Jonas Möcking is a PhD student participating in the Bo&MeRanG project, a joint programme of the Universities Bonn and Melbourne. After two years of research in Prof Matthias Geyer’s Lab in Bonn working on the molecular basis of the inflammasome complex, he continues his studies in Melbourne with Prof Seth Masters. We accompany Jonas on his journey, which begins on Wednesday, 28th February, and his impressions will be posted in real time on the blog. Especially at the beginning of his endeavours, we are aiming at short daily updates. We wish you an exciting and successful time Down Under, Jonas – good onya, mate!
Part 2 of Jonas’ report can be found here!
Bonn, 28/02/2018 – Departure Day
It is freezing cold in Germany. One more reason to leave the country. Everything is prepared, last goodbyes and farewells have been exchanged during the past weeks. I am about to start my trip to Melbourne and looking forward to it. Not only because of the weather.
Yes, a jetlag is a thing! Since I arrived in Melbourne quite late and also have been travelling for the last 24 hours straight, the only thing I can think of is sleep. The airport pick-up service takes me directly into the city. My Bo&MeRanG colleague, with whom I will stay for the first few days, has already prepared the couch for me. Finally, I can sleep. But the jetlag wouldn’t let me…
After taking a shower in the morning and getting a few things organized, the fatigue kicks in. I need sleep. But I also need my bodyclock to adapt. So I force myself to stay awake and go for a first walk through the city. Without having a clear idea of where I’m actually going. Spontaneosly I decide to go to the lab to say ‘Hi’ to everyone. Also Seth, my PI in Melbourne, invited all the lab members to his parents’ farm and I still need to figure out how to get there. Dale, a Research Assisstant from the lab, still has a free spot in his car and is happy to take me. He is planning to go on Saturday morning and meet some friends at a beach on the way to go surfing. After leaving the lab I catch up with a few of the Bo&MeRanG students at a pub for a few beers.
Roadtrip! It’s 6:30 in the morning and I get up to get ready for the weekend. I meet Dale and Heather (PostDoc from our lab) at WEHI (Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research). On the way, we pick up a friend of Dale and then head to 13th beach. After about two hours of sunbathing and playing around in the cold water we continue our trip to the farm. Seth has planned all sorts of activities for us. Relaxing at the beach, feeding the cows, riding a motorbike. For dinner, we have a proper Aussie barbecue with sausages, lamb chops and stuffed mushrooms. Later that night we check out glow worms and play games. On Sunday morning we go bush walking to a hidden waterfall near the farm. The bush walking makes us hungry again. Luckily Tracey (Wife of Alan, another PostDoc from our lab) prepared some delicious self-made dumplings for lunch. What a perfect weekend to start off my time! But Seth also has a warning for me: “Unfortunately not every weekend in Australia is going to be like this for you, Jonas” Too bad. But I guess a PhD is PhD. No matter if you are in Germany or Australia. The lab is already waiting…
It’s Monday. This means back to real life after a weekend all full of fun and games. Since I have already met almost everyone from the lab on the weekend (and also nearly remember all of their names), there is not much introduction needed. So, we get straight to Science Day. The idea of this day is that everyone in the lab gives a talk about what they are working on at the moment to get an overview of what is going on. And I think it really helps to not get caught in your own project too much, losing the feeling for the bigger picture. But I also have to admit that it is difficult to follow every talk. It is a bit of an information overload for me. But I survived. A little dizzy from all the science going on in my head after Science Day, I get on my way to Southbank, where I am still living on Sabrina’s and Sarah’s (both Bo&MeRanG PhDs) couch. I grab all my stuff and head off to Carlton, where I will be living in an “Airbnb” place until I can finally move into my apartment on Saturday.
What is the first thing you do when you arrive at a new lab? … Correct! Make sure that you are officially allowed to work there. This implies going through a lot of paper work, safety inductions and online quizzes. And that pretty much sums up what my Tuesday was like. You would like a few more details? Here you go: In the morning, I meet Marie (Bo&MeRanG Coordinator in Melbourne) and she shows me around PDI (The Peter Doherty Institute) where most of the Bo&MeRanG PhDs are situated. Then we start with some paperwork. I still need to finish my online enrolment for the University of Melbourne. For some reason, I always get stuck at a certain point. And both, Marie and I, are not able to figure out why. She opens a ticket for me at the university helpdesk and hopefully they will be able to solve the problem. Next stop for me is Sue at WEHI (The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research). She is the person to organize my enrolment with WEHI. The only problem is that I need to be enrolled at the university first. Since that was not working we are back at step 1 and we still don’t know what the problem is. But Sue is well connected and calls someone who potentially knows how to resolve the issue. And finally, we actually do find the bit of information that I need to add to finish my enrolment. Sue and I agree that the whole menu of the enrolment is not really user friendly. But we are happy with what we have achieved and ready to move on. It’s lunchtime!
