TiFN PhD fellow Antonina Krawczyk: “Research needs to be applied”

14 October 2017 – Educated as a molecular biologist, Antonina Krawczyk did not have so much experience with spore-forming bacteria yet. But after finishing her PhD project at TiFN she knows all ins and outs; why some spores awaken faster than others, for example. Krawczyk defended her thesis September 8, 2017 at the University of Groningen.

“Spore forming bacteria in food are difficult to control and therefore provide a continuous threat for the food industry”, explains Krawczyk. “Spores are very resistant and can survive decontamination treatments. They can remain dormant for some time and cause food spoilage or poisoning after becoming awake.”

More-effective decontamination strategies
In her PhD project, Krawczyk studied the process of dormant spores waking up, so called “germination”, and found a genetic factor (operon) that makes spores germinate slowly. “Most of the spores I studied woke up within half an hour, but if this operon was present in the bacterial genome it took them more time. These spores also appeared to be very resistant against high temperatures”, she says. “This insight will help the food industry to develop more-effective decontamination strategies.”

Research should be applicable, the scientist stresses. “This is what has attracted me to join TiFN for doing my PhD. We studied both lab and industrial bacterial strains, and matched the behaviour of multiple different bacteria with their genomic information – a combination that makes our research unique.”

Narrowing the scope
The biggest challenge for Krawczyk was to narrow the scope of the research. “The original project proposal was huge, with a lot of research questions to be answered”, she says. “I had to choose the most important ones in order to make it possible to complete the research within four years; quite challenging, as I did not have so much experience with spores yet.”

“Fortunately we worked with different experts in a team”, Krawczyk continues “Together we could sort it out, and besides that it was simply more fun to work together with so many different disciplines.”

Mid-September, Krawczyk started with a new challenge: a job at the French start-up company ELIGO Bioscience. “We are developing innovative drugs that help tackle the problem of antibiotics resistance”, she says. “The focus on the industrial relevance within TiFN has provided me with an application-oriented mindset, necessary for doing research in a commercial environment.”