ECRs STORIES: “Microbes are invisible, yet they can positively transform our society” – Chika Ejikeugwu (PhD)
Chika Ejikeugwu is a Nigerian scientist who hails from Nsukka in Enugu, Nigeria. Ejikeugwu is a passionate microbiologist who created and founded MicroDok an online platform for the teaching and learning of Microbiology.
SciComNigeria: Who is Chika Ejikeugwu (PhD)?
My name is Chika Ejikeugwu (PhD), from Nsukka in Enugu, Nigeria. I hold a doctorate degree in Pharmaceutical Microbiology & Biotechnology from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria. Currently, I`m a Lecturer at Ebonyi State Univeristy, Abakaliki Nigeria; where I teach the subject of microbiology to undergraduate students. I am also an ‘associate’ Development Knowledge Facilitator (DKF) for the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) headquarters, Abuja, Nigeria.
After completing my thesis in July, 2017, I received the 2018 Matsumae International Foundation (MIF) postdoctoral fellowship award to Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan, where I researched on HIV-1 for 6 months. I was 32 years at that time, and also the youngest fellow to receive that award from Nigeria and around the world.
In 2015, I created and founded an online platform called MicroDok for the teaching and study of microbiology. MicroDok is now the number one and largest microbiology website in Nigeria, and Africa which has attracted many followers from around the world. I am also the author the book ‘STREET SMART BOOK SMART’ that is currently selling on Amazon. And the whole essence of this book is to awaken the consciousness of Nigerian students that, “education is for empowerment and not for employment,” thus while they seek to get it, they should endeavor to be empowered in the process so that they can become valuable to remain successful. This is what ‘STREET SMART BOOK SMART’ teaches.
SciComNigeria: What is your research all about? Tell us about your research interests.
My research interest is centered on antibiotic resistance, and HIV-1 reservoir and cure; and my field is microbiology. My research is also focused on finding sustainable ways of curbing the problem of antibiotic resistance in our environment; and for over a decade now, I have been working on this, I have done a couple of studies geared towards creating awareness about the issue of resistance in Nigeria, and I look forward to coming up with a national action plan on antibiotic resistance in Nigeria. In addition, my research on HIV-1 is mainly geared towards understanding the molecular mechanism underlying HIV-1 reservoir; and how African researchers can close the research gap of HIV-1 and HIV-2 in the continent.
SciComNigeria: What do you enjoy the most about your research?
A lot! However, the one thing I enjoy about my research is that it is geared toward tackling a global problem to which Nigeria is not immune - antibiotic resistance. This subject interests me so much because it cut across all fields of medicine, since we cannot fight infectious diseases without antibiotics. However, the efficacy of these antibiotics is being threatened by some resistant microbes. Microbiology is an exciting field that impacts every facets of life; and I am captivated with how microbes - as invisible as they are - can positively transform the society.
SciComNigeria: Did you always want to be a scientist? What was your motivation?
I had always wanted to be a scientist. In fact I wanted to read medicine. But after gaining admission to study microbiology in the university; I dropped all thoughts about medicine because microbiology helped me to find new ways that I can be of value and impact to my society, especially with microbes.
SciComNigeria: In your opinion, what do you think are the biggest challenges facing scientists and their work in Nigeria?
The challenges facing scientists in Nigeria are numerous; this includes: lack of funding, lack of collaboration amongst Nigerian scientists, epileptic power supply, and dilapidating infrastructure.
SciComNigeria: What about science would you want to see done differently in Nigeria?
Science and scientists should be given academic freedom to operate in Nigeria. In doing so, there should be no limitation in accessing funding locally to start and sustain a research.
SciComNigeria: If you weren`t a scientist, what do you think you`d be doing?
If I was not a scientist, I would probably be a computer scientist because I love everything computer and the internet.
SciComNigeria: What do you think is the greatest scientific discovery of all time?
The greatest scientific discovery of all time is the internet, which allows us to reach out to anyone, anywhere and anytime.
SciComNigeria: In terms of your research, what do you aspire to do next?
I want to take up my Alexander von Humboldt postdoctoral fellowship in Berlin, Germany to do another round of research on antibiotic resistance for two years. I will also sustain my collaboration in Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan on HIV-1 research; and see how my University in Nigeria can establish a student and staff exchange program that will help to build the academic and research profile of my home University.
SciComNigeria: Any words of advice for young aspiring scientists?
For the upcoming or aspiring scientist, my advice to them is to be focused and resilient. The journey is tough, but with determination and focus, every mountain can be overcome. It is tough doing science in Nigeria and Africa at large, but anyone who wishes to venture into it, can become a successful scientist.
SciComNigeria: Is there any misconception among the public, in your field of research that you want to dispel?
People believe that self medication is cheap. But this is not true. Self medication is costly because it allows resistant microbes to emerge and spread, which makes available antibiotics not to be effective for treatment. Science is important to the society because without it, there will be no discoveries.