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Published: 2023-01-27

Get to know Laura Carroll – new UCMR PI

NEWS Living in Umeå since only a couple of months, new UCMR PI and Assistant university lecturer Laura Carroll is settling in fine starting her own research group and getting acclimated to the Swedish academic system. The snowy weather outside, however, is familiar being similar to the small town in USA were she grew up.

Text: Ingrid Söderbergh

Through UCMR, I’m looking forward to meeting and collaborating with other microbial researchers

Why did you want to join UCMR? What are your expectations?

 “As a computational biologist/bioinformatician who works almost exclusively with microbial data, it would be weird to not join UCMR! Through UCMR, I’m looking forward to meeting and collaborating with other microbial researchers — especially experimental microbiologists who can test out the methods I’m developing! “

 What is your research about?

 “I develop and utilize bioinformatic approaches, which can leverage massive microbial (meta)genomic data sets to improve pathogen surveillance, source tracking, outbreak detection, and risk evaluation efforts.”

What was it that made you choose to study and work in this field?

“When I started my undergraduate degree, I had never even heard of bioinformatics or computational biology. I’ve always loved math, but the math courses I was taking felt dry and theoretical. For fun, I took a microbiology course, and I absolutely loved it, so I began looking for a way to combine both microbiology and math. I stumbled upon bioinformatics and computational biology, and I’ve been hooked ever since! Being a bioinformatician allows me to collaborate with researchers in a ton of different fields, so it’s never boring, and I’m always learning new things and growing as a scientist. “

What is it like to do research at Umeå University?

 “Starting a research group is a daunting task no matter where you are, but I can’t imagine doing it anywhere other than at Umeå University. Even though I’ve only been here for a couple of months, I’m unable to name another institution where I’ve felt more supported. I’m so grateful for my colleagues, who have been going out of their way to help me start my group and get acclimated to the Swedish academic system, and I’m really looking forward to the years to come!”

What is your best advice to younger researchers?

 “It took me years to learn this, and I wish someone had told me this when I was an eighteen-year-old student/researcher: not all STEM spaces are welcoming to everyone; don’t let this prevent you from pursuing a career in a field you’re passionate about. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a mentor, professor, or other researcher that you trust if you need support, help, or guidance navigating your chosen field.”

What do you like to do when you do not work?

“I love food (the eating part; the cooking part not as much), so I enjoy going to new restaurants, trying new recipes, etc. I also swam competitively for many years, and I still enjoy it (especially open water/marathon swimming), although nowadays it’s mostly to offset my love of food!”

Short facts about Laura Carroll:

Comes from: a very small, remote town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (a much smaller, but equally snowy, American version of Umeå!)

Me in three words: Bacillus-obsessed bioinformatician

Interests: Bioinformatics, microbes, food, wine, cats, art, history, poetry, swimming, and anything outdoors!

Reading: Currently “Pnin” by Vladimir Nabokov

Streaming: Currently “Chainsaw Man” / “Zauvijek” by z++

An unknown talent: Not to brag, but there used to be this online game called “625 Sandwich Stacker” that was semi-popular in the early 2000s; last I checked, I had one of the top scores of all time. So basically, my secret talent is being ridiculously good at a now-deprecated, online game about making sandwiches (my parents are so proud…)

Three things on my life bucket list: (i) Learn Swedish, (ii) adopt a cat, and (iii) get tenure!

Wanted to become when I was a child: A math teacher…so I’m not too far off!

Best holiday spot: Lake Superior

If I had a time machine: I would go to 1999, to tell the little kid version of me to pay attention and stop goofing off in German class…you’re going to need it twenty years from now when you move to Switzerland and Germany for your PhD/postdoc!

Best with Umeå/Umeå University: My amazing friends and colleagues!