From Kobe to Barcelona
Former BDR researcher
(second from left in top image) recently started her lab in EMBL Barcelona.
BDR Times found time to chat with Miki when she came back to Kobe to give a lecture at the BDR Symposium 2019.
Interviewed by Kylius Wilkins. Edited by Emily Bian (University of Wisconsin-Madison Intern)
Q: So can you tell me a bit about your new lab in Barcelona and how you were recruited?
A: Sure! So the official affiliation is EMBL Barcelona. It’s a new site of EMBL, which stands for the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, and its headquarters is located in Heidelberg, Germany. There are several other sites, in Grenoble, France; Hamburg, Germany; EMBL−EBI Hinxton, UK; and Rome, Italy. Though EMBL itself is very old, EMBL Barcelona was built two years ago, so it’s relatively new. The unit head, James Sharpe, was appointed two years ago, and he started recruiting last year during the first recruitment round. I was recruited in that first round as the first group leader together with Vikas Trivedi. So currently, we only have three groups, but two more, Bernabeu and Haase groups, are joining beginning this October, 2019!
Q: What is the environment of Spain like? What’s the atmosphere of EMBL?
A: The environment is wonderful, because we are by the beach we have this beach volleyball league inside the institute. I moved to Barcelona last summer in July, and I live right next to my institute and the beach. So after work, I would go swimming—that was fantastic. Last summer, I would swim nearly everyday! Also, though EMBL Barcelona itself is new, it’s in a big research complex and we are in the fourth floor of that building. The other floors are occupied by other institutes and other researchers, which is good because we can interact with each other.
Q: How is the transition from RIKEN to EMBL?
A: So I actually still have my lab here in RIKEN for another year, but since we are now closing down the lab we are trying to move all the people, equipment, experiments, etc. over. Luckily, I have one Spanish postdoc in my Japan lab, Nuria Taberner, who is originally from Barcelona. She and I moved to EMBL together and she’s just been so helpful to help me set up everything in the new lab. It’s hard to set up everything in a new lab. And also, here in Japan I have my husband/postdoc who is helping me take care of closing down this lab. I’ve been very thankful to have one postdoc help me set up the new lab and another postdoc help me shut down. And after sending all the equipment to Barcelona my husband will be joining us here—that’s the plan!
Q: Is there anything you miss about RIKEN?
A: I do! I miss my colleagues, and as I said, currently EMBL Barcelona is very small, but RIKEN is a big institute! The researches in RIKEN are very diverse and I have many wonderful colleagues there. And, well, I’m originally from Osaka, went to Kyoto University and then worked in Kobe for RIKEN. Do you know Santomonogatari? The Tale of Three Cities? So Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe are three cities in the Kansai area—which means I’m really a Kansai person—but then suddenly, Barcelona! I definitely feel homesick at times. The people at EMBL are really friendly, but the biggest problem is the language barrier, you know? It’s fine inside the institute, since everyone can speak English. But renting a house, for instance, is a bit difficult, since my landlord doesn’t speak English at all, and so is shopping at the daily market if you don’t speak Spanish at all. Yesterday I couldn’t say “give me 200 grams of minced meat”, ended up in receiving more than 500 grams.