PHYTOMOLECULES TO THE RESCUE- Meet Dr. Blessing Onyegeme-Okerenta

Natural plant extracts and products discovered from medicinal plants contain phytomolecules and have provided numerous drugs which are being used clinically for the management and treatment of various ailments. In spite of the various challenges encountered in the medicinal plant-based drug discovery, phytomolecules isolated from plants will remain an essential component in the search for further new medicines. Phytomolecules are naturally derived secondary metabolites present in plants and are responsible for eliciting pharmacological or toxicological effects in both animals and humans. The important phytomolecules include flavonoids, terpenoids, saponin, phenols, phenylpropanoids and alkaloids and are widely distributed in plants. The majority of plant extracts are not single compounds but rather a mixture of different molecules and are very often present in minute quantities and quite difficult to synthesize chemically, therefore these compounds must be extracted directly from plants in good quantities for pharmacological uses. However, their mechanism of action usually targets several organ and cellular systems and can give complementary or synergy effects.

Summary of some studies involving the activities of phytomolecules include:

1. Phytomolecules present in the crude leaf extract of Millettia aboensis include reducing sugar, alkaloids, flavonoids, saponins, tannins, phlobatannins and cardiac glycosides. Following ethanol plant extract administration of 2000 mg/kg, the level of haemoglobin concentration and its related indices were appreciably improved. This gives an indication that the plant extract may contain some phytomolecules that can stimulate the formation of secretion or erythropoietin in the stem cells of experimental animals thereby increasing erythropoiesis. This could possibly mean that the phytomolecules present in Millettia aboensis possess stimulatory effect on red blood cell production and could probably be used as a therapeutic agent in the treatment of anaemia. M. aboensis has been reported to possess antibiotic and hypoglycaemic properties.

2. Phytochemical screening of medicinal plants like Senna alata (L) Roxb indicated the presence of phytomolecules such as anthraquinones, flavonoids (mainly kaemferol), tannins (present as tannic acid), alkaloids (including coniine and coniceine), phenolic acids, saponins, and negligible amounts of quinones and acrylamides. The quantitative analysis of this plant extract showed the presence of high amount of some important phytomolecules such as tannic acid, quercetin, and kaemferol. The plant has been reported to possess some important pharmacological activities such as antidiabetic, hypolipidaemic, anti-oxidant, and analgesic, amongst others.

3. Aqueous leaf extracts of Dennettia. tripetala and Physalis. angulata demonstrated antioxidant properties by protecting the red cells from reactive oxygen species. Also, they were able to reduce the percentage of sickled cells, the rate of haemoglobin polymerization, and the osmotic fragility of human sickle RBCs. The study concluded that aqueous leaf extracts of D. tripetala and P. angulata possess phytomolecules which have anti-sickling potential and can be used for the treatment or management of sickle cell anaemia. Further study will help to uncover the critical areas of phytomedicine that many researchers were not able to explore. Thus a new theory on the management of sickle cell disease may be arrived at. Similarly, ethanol extracts of Annona muricata, Delonix regia and Senna alata have the potentials to reverse sickling in human sickle RBCs. This was shown in their ability to significantly decrease the rate of haemoglobin polymerization, the percentage of sickled cells, and the osmotic fragility of human sickle RBCs. They were shown to possess antioxidant properties which protect the red cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. The inhibitory/reduction activities of ethanol extracts of A. muricata, D. regia and S. alata could be due to the synergistic properties of bioactive compounds present in these plants. The study concluded that these plant extracts may be used for the therapeutic management of sickle cell anaemia. Also, phytomolecules extracted from Annona muricata, and Delonix regia have been reported as hypoglycaemic and hypolipidaemic agents which can be used in the management of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

4. The phytomolecules present in the leave extracts of Cnidoscolus Aconitifolius and Jatropha tanjorensis include alkaloids, flavonoids, tannin, cynogenic glycosides, terpenoid, resin and saponins. A study to investigate the analgesic potentials of aqueous leaf extracts of Jatropha tanjorensis and Cnidoscolus aconitifolius against hot plate and acetic acid induced pain on Wistar rats showed that the extracts, separately and synergistically has potential analgesic activity on the Wistar rats. This observation was based on the amber of abdominal writhes or paw licking in rats which showed a significant delay in reaction time and increase in pain latency in a dose dependant manner.  By implication of the result of this study it can be inferred that the analgesic activity of these plants is most likely to be mediated peripherally and centrally.

