I really look forward to attend. It’s a pity that some of you can’t attend it, anyway it’ll be nice to meet Aris and see the place where he works. Hopefully I’ll have enough work done to present a poster next time!
Beyond life at University, there’s still some time for leisure during the evenings, which I spend mostly watching series, doing some sports (I’m now looking for a basketball team to join, believe me it’s not something easy in Belfast) and occasionally tasting the mythical Guinness. I even found time last weekend to visit some friends living in Bath (England). I strongly recommend you to visit it if you have the choice, it’s a wonderful city full of historical architecture buildings and an amazing university life. Many people agree that Bath is one of the most beautiful cities in UK (of course not counting Belfast).
Figure 2. Bath Abbey
During the trip I also took advantage to visit Bristol, a city full of slopes in my opinion but very nice as well. Specially the University main building. It makes you feel as if you were coming in a castle from some centuries ago, but inside is fully reformed and adapted to give lessons. I wish I had studied in one of those…
Figure 5. Bristol University
For the rest, I’m very happy with my improvements in English (although I have to say that sometimes I still struggle to understand some people). I have already spent my first birthday out of Spain, what was a bit different to the previous ones but quite entertaining thanks to Jack and Jordi’s company over here.
In the next blog I’ll try to talk to you a bit more about how people are over here: mainly nice and farsighted (can you believe we booked the Institute Christmas dinner in August? As they say, times wait for no one). In any event, I hope the rest of you are well and enjoying your work and life in your new countries. I’m looking forward to hear from you.