Four Ghanaians are among the 20 women scientists who will receive research grants under the OWSD Early Career fellowship programme.
They have been selected as part of the second cohort of the OWSD Early Career Fellowship Programme.
The four are Dr Mavis Owureku-Asare, Dr Mercy Badu, Dr Eden Mahu and Dr Priscilla Kolibea Mante.
Dr Mercy Badu (Chemical Science)
Dr Mercy Badu is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Physics at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).
She focuses on harnessing underutilized, non-traditional oilseeds for incorporation into food and other industrial products. Micronutrients in oilseeds and nuts can be used as food to reduce hunger and malnutrition in poor rural communities. The aim of Dr Badu’s research is to identify and characterize these micronutrients as well as macronutrients, anti-nutritional factors and medicinal properties of the oilseeds. Once the potential of the identified oilseeds and nuts has been established, farmers can begin to cultivate these plants to ensure their continuous availability and earn greater income.
Dr Edem Mahu (Chemical sciences)
Dr Edem Mahu is a lecturer at the Department of Marine and Fisheries Science at the University of Ghana.
Her research seeks to reduce the spread of nutrients from fertilized farmlands into lagoons and other coastal environments, through the development of easily accessible, cheap and user-friendly soil nutrient testing kits based on Android/interactive voice response (IVR) technology that can be used to limit excessive use of fertilizers. Nutrients such as phosphates and nitrates can be beneficial to aquatic ecosystem productivity; however, over a certain threshold, they can cause adverse effects such as algal blooms, creation of low oxygen zones, and acidification of bottom water that can lead to impaired water quality and loss of biodiversity. Dr Mahu aims to provide farmers in agricultural zones near coastal lagoons with the soil nutrient testing kits, train them in the use of the kits, and design a routine water quality monitoring programme for Ghanaian lagoons as part of a comprehensive project to preserve the lagoon ecosystems.
Dr Priscilla Kolibea Mante (Medical and health sciences)
Dr Priscilla Kolibea Mante is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Pharmacology at KNUST.
She focuses on identifying microRNA biomarkers of epilepsy in Ghanaian epilepsy patients. Her research aims to provide genomic data for the management of epilepsy patients in Ghana as well as promote accuracy of epilepsy diagnosis. Currently, proper epilepsy diagnosis is dependent on expensive methods such as electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) which may be unaffordable to epileptic patients in developing countries or may sometimes be completely absent. Establishment of definitive epilepsy-associated biomarkers which can be accurately detected using portable and easy-to-use diagnostic methods would be a relief for such patients. The study will further apply these microRNA biomarkers in predicting drug-resistant epilepsy in patients.
Dr Mavis Owureku-Asare (Agricultural sciences)
Dr Mavis Owureku-Asare is the Centre Manager for the Radiation Technology Centre at the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission.
She is developing new solar drying technologies that can be used to process, add value to, and extend the shelf life of tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables. High post-harvest losses (up to 50%) are incurred along the tomato value chain in Ghana because of the absence of facilities to store, process and extend the tomatoes’ shelf life. Ghana does not have an effective processing mechanism for tomatoes, largely owing to the cost of production, and currently relies on importing a large number of tomato products, in particular, tomato paste. Dr Owureku-Asare hopes that her research on various types of solar drying methods will lead to an affordable and sustainable commercial processing method to produce tomato puree and reduce the reliance on imported tomato paste and other products, that can eventually be applied to other food products as well.
These scientists will receive up to $50,000 to lead research projects at their home institutes and to build up research groups that will attract international visitors.
Funding for the fellowship is provided by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC).
The Early Career fellows were selected from a highly competitive pool of candidates based on the strength of their research proposals and their proven scientific excellence as well as leadership skills.
They come from 14 countries across Africa, the Asia-Pacific region, and Latin America and the Caribbean, and include a computer scientist from Tanzania building an app to help farmers diagnose poultry diseases through deep learning technology, a biologist from Laos trying to catalogue and preserve the diversity of reptiles and amphibians in her country, and a biologist from Guatemala harnessing the natural detoxification properties of aquatic plants to filter harmful contaminants from lakes.
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