A Day in the Life of Mohammed Auwal Ibrahim
25 August 2020
Abdullahi Tsanni and Mohammed Auwal Ibrahim
Mohammed Auwal Ibrahim is a biochemist, a researcher, and a senior lecturer at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Nigeria. Now, he is a fellow of Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) working under the Structure Based Drug Discovery Group, at the National Institute for Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), Tsukuba, Japan. Say hello to Ibrahim on Facebook, or read some of his research works here. (This interview was conducted by Science Journalist Abdullahi Tsanni for the African Science Literacy Network; it was edited for length and clarity).
Where I work:
I`m currently working from my lab at the National Institute for Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, in Tsukuba, a city in Japan`s Kanto region, on Honshu island. The lab contains equipment, reagents for conducting molecular and structural biology experiments including protein crystallography. The environment is cool and serene: my window looks out to a slightly dense vegetation area with chorusing birds singing melodious songs at intervals.
What I`m working on:
I`m currently working to identify the crystal structure of a protein from trypanosomes – the parasites that cause trypanosomiasis, commonly known as sleeping-sickness disease in humans. My aim is to exploit the protein`s structure for the design of selective inhibitory molecules (drugs) that can kill the parasite. I do lots of gene cloning and expression experiments (a technique used to produce large quantities of the protein), site-directed mutagenesis, and protein crystallography. I also carryout biophysical experiments for drug discovery.
A normal day for me starts with reading and responding to emails, including requests from my students. I spend 30 to 60 minutes on my bed scanning the news and togging between social media and newspapers. I`ll also check in on various journals to read recently published articles and papers in my research area.
Then I`ll get up, get ready, and have some breakfast. I`m working by 9:00 am., and I break for lunch by noon or 1 pm. I`ll eat “sushi rolls” or kebab and some fruits. Then I`m back to work until about 7 pm depending on the experiment I`m doing. Usually, I close by 7 pm and then, back to the apartment to watch movies and do other personal activities.
Most productive part of my day:
Mostly, I am more productive in the morning hours when I am less pre-occupied but become “saturated” as the business of the day proceeds.
Most essential ritual or habit:
It`s a funny answer, but sleeping between 6: 00 to 8:30 am.
Favorite lab techniques and/or productivity tools:
My favourite lab techniques are gene cloning, site directed mutagenesis, and protein crystallography. I get thrilled when conducting site-directed mutagenesis and protein crystallography, especially when they are successful. Mutagenesis allows one to observe how a change in just a single nucleotide, in the gene encoding for a protein, could lead to a change in the structure and/or function of the resulting protein. While protein crystallography, allows one to view gradual crystallization of proteins. For me, these two phenomena are just remarkably amazing!
My reading habits:
I read scientific journals and books during working hours. However, in the evening hours and during the weekends, I tear through novels and other books in the area of politics, cultures, religion, and geography. I am currently reading two books: Inferno by Dan Brown (a fiction book) and My transition hours by Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, a real life account of the political intrigues preceding Nigeria`s 2015 presidential election.
My bedtime is usually between 11:30 pm to 5:00 am and 6:00 to 8:30 am even though the first cycle may vary during weekends due to more engagements in some personal activities.
Words of advice to young scientists:
Learn to adopt a balanced work-play lifestyle in whatever condition you find yourself. Clarity is also crucial for a successful science career. Hence, identify your specific career goal then, pursue it heartily and with consistency, focus, sincerity and hard work.
Mohammed Auwal Ibrahim and Abdullahi Tsanni are fellows of the African Science Literacy Network (ASLN). This report was supported by the ASLN.