5. The search for the use of herbal remedies as an alternative medicine for the treatment and management of cancer is on-going. My study evaluates the in vitro cytotoxic potential of ethanol leaf extracts of Physalis. angulata L., Parquetina nigrescens, and ethyl acetate extracts of Senna alata (L) Roxb and Annona muricata, on four different human carcinoma cell lines: MCF 7 (human breast), C4-2WT (prostate), HT 29 and HCT 116 (colorectal). Results obtained from the cytotoxic assays indicated that these extracts, at a very low concentration, inhibited the proliferation of the different human carcinoma cell lines in a time and concentration-dependent manner and therefore, may be considered promising and for further purification as an anti-proliferative agent against human carcinoma cells.

According to the WHO, 70-80% of the world population uses the plant-derived traditional methods for the treatment of various health problems. These phytomolecules are natural, available and cost-effective when compared to modern therapeutic agents and have proven to be useful as antibiotics, antidiabetic, antisickling and anticancer chemotherapy agents. This makes them more attractive as promising economic therapeutic agents. Therefore, there is the need for intensive research to elucidate the possible mechanism(s) of action at molecular and biochemical levels of these phytomolecules as therapeutic agents.

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THE SCIENCE WE NEED FOR THE DATA WE WANT- meet Amande Obidike

You may have heard this latest speculation that Data is the new oil. These days, it’s not just about having lots of data, except you have a good question to answer or a solution to proffer. Data science is the main focus of most sciences and studies right now, it needs a lot of things like AI, programming, statistics, business understanding, effective presentations skills and much more. That’s why it’s not easy to understand or study. But we can do it as a country and a continent.

Data science has become the standard solving problem framework for academia and the industry and it’s going to be like that for a while. But we need to remember where we are coming from, who we are and where we are going. Data is an essential resource that powers research, the information economy in much the way that oil has fueled the industrial economy.

For example, Harvard Medical School published research comparing the accuracy of machine learning systems against human pathologists in detecting breast cancer. The machine learning was 92% accurate, which is good. But humans were 96% accurate. Case closed, right?

In short of what of these points are:

We have a lot of data with us, but we are not still utilizing it, therefore, we can not draw out insights from it.

In the digital world we are in, everything is now data-driven. Data has become the most valuable resource on the planet. However, our data needs to be ethically extracted, refined, distributed and monetized. Like the way oil has driven growth and produced wealth for powerful nations, the next wave of growth is driven by Data – and will be for a long time.

Strategy Lead, STEMi Makers Africa.

contact@stemiafrica.org, stemimakerafrica@gmail.com

+234-809-272-9114, +234-703-759-8505

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WOMAN RESEARCHER: THE ENGINE ROOM OF A FULFILLED HOME- Meet Professor Abiodun Olusola Salami

A woman is generally a protector, disciplinarian and friend. She is usually a selfless and loving individual who often sacrifice many of her wants and needs for the wants and needs of her children. A woman works hard to make sure her child is equipped with the knowledge, skills and abilities to live a fulfilled life. A good woman is empathetic, compassionate, supportive, and an encouragement to her partner in building a successful relationship. A mother is a housekeeper, cook, teacher, nurse, coach, storyteller, planner, organizer, decorator, best friend, worst enemy, multitasker and a wonder woman, indeed an “Engine”. There is no person stronger than a mother and I am proud to be one! An engine converts one form of energy to other forms in order to make many others work and function appropriately. She tasks herself, challenges and creates deadlines for herself. She admits she does not have all the answers, yet, she asks questions. She is confident in her abilities, although, she can still learn while on the job.