For lunch my lab introduces me to “Bento-Box-Tuesday”. A bento box is a box with three compartments. The middle one contains either brown or white rice and for the other two you can choose between different vegetarian and meat variations. And because they get that for lunch every Tuesday, it is called “Bento-Box-Tuesday”. Makes sense, right?
The rest of the afternoon I spend with Alan, my supervisor, who shows me around the lab. Afterwards, I call it a day and just go for a walk towards the CBD (city center) to explore a bit.
Today is Thursday, meaning I have been here for almost a week now. But I have to say, it feels like I have been here for much longer than that. Probably because my brain is a little bit overwhelmed with all those new impressions and all the people I meet and whose names I am trying to remember. But please don’t get me wrong – it’s great fun and I am definitely enjoying it!
Since my enrolment is finished, I finally get my own badge (just a temporary one for now, my personalized badge is not ready yet), which grants me access to the different areas of the building. This might not seem like a big thing to you. But to me it means a lot. Before I had my own badge I had always needed to be escorted when I wanted to go somewhere (like going upstairs to grab a cup of tea or going to the toilet).
Regarding work in the lab things are going a bit slow. My cells still need some time to grow and since I need them to do experiments, there is not much I can do. So for now, sitting at my desk and reading some literature is the major activity apart from going for morning and afternoon tea.
In the evening, I meet some of the Bo&MeRanG students in Flagstaff Gardens to enjoy some snacks and play frisbee in the evening sun. Flagstaff Gardens is a nice park close to the University of Melbourne, which holds some serious surprises for its visitors. For instance, it is a habitat for wild opossums, which are very accustomed to humans and which won’t hesitate to hijack your snacks. Also, to make sure people don’t stay too long at night, the lawn sprinklers are automatically turned on at 8.30 pm. I guess that’s the Melbournian way to kindly ask people to leave…
My first weekend that I will actually spend in Melbourne lies ahead of me. But first there is some more cell culture and reading that needs to be done. And some more morning and afternoon tea to be drunk of course. What I forgot to mention is that I got introduced into a daily table tennis routine by a neighboring group on Thursday. It is really a lot of fun. But it can also become a bit exhausting with temperatures above 30 °C outside.
On my way home from work I unintentionally walk past a pub that Marie warned me of. She told me you can’t walk past that pub on a Friday afternoon without being dragged in for a beer. And that is exactly what happens to me. Funnily enough it is Marie who drags me in. After a delicious amber ale, I already have to leave. The other Bo&MeRanG students meet at the Art Gallery, which hosts a party called “Wine Not?”. We enjoy a drink and then head over to a funfair around Yarra River. There we get to see some nice fireworks, discover a piece of home (see picture) and Sebastian and I take on one of the real challenges of life: Surviving a ride on Speed 2 (see other picture).
All in all, I must say I had a really, really enjoyable first week in Melbourne, met a lot of friendly people and already got to see a bit of Melbourne and its surroundings.
Yesterday I finally moved into my new apartment, where I will now stay for the next 12 months. Rent is quite expensive here, especially compared to what I paid back in Cologne. At least I get a good view from my balcony, a fully equipped kitchen and, most importantly, two really nice and friendly flatmates (Alex and James).
Today a few friends of the Bo&MeRanG Crew have planned a daytrip to the Mornington Peninsula. Our first stop is Cape Schanck. A 20-minute boardwalk and a bit of stumbling over smaller rocks finally takes us to Pulpit Rock.
This rock was formed by volcanic activity over millions of years. After taking enough pictures of the rock, we find our way back over the rocks and the boardwalk to the lighthouse. At the lighthouse, we can enjoy another great view of the coast from a lookout.
But all the walking made us hungry, so we decide to go back to our car and drive to Sorrento. There we find a place to buy some take away Fish’n’Chips, which we enjoy on the beach. We don’t have to wait long for the first seagulls to join us. But this time we are prepared and not willing to share our food with the local wildlife. To avoid a food coma most of us get a coffee after lunch. Feeling revitalized from the food and the coffee we continue our trip to Rye Ocean Beach. We take a walk along the beach and enjoy a beer and the evening sun on the way. Since it is already quite late and we need to return the car, we go back to Melbourne after visiting the beach. But we will definitely come back because there is more to see on the Peninsula.
Read more about Jonas’ time in Melbourne here!
(featured image from colourbox.com; all other pictures are by J. Möcking)