Looking to the Future

Published on 24th October 2018

For Black History Month, we have looked at past contributions of black people to natural history, through John Edmonstone and George Washington Carver. Through Maha Kordofani, we have listened to black scientists on what it is like to be in the field today. This week we look to the future and speak to PhD student, Oluwaseun Samuel Somoye, from Cardiff University about his PhD and his advice for future PhD students.

Olu Somoye

Your PhD research title is “The Role of Endemic infection in Disease Emergence”, can you tell us what it is about?

My PhD, based in the School of Biosciences at Cardiff University, explores the role of multiple infections in disease emergence. My research focusses on how direct or indirect interactions between parasites results in increased or reduced transmission of infectious diseases.

What does a typical day look like for you?

No day is ever the same, however, a typical day ranges from preparation, and execution of experiments in the laboratory, journal search, data analysis, writing reports or communicating research at group meetings. During term time, I supervise thesis students in the laboratory. A great way to perfect multi-tasking and project management skills.

What do you love most about research?

I enjoy learning from previous research studies. For example creating new hypotheses that can be tested systematically to improve on past studies and/or adapting experimental designs that help alleviate the spread of diseases. Research is in a constant state of flux, where a hypothesis is proposed, tested, accepted or rejected by scientific data.

Can you tell us about your career journey up until now?

I started my journey at Olabisi Onabanjo University, Nigeria in 2005, where I developed a keen interest in Parasitology after undertaking the 2nd-year module in this field. I then went on to complete a Master’s degree in Parasitology and Bioinformatics at the University of Lagos, Nigeria in 2012, before starting my Cardiff based PhD in 2015. I count myself lucky to have secured funding (including the Morgan E. Williams Helminthology Scholarship) for my PhD study.

You told us about your interest in parasitology developing during your undergraduates, but what made you decide to undertake research?

After completing my Masters in 2012, I worked with the Lagos state health service commission as a laboratory scientist. Here, I observed co-infection (i.e. having multiple parasites, especially problematic for people living in developing countries) was the norm in the majority of samples sent to our laboratory for diagnosis. This spurred my research interest further into how the presence of one pathogen can impact the disease progression or outcome of a secondary pathogen.

What do you see yourself doing after your PhD?

I intend to go back into public health, where I can put my infection biology expertise into addressing broad issues that can potentially compromise individual and population health including the control of infectious diseases.

If you had to pick one, who would be your favourite scientist?

That’s a hard one, there are quite a few but I would say, African- American, Vanessa Ezenwa, who is an evolutionary ecologist interested in the links between biodiversity loss and infectious diseases and the processes that drive the ecology and evolution of infectious diseases.

Finally, what advice would you give to someone just starting their PhD?

The journey to a PhD can be likened to a roller coaster, surround yourself with as much support as you can get. Stay determined, critical, humble, patient and never be afraid to fail, it’s all a learning process.

Interviewed by Leanne Melbourne, Events and Communications Manager