A voice for Africa at Canadian Microbiome conference

Dr Chioma Blaise Chikere was awarded the SfAM President's Fund Grant earlier this year. Find out how this has furthered her career.

SfAM awarded me with the President's Fund Grant earlier this year so I could attend the 'Microbiome: Chemical Mechanisms and Biological Consequences' conference in Montreal, Canada. This gave me the opportunity to present my poster focussed on my research in microbial community composition during field-scale petroleum-impacted soil remediation using high-throughput seqeuncing. Arriving in Canada, I found that I was the only participant and presenter from Africa to attend this conference.

After presenting my work, I was told that my research was highly commended, as current and cutting-edge microbiomics techniques were used to conduct the investigation which was in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The contribution of my collaborators in South Africa has also greatly enhanced my research. My findings support related studies in the developed world on microbiome-driven eco-restoration of polluted media. I was even encouraged by the Business Editor of Environmental Microbiome, a Springer Nature Journal, to submit the full manuscript of my research to their journal for potential publication. I strongly believe that having the opportunity to present my poster at this conference has definitely increased my visibility in the international scientific community.

I would like to thank SfAM for supporting me with the President’s Fund Grant. I used this to pay for my accommodation when I was unable to secure additional sponsorship from my employer. The current lack of sponsorship in Nigeria for career and professional development hinders progress in the academic community. I even had to take out a loan to cover my other travel expenses, which I am currently paying back monthly. This lack of funding notably impacts upon female scientists, as shown by the 'leaky pipeline' in STEM subjects. Those with young families are also hit particularly hard, I am a nursing mom and having to travel with my baby was not easy.


Chioma Blaise Chikere