Meet Our Lab Heroes Awards™ 2020 Runner-Up: Dr. Abiola Isawumi
We’re delighted to introduce the first of our Lab Heroes Awards™ 2020 runners-up, Dr. Abiola Isawumi, who received 16 nominations from current and former work colleagues who told us about his passionate commitment to teaching and the generosity he shows when sharing his knowledge with others. They describe him as their “go-to guy” who brings stability to the lab with his calm nature and motivational words.
Abiola has a PhD in Molecular Cell Biology of Infectious Diseases and currently works as a postdoctoral research fellow at the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP). He is currently investigating the antimicrobial resistance (AMR) mechanisms of common and novel superbugs (ESKAPE pathogens) prevalent and diversely distributed in hospital environments. He has been an academic guest at Harvard and a visiting research associate at Queen’s University. He won the reputable Gordon Research fellowship in 2018 and Nature Communications Biology Early Career Award for 2019/2020.
We spoke to Abiola about the Lab Heroes Awards, his current research, the challenges facing life science researchers, and his advice for fellow scientists.
Congratulations, Abiola! How did it feel when you found out that so many of your colleagues had nominated you as their Lab Hero?
I was humbled by the acts of kindness demonstrated by all who nominated me and it was equally pleasing to have received nominations from such highly regarded people that I have shared my expertise with over the years.
How did it feel when you found out you were one of our Lab Heroes runners-up?
It was amazing to discover I was one of the three 2020 Lab Heroes awardees. I couldn’t believe I stood a chance among some of the notable Lab Heroes nominated. However, it was humbling to be nominated and even more so to know that such normal lab interactions could translate to relevant impacts worthy of consideration.
Why do you think it’s so important to champion life science researchers, and what more could be done to show life scientists recognition?
Research comes with so many challenges. Encouragement in diverse forms serves as a means of motivation for researchers to keep their heads up and to continue to advance, even in the midst of adversity. Such encouragement might come in different packages, yet recognition of even the smallest efforts can definitely have an impact and be very rewarding.
What are you planning on using your Hello Bio vouchers for?
Lab supplies for our ongoing projects on antimicrobial resistance.
Did you always want to be a scientist when you were younger, and why?
My father encouraged me to be a family Medical Doctor, and this was my dream from the age of seven. This pushed me towards options in Sciences at high school, but in the process of time, life happened and I didn’t make it to Medical School. I found solace in Biomedical Sciences, falling in love with Microbiology, and here I am enjoying my honeymoon with microbes!
Tell us a bit more about what you're working on in the lab at the moment…
I am presently formulating a conceptual framework to orientate hospital personnel, biomedical researchers, public health officials and the community on the dangers associated with emergence of resistant bacteria from hospital environments. I’m also leading a thought-revolution on how to address the challenges posed by improper disinfection practice facilitating the spread of resistant bacteria in the Intensive Care Unit in the African Region. I am also analysing the bacterial resistome to identify SNPs for therapeutic purposes, and I am developing sensitive and Quorum Sensing assays to further understand bacterial mechanisms of antimicrobial resistance.
What does a typical day in the lab look like for you?
A typical day in the lab involves taking little steps forward in the right direction. The right preparation is essential for overall achievements. I prepare a day ahead for all of my experiments. I schedule time for each of the assay and data analysis and also a daily report on what was achieved. I also contribute towards other people’s experiments, I train and guide young researchers and assist in achieving the overall objectives of our lab.
What is it about your field of research that gets you most excited?
I love the way I hate ‘superbugs’! I am excited to be leading the fight and lending my efforts to stop their emergence in hospital environments and control their spread from hospital to the community.
What do you think are the biggest challenges or barriers facing life scientists at the moment?
Funding, and translating scientific findings into what is accessible (goods and services) to the people. The ‘publish or perish’ mentality, and relational/fair science (there is a need for an emotional/psychological support system for researchers). We also need to minimise what a ‘working experience’ represents during grant or fellowship applications.
What advice would you give to life scientists just starting out in their careers?
Manage your expectations. You can’t do everything; priority is a necessity. Do the little things well and diligently. Pay attention to details. Be serious, but don’t take things and people too seriously. Don’t allow things to get to you. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Fail, fail more, and fail again, but don’t give up trying. You won’t know everything, so you need people. Fair, firm and frank people who will make you know yourself better. Get the right mentors too. Don’t follow noises, don’t be moved by the trivial stuff, and beyond all, be kind to people and love yourself.
Which scientists working today do you most admire?
I most admire all great scientists toiling day and night to make the world a better place for us all. They are our heroes as they set the pace and blaze the trail, giving a second chance for the dying to live again.
What’s your favourite science quote?
These are my science career drives and personal cheering quotes: First, “Your old experiences are not odd, they only need repurposing”. Second, “If your grace is selling grass, you will soon have a grass to grace story."
What do you think is the greatest scientific discovery of all time?
The ingenuity to initiate and process a simple research idea until it becomes a kind of miracle that can advance the course of humanity.
Thank you so much for a wonderful interview, Abiola! And congratulations once again! We look forward to keeping in touch with you and following your career as it progresses.
Abiola is a member of British Society of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy and Young Academy of Science and his research funding comes from World Bank, Wellcome Trust, Royal Society and The Company of Biologists.
You can connect with Abiola on social media in the following places:
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