Mothers as engine in the home, expose their children in such a way that is instrumental to the development of their leadership skills. This helped them develop the “can-do-spirit” rather than give up while climbing the ladder of life and surmounting the challenges that line their path to the peak of their different careers. For instance, based on my exposure, I developed a “can-do-spirit” and was the first female Professor and Head of my Department of 58 years of existence of Department of Crop Production and Protection in Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria. This has put me in a vantage position as a mentor to help in my largely patriarchal environment. This has also been a major motivation for my children in fighting for their space in life. I usually exchange my ideas with them in order to inspire them to learn and move up in life. I have, as a mother, developed an essential successful mentoring relationship with them such that we jointly identify, define, and honestly articulate our common, as well as individual goals and motives together. This has created a better team and cohesive force between us, to build a legacy with landmark achievements. Mothers are generally mentors and pillars of support to their children in order to build competences and soft skills in life.

A researcher is somebody who carries out academic investigation, whether independently or otherwise as a principal investigator, with the aim of establishing facts in a systematic manner. Combining this with responsibility of motherhood as outlined above is not a mean task. Women researchers work in academic, industrial, government, or private institutions. Many women researchers have pioneered several ground-breaking researches across the world. Despite their remarkable discoveries, women still represent just 29 % of researchers globally, and their work sometimes do not gain the recognition it deserves. Only 3 % of Nobel Prizes for science have ever been awarded to women, and only 11 % of senior research roles are held by women in Europe. I am a mother and a researcher, my interest emanates from the fact that as an Academic, every activity that promotes the advancement of knowledge acquisition and its practical application to social, cultural, economic, scientific and technological problems attract special place in my heart. I am determined to prepare my children for future accolades and therefore, create conducive teaching and learning home environment for acquiring skills, knowledge, positive behaviour and attitude for my children.

ROLE OF MOTHERS AS MENTORS IN DEVELOPMENT

Mothers are mentors. Mentoring relationship is a professional activity, in which there is a trusted relationship with meaningful commitment. Women are therefore the best mentors at home given the high level of trust and confidence between children and their mothers. Mentoring, when well done, is a luxury in this fast-paced and unpredictable work environment where good manner and culture should be established. Yes, schools at different levels are known to be experts at offering traditional education to diverse student clientele, but mothers in their roles do more in a more diverse way. I have been able to effect changes by bringing mentorship to my home, students, staff and even farmers in my career. I have built a mentoring relationship in an informal way within collegial associations. In this way, they learn by observation and example in order to structure formal agreements between expert and co-mentors. This allows each of them to develop professionally through the two-way transfer of experience and perspective. This has cumulated to a mentoring relationship of helping and supporting them to “manage their own learning in order to maximize their professional potentials, develop their skills, improve their performance, and become the persons they want to be”.

WHAT AND WHO HAVE BEEN THE MOST SIGNIFICANT INFLUENCES ON WHO I AM TODAY-PERSONALLY?

My parent’s belief in me and their bold commitment to the girl child education, their lavish care, as well as the support and example of my husband, Professor Ayobami Salami and Vicki Wilde (Director an International Organizer of AWARD Programme based in U.S.A.) are the most significant influences on my personality and leadership drive today. At the time and in the environment in which I was born, there was a widespread belief that had a deep cultural penetration and acceptance that the education of a girl child is a waste of resources. In terms of care and education therefore, female children were discriminated against and were seen as only to be needful for procreation. But my parents, Mr. and Mrs. S.L. Ladoye, held the belief that all children must be given equal education opportunity and were willing to bear the societal rejection and the isolation that came with their decision to educate their girl children. My father who was an Agricultural Extension Officer made the payment of our school fees from his salary his highest priority while my mother would see to it that we were well fed, adequately kitted and catered for from her meager pastry business income. In cooperation, they were not only committed to taking care of their children and laying solid foundation for my future, they were also full of empathy for the resource-poor children around us then, by sharing our food with them. As a young child, I have vivid memories that people would prefer to drop their children with my parents than any other in our neighborhood. My parents would not complain that what they had might not be enough, rather they would encourage us to share our meals with other kids from the less privileged background than ours. This was my early exposure and induction to community service and it was from these unforgettable early childhood experiences that I determined and purposed to study hard enough to rise to the very top of any career path I find myself in order to be able to take care of my parents in return and give a helping hand to the needy around me. This sense of mission and purpose has remained part of me and has shaped my sense of duty and relationship with others.

