Scientific Research Will Open Ways For Scientific Enterprise And Solve Many Problems Facing Nigeria
18 January 2019
In our series of early career researchers’ stories, today, we present Adam Mustapha, a third-year PhD scholar at Near East University, Nicosia, Cyprus. Adam had his BSc from the University of Maiduguri, Nigeria and MSc from the University of the West of England, Bristol, United Kingdom. He works on antibiotic-resistance genes from non-clinical isolates.
I am currently working on antibiotic-resistant bacteria and genes from non-clinical isolates.
Tell us about your research in layman’s language
My doctorate research is a bit different from my master’s research at the University of West of England, Bristol, where I worked on Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML), a cancer of blood-forming cells in the bone marrow. That time I specifically developed a biosensor (using bioluminescent organisms) that is rapid, real-time and straightforward that monitors the effectiveness of anticancer drugs. I also checked whether the biosensor could also serve as a biosensor for fluoroquinolones to monitor resistance. Such biosensor would help to customised treatment for AML patients since most anticancer drugs have toxic side effects and there is no point in exposing patients unnecessarily.
My current research focuses on antibiotic resistance genes from samples of environmental origin. This is because antibiotic resistance is beyond the shore of hospital samples. So for this, I collect samples from various environments; water, soil, animal wastes, study the nature of the bacteria, profile their resistance pattern using both phenotypic and molecular methods. My main focus is on critical priority pathogens such as Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and members of Enterobacteriaceae and how they become not treatable by antibiotics.
What do you enjoy about your research and what is it about the field that excites you?
I drive joy from my research because it is multidisciplinary. This therefore exposes me to new techniques and collaboration with other scientists.
Did you always want to be a scientist? Tell us about your first exposure to science and whether it was why you developed an interest in it?
Well, I think I grew up with the passion for science which also reflected from my performance right from primary school to high school. For example, I was awarded the overall best student in Biology in the final year of high school. So, it has always been about science and science. And the zeal for science has been consistent as I grew up to the university level.
What do you think are the biggest challenges currently facing scientist and their work in Nigeria?
The major challenge facing Nigerian scientists is the lack of functional equipment and facilities, which is currently one of the reasons university lecturers have been on strike for weeks. Every year scholars are sent abroad to study, others for workshops, but upon returning home, there are no facilities to apply the skills they acquired. Science requires cutting-edge facilities that allow discovery and innovation. Another challenge is the lack of a constant source of power and internet. A laboratory without constant power is another warehouse, and for proper research and communication of research findings, reliable internet connectivity is required which is lacking in most universities and research centres in Nigeria. Lack of adequate funding for scientific research has always been a challenge to the scientific community in Nigeria, it will be difficult to have meaningful progress without these. The funding should not be left for government alone but also private sectors. The private sector could also fund local research, get the findings and patents. But it seems like they are yet to understand the “business” in science.
What about science would you want to see done differently in Nigeria?
I would love to see scientific research taken as the building block of new Nigeria. It would open ways for scientific enterprise and solve many problems facing Nigeria.
Is there any Nigerian or African scientist working today who you admire and why?
I admire Professor Isa Hussaini Marte of the faculty of Pharmacy University of Maiduguri. He has recently been on the news for his investigation on anticancer drugs using local herbs and for which he has received several awards. Another scientist doing great work is Professor Friday E. Okonofua of the University of Benin. I follow his work on reproductive medicine, and it is exciting.
If you weren’t a scientist, what do you think you would do?
Well, I think I would be a journalist. I always drive joy in following reportage and analysis of both national and international headlines. I have always been fascinated with some types of investigative journalism.
What do you think is the greatest scientific discovery of all time?
Many scientific discoveries have been made over the years. It is difficult to mention just one. For example, the first direct observation of microorganisms by Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was undoubtedly a significant breakthrough in science. Another breakthrough was the discovery of the relationship between microbes and diseases by Robert Koch which birthed Koch’s postulates. The accidental discovery of penicillin by Sir Alexander Fleming in 1928. These discoveries saved millions of lives by providing the basis for understanding infectious diseases and their treatments.
Aspiration- What do you aspire to do next?
More collaborative research with other experts
Few words advice for aspiring scientists and colleagues
Scientific study is demanding but can be driven with commitment and zeal to do more. With this, I would advise aspiring scientists to be committed and keep pushing, worthy to note; get a mentor (s) for proper guidance.
What you wish to tell the public about your research or field?
I have been asked especially by many young students about the situation of studying sciences in Nigeria. Many feel they don’t have any prospects as they may end up teaching basic sciences. On the contrary, there are many opportunities through which one could apply scientific knowledge in life sciences, medicine, technology and engineering.
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