Class of: 2017/2018
Degree: PhD, NC State University