My husband, Professor Ayobami Salami, was instrumental to the development of my leadership skills. He helped me develop the “can-do-spirit”. Eventually I became the first female Professor in my Department and I was also appointed the first female Head of Department. This has put me in a vantage position to help others and encourage the female gender in my largely patriarchal society. I am now in a position to exchange my ideas with them, to inspire them to learn and move up in life. Vicki Wilde models for me the ideal of a target-oriented leadership and how to harness the power of multi-level mentorship to achieve the goal of reaching a wider audience. Vicki can be appropriately tagged as a ‘Woman Developer’ who is obsessed with developing women, especially women Agricultural Scientists across Sub-Saharan Africa in order to help smallholder farmers. She has contributed immensely to the well-being of African women Scientists via career-development programs focused on fostering mentoring partnerships, building science skills, and developing leadership capacity. She is a real catalyst for innovations, detecting and bringing up potentials in Sub-Saharan African women Scientists, thus, strengthening their research and leadership skills. All these great influences have equipped me with the instrument that make great things happen in the lives of people around me. bringing mentorship to my home, students, staff and even farmers in my career. I have built a mentoring relationship in an informal way within collegial associations. In this way, they learn by observation and example in order to structure formal agreements between expert and co-mentors. This allows each of them to develop professionally through the two-way transfer of experience and perspective. This has cumulated to a mentoring relationship of helping and supporting them to “manage their own learning in order to maximize their professional potentials, develop their skills, improve their performance, and become the persons they want to be”.

WHAT AND WHO HAVE BEEN THE MOST SIGNIFICANT INFLUENCES ON WHO I AM TODAY-PERSONALLY?

My parent’s belief in me and their bold commitment to the girl child education, their lavish care, as well as the support and example of my husband, Professor Ayobami Salami and Vicki Wilde (Director an International Organizer of AWARD Programme based in U.S.A.) are the most significant influences on my personality and leadership drive today. At the time and in the environment in which I was born, there was a widespread belief that had a deep cultural penetration and acceptance that the education of a girl child is a waste of resources. In terms of care and education therefore, female children were discriminated against and were seen as only to be needful for procreation. But my parents, Mr. and Mrs. S.L. Ladoye, held the belief that all children must be given equal education opportunity and were willing to bear the societal rejection and the isolation that came with their decision to educate their girl children. My father who was an Agricultural Extension Officer made the payment of our school fees from his salary his highest priority while my mother would see to it that we were well fed, adequately kitted and catered for from her meager pastry business income. In cooperation, they were not only committed to taking care of their children and laying solid foundation for my future, they were also full of empathy for the resource-poor children around us then, by sharing our food with them. As a young child, I have vivid memories that people would prefer to drop their children with my parents than any other in our neighborhood. My parents would not complain that what they had might not be enough, rather they would encourage us to share our meals with other kids from the less privileged background than ours. This was my early exposure and induction to community service and it was from these unforgettable early childhood experiences that I determined and purposed to study hard enough to rise to the very top of any career path I find myself in order to be able to take care of my parents in return and give a helping hand to the needy around me. This sense of mission and purpose has remained part of me and has shaped my sense of duty and relationship with others.

My husband, Professor Ayobami Salami, was instrumental to the development of my leadership skills. He helped me develop the “can-do-spirit”. Eventually I became the first female Professor in my Department and I was also appointed the first female Head of Department. This has put me in a vantage position to help others and encourage the female gender in my largely patriarchal society. I am now in a position to exchange my ideas with them, to inspire them to learn and move up in life.

Vicki Wilde models for me the ideal of a target-oriented leadership and how to harness the power of multi-level mentorship to achieve the goal of reaching a wider audience. Vicki can be appropriately tagged as a ‘Woman Developer’ who is obsessed with developing women, especially women Agricultural Scientists across Sub-Saharan Africa in order to help smallholder farmers. She has contributed immensely to the well-being of African women Scientists via career-development programs focused on fostering mentoring partnerships, building science skills, and developing leadership capacity. She is a real catalyst for innovations, detecting and bringing up potentials in Sub-Saharan African women Scientists, thus, strengthening their research and leadership skills. All these great influences have equipped me with the instrument that make great things happen in the lives of people around me.

