By Ricardo Costeira
In 1917, while working with bacterial isolates from wounded World War soldiers in France, Félix d’Herelle published what he called the discovery of “an invisible, antagonistic microbe of the dysentery bacillus”. d’Herelle had discovered bacteriophages, viruses that infect bacteria. One hundred years later, phage research is intrinsically linked to other major scientific events: from the identification of DNA as the genetic material, all the way to the discovery of CRISPR-Cas systems.
This year, it was with excitement that I I flew to Paris to attend the 100th anniversary celebration of bacteriophage research at Institut Pasteur, the “cradle” of bacteriophages and, arguably, the most important microbiology research institute in the world.
Over the course of 3 days, I was honoured to listen to world-class scientists sharing major breakthroughs in phage research and, as a REMEDIATE scientist working on environmental virology myself, I received the honour of sharing my own findings with the rest of the phage scientific community in what was a very special event.
From studies on global ocean viromes and biogeochemical cycling, to studies on phage therapies as solutions for antibiotic resistance, these 3 days in Paris showed that phage research is booming all around the world and that it is as important as ever before. One can only wonder what the next 100 years of phage research will bring!
Ricardo has moved from the warmth of Portugal to the grey skies in Belfast, but it doesn’t seem to be affecting his enthusiasm:
Born and raised in the vibrant and youthful city of Braga, Portugal, I graduated from University of Minho in July 2012 with a Bachelors in Applied Biology. Soon after, I proceeded to do my Masters in that same university, graduating in January 2015 with a Masters in Molecular Genetics and a written thesis on the genomic variability of Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
After almost six years studying and researching in one Portugal’s top universities, I decided it was time for a change of scenery. That is when REMEDIATE came along and took me all the way up to Northern Ireland. In October 2015 I joined Queen’s University Belfast to do my PhD, eager for exciting times experiencing new cultures and learning new concepts.
My role in REMEDIATE is of an Early Stage Researcher and my PhD path is focused on studying the microbial and viral diversity found at contaminated sites, identifying events of horizontal gene transfer mediated by bacteriophages. To do so I will be using advanced molecular biology techniques, comparative metagenomics and comparative metatranscriptomics.
Despite Belfast being a rainy and cloudy city, the locals were proven to be very warm and welcoming, making living abroad much easier than I expected. Plus, Irish folks know how to have fun and the true meaning of a good banter!
Northern Ireland is a country of exceptional beauty and I cannot wait to drive around in spring and treat my eyes to the stunning coastal landscapes.