Science Communication Hub Nigeria

Bamidele Victor Owoyele: "I have always wanted to be a scientist"

Today, we are excited to present Professor Owoyele, a professor of physiology at the University of Ilorin, Nigeria and a visiting Fellow at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, USA. His research works to find a solution to pain perception.

Research interest or field

I am interested in neuroscience and inflammation. I model pain, cognitive neuroscience and neurodegenerative diseases in animals.

Tell us about your research in layman's language

My work involves finding a solution to pain perception and testing substances that affect our brain’s ability to perceive information as well as how to reduce inflammation. I mostly do this using rats and mice.

What do you enjoy about your research and what is it about the field that excites you?

My research allows me to discover the abundant natural agents that are beneficial to the nervous system and those that could reduce inflammation. It has also helped me to identify specific characteristic responses to pain in various groups of people in Nigeria.

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?

I have always wanted to be a scientist. I love adding different solutions together when I was young. However, when I began my undergraduate degree, I even wanted to become a lecturer more than anything else, maybe because my late mother was a teacher. So I love teaching and doing research in neuroscience.

Is there a Nigerian or African scientist working today who you admire, and why?

The experience that I received at the University of Ibadan has continued to make a lasting impression on me. I can not forget the late Professor R A. Elegbe and Prof. S. B. Olaleye, Dean of the Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, University of Ibadan. I love the dedication, the ease of working with them and for introducing me to neuroscience as my supervisor and co-supervisor respectively.

What do you think are the biggest challenges currently facing scientists and their work in Nigeria?

I do not think we are short of ideas. Nigeria has crops of brilliant minds, but the environment vis-a-vis infrastructures is not conducive. Water, electricity, internet access, equipment are key to scientific research.

What are the challenges and sacrifice you have had to give for science or while doing science?

This includes leaving my family alone for many weeks and months. It also includes using my hard earned salary to buy reagents for research and for publication charges for manuscripts.

Any success story or achievement (s) worth mentioning?

Well, I have been able to publish a moderate amount of articles which all bring excitement to me. This has allowed me to rise to the pinnacle of my career.  I am happy to have touched the lives of mentees, helping in facilitating their training within and outside Nigeria. I have also won good grants from TETFund and international bodies. My appointment to committees of international societies such as the Society of Neuroscientists of Africa, International Association for the Study of Pain, The Physiological Society of UK all excites me.

What about science would you want to see done differently in Nigeria?

I wish TETFund could be more empowered so that more research grants will be available. The wealthy people of Nigeria should also rise up and set up funds for research. We need local content. There should also be a collaboration between all the stakeholders involved in research so that we can have translational research. We need to see the products of our research in the market first in Nigeria and outside the country

If you weren’t a scientist, what do you think you’d be doing?

I should be exploring nature and its geography, and I think, I partly do that now.

What do you think is the most significant scientific discovery of all time?

I am at a loss to mention one item as the greatest discovery of all time. Genetic editing is the real deal now, yet it is puzzling. We have discovered most things, and now we want to edit ourselves.

What do you aspire to do next?

To further improve my research, win honours and impact more lives.

A few words of advice for aspiring scientists

The basic tenet of life and society requires honesty and humility. This is true for Science. In addition, the upcoming scientist must develop confidence in the chosen research field. They should be focussed on their ideas and be genuinely interested in science. It is good to be persistent in what you believe in.

What you wish to tell the public about your research or field. 

The brain is a very important part of our body, and as such, we need to invest in the discovery of how it works and what will make it continue to function effectively. Nature has abundant resources for this, but we must not just use any herb or supplement anyhow.

Interview by Abdulbasit Amin

This post has first been published on Science Communication Hub Nigeria.

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