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Remembering Georgina Mace

by Seirian Sumner and Nathalie Pettorelli

We were deeply saddened to hear that Georgina Mace passed away at the weekend. Georgina has a firm place on any list of influential women in science, and will be remembered as one of the great titans of conservation. There is no doubt that she has changed the world through her work: she was best known for defining the criteria for assessing species threat levels, through the IUCN Red List. Official recognition of her impact includes Fellow of the Royal Society (2002), Officer (OBE, 1998), Commander (CBE, 2007) and Dame (DEB, 2016) of the British Empire, Cosmos Prize (2007), Ernst Haekel Prize (2011), Heineken Prize (2016), Medals from the British Ecological Society (2018), and the Linneann Society (2016), BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award (2018) and more. Georgina was modest about her achievements; but her science legacy speaks for itself: she was a a leader and innovator for biodiversity science, and a formidable champion of early career scientists. A loss to us all.

But here at Soapbox Science, we are not seeking to champion her remarkable professional achievements – the medals, titles, awards, or even how she has changed the face of conservation with her acuity, intelligence, foresight and diplomacy. Georgina has a very special place in the hearts of female ecologists like ourselves, because, as a mother and grandmother, she modelled for us how family life can be compatible with (an extraordinary) life scientific.

We set up Soapbox Science in 2011 as a way to help female scientists punch through the gender barriers that both the media and academic culture propagates. Our idea was simple: round up some of our amazing female scientist friends, give them an upturned wooden crate to stand on, set them up on a busy city street, and let them do what they do best: enthuse about the brilliant science they do! All we needed was a bunch of women who would agree to do it….

We set about cajoling our favourite friends and colleagues into being one of our speakers. One of our dreams for Soapbox Science was to break the image of the impenetrable, super-human ‘ivory towers’ scientist and make them personable and relatable for the public – that’s what young scientists need to see: they need to know that scientists are also real people, with families, feelings, a sense of humour and empathy. Who better than thrice-appointed member of the Order of the British Empire, a rare female Fellow of the Royal Society, and probably the bravest and most impactful pioneer in conservation science of our era – Georgina Mace.

On paper, Georgina would sound suitably intimidating to any member of the public or indeed any young scientist. But luckily, we’d had the enormous privilege of getting to know her on a personal level, as Director of the institute where we worked. We knew that the real Dame Prof Georgina Mace was of course brilliant, but she was also personable, generous, kind, funny and witty; above all we’d witnessed (and experienced) time after time how she cared about the next generation of scientists – shaping who they are and giving them a foot-up whenever she could.

Georgina was a natural choice for a public platform like a Soapbox Science: she’d changed the way scientists, politicians and policymakers thought about, measured and tackled biodiversity issues; she had a tome of keynote lectures under her belt; she had first-hand experience in putting the science facts right for some of the most influential and powerful people in the world – countless world leaders, politicians, international diplomats and royalty! Anyone who had the privilege of witnessing her chair a meeting will attest to her acuity, wit, quick intellect and integrity. With CV credentials like that, we were confident that she would simply breeze onto the Soapbox, enthral everyone, and then step back into her day job of changing the world. She did exactly that, with her characteristic brilliance; she touched the hearts and minds of 1000s of members of the public on the streets of London, and thousands more across the world via the media coverage she and our other speakers attracted.

Georgina was a speaker at our first event in 2011, and she has continued to support Soapbox in its (now) 10-year venture, helping promote its growth across the globe by casually putting in a good word for us, recommending to her colleagues that they take part, and also in nominating us for numerous prizes, many of which we were awarded. Georgina was an integral part of Soapbox Science’s success – a quietly proactive (and superbly effective) champion, as she was for so many young scientists.

It was only many years later we learned that she’d confessed to friends and colleagues that Soapbox Science was the most terrifying experience of her life! This sums her up: Georgina invented the ‘can do’ attitude before it was fashionable: she just got on with things no matter how difficult, challenging, daunting or impossible the task may be. She calmly changed the world with her science; she surreptitiously provided us with an example of how you can have a family (three children) and a fulfilling and successful career; she quietly got on with supporting the careers of countless young scientists.

Georgina, we will miss you. Thank you for stepping out of your comfort zone, for Soapbox Science, and the next generations of women in science.

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Tips to share your research in a way the public can understand

 “I am a bit nervous, and only used to giving lectures. How can I share my science with everyday people who are not scientists?” 

by Elsie Adaobi Chidebe, Tochukwu Ozulumba, Orode V U Aniejurengho 

Soapbox Science Lagos (November Team) 

At one of our 2020 online speaker training webinars, someone asked this question “I am a bit nervous, and only used to giving lectures. How can I share my science with everyday people who are not scientists?” We thought it was a question that resonates with most of us, that feeling of anxiety, where your tummy rumbles and your heart pounds before a talk. It is completely normal, and one we have all felt at some point in our STEM careers. To answer this question, we decided to share our team’s 4 tried and tested steps which we have used at different science communication events.   

Just Start – Be prepared  

Public speaking can be a bit challenging. It is important to have a plan and stick to it. Making an outline is particularly helpful as it enables you have a mental picture of the talk beforehand and also identify points in your talk where you have used a lot of jargon. Remember to keep it simple and avoid too much detail. You can start with an introduction followed by the body (the meaty part and demonstrations) and then a closing – a summary of the key take home message). Always stay focused and deliver the important messages. Think – what do I want my audience to say they have learnt? Do-prepare the outline (intro, demonstrations and summary. 

Get to know your audience – your talk is for them  

Spare your audience the unnecessary details and talk on the fascinating things about your research with its societal relevance. Explain these concepts by using everyday language instead of complex terms. Are there current issues or frequent practices in the society that your audience are familiar with? Can you refer to this in some way and incorporate it in your talk? For example, to highlight why it is important for us to wash our hands, you can use colour on your hands and then toucha surface to show the transfer of bacteria and contamination of surfaces. It is our responsibility to engage them in a way that will help promote interest in STEM. Think – who are my audience? Do – use relevant examples in your demonstrations, so your audience can easily connect with your topic of interest. 

Use Props – Simplify the complicated  

Find simple items around you that can be used to demonstrate what you will be talking about. For example, use a bunch of grapes to show the cocci shape of some bacteria, sew on some velcro to show things attaching and detaching, use water and food dye to represent blood, add coloured dyes to liquids to represent chemicals etc. This way, people can better understand and connect to your research. Think: how can I simplify my research? Do – get items or use simple demonstrations that people can see or touch  

Let go of the nerves – Practice! Practice! Practice!  

Remember to practice everywhere you can. You can practice your presentation before your colleagues to check that you have used accurate representations of the scientific terms you will be discussing. This is particularly important if you are working on sensitive topics such as cancer treatment, mental health, climate change etc., to ensure that your audience goes home with an accurate message. Secondly, practice before other people (non-scientists) so you can have a feel of how accessible your talk is. Think: How can I be confident and less nervous?  Do – use your outline and practice to a friendly audience that you know. Don’t forget you are the topic expert, you’ve got this. 

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I’ve always loved solving puzzles: Meet Kris Poduska

Dr. Kris Poduska, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Soapbox Science talk title: How light unlocks mysteries of the natural world

I’ve always been curious about how things work, and I’ve always loved solving puzzles. When I was an undergraduate student, I tried chemistry laboratory research one summer and I loved it! Every day was different: I worked with hand tools, computers, mechanical equipment, electronics…and people with interesting ideas. That experience made me realize that science research would perfect career choice for me. Now I’m a physics professor who runs a research laboratory, and I help other people get training and experiences that help them find what they love to do.

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Relationships I’ve made while doing my research make me love my work: Meet Julie Turner

Julie Turner, Memorial University of Newfoundland and Michigan State University

Soapbox Science talk title: Hyenas aren’t the enemy: insight into their lives, personalities, and social behavior

To me, relationships are one of the most fascinating aspects of my work. I’ve long been interested in animals that live in groups and have many types of relationships. As a kid, I jumped from obsessing over lions to whales and dolphins to wolves, always wanting to learn about their family interactions. That’s how I got interested in hyenas because they are as social as humans in really interesting ways. And it hasn’t just been the relationships that I study but also the relationships I’ve made while doing my research that make me love my work. I have made some of the best friends and partnerships as I have been doing my work. Now I have friends and family all over the world.

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Mentors shape and inspire research and career goals: Meet Katrien Kingdon

Katrien Kingdon, PhD Student – Memorial University of Newfoundland

Soapbox Science talk title: “The whereabouts of wolves: The importance of predators in our landscapes”

Q: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?

My inspiration for a career in science stems from a life-long interest in wildlife that was always encouraged by my parents and our time spent outdoors. During my undergraduate degree, I became interested in how humans and their activities can impact wildlife behaviour while working with Dr. Marty Leonard, an inspiring woman in science herself. This introduction to research encouraged me to pursue further education here at MUN. Here, I have had the opportunity to work with many supportive mentors who continue to shape and inspire my research and career goals as a wildlife biologist.

Q: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?

I love getting to do fieldwork. I find the hands-on components of research very rewarding and provide a unique perspective that you cannot get otherwise. For my research specifically, tracking wolves and investigating sites that they have visited provide additional clues on wolf behaviour. This can include the types of habitat that wolves prefer to travel through or rest in, and where prey are found at different times of the year. These details help inform the questions we are asking and the type of data we need. 

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Health and well being are just as important as profit, growth and knowledge: Meet Ashley Noseworthy

Ashley Noseworthy, Edgewise Environmental / Course Instructor at MUN

Soapbox Science talk title: How to speak Whale

Q: What are you most proud of and/or what have you learned from doing research/ maintaining your business- especially during the pandemic?  

There is no question that 2020 has been A YEAR! Each of us has had obstacles to overcome when dealing with a global pandemic in many facets of our lives. The world has been forever changed and change is not an easy thing to embrace, especially when it happens on such a drastic level. But I have learned, if I am anything, I am adaptable.

During the past few months I am most proud of the company’s resiliency and our ability to pivot to meet our client’s needs. Most of all, I am proud of us for completing our FIRST research and development project especially because it was during a pandemic. It is proof that innovation is an essential pillar to adaptability and embracing change. I have learned many things during the past 6 months both about myself and about science and business in relation to Edgewise. This is not an exhaustive list but includes the highlights:

– When it comes to marine mammal sound in the water – the pandemic has been an incredible opportunity to build our understanding during a period of less man-made noise in the water. It’s been dubbed an #anthropause

– Versatility is key: pivoting from working in close proximity with others to predominantly online has been essential for all. Despite the distance, this does not take less work, it takes MORE!

– It takes a village! In order to succeed during these trying times it takes the support of employees, mentors, friends and family.

– Balance is necessary. As a woman in science and business I could easily work 20 hours a day – and sometimes I do. My health and well being is just as important as profit, growth and knowledge. I have learned I underestimate this balance and  am working to do better!

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A zeal to find answers to the mysteries that make life possible: Meet Shreyasi Sarkar

My name is Shreyasi Sarkar, I’m a PhD candidate in Biochemistry at Memorial University of Newfoundland and my project title is:  Missing pieces to the diet-microbiota-health puzzle.

Q: How did you get to your current position?

A: Always wanting to be associated with science and finding answers to how the human body works, I started off with obtaining my Bachelors in Chemistry and Masters in Medicinal Chemistry from University of Pune, India. To aid myself in finding more depth into my main research question, I obtained a scholarship and decided to pursue my current PhD degree in Biochemistry at MUN.

Q: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?

A: My father, a medical doctor, has always played a very influential role in my life which drew me closer to science.

In addition, as I mentioned in my previous answer, with my life-long prevailing question: how the human body works, and also with the zeal to find answers into the mysteries that make life possible, I decided to take up a career in science. 

Q: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?

A: My research aims to find the links that connect our diet with our intestinal and our brain/mental health. Diet is the primary component to maintaining good health. In addition, all diseases begin in the gut (Hippocrates) and as mental health is taking a major toll in the current era. Thus, finding the links that connect them and those that can be modulated to set a mutually understanding tone between them, with an aim to cure intestinal and mental health disorders, is what is fascinating about my research.

Q: What are you most proud of and/or what have you learned from doing research- especially during the pandemic? 

A: I am very proud of how I developed very important skills of managing time and keeping myself organised and engaged during the pandemic. Even though I did have to start working (after obtaining special permission to have lab access) during the pandemic, it taught me how important it is to finish everything on time and not procrastinate. It is also very important to organise everything as things can get very convoluted during a stressful time like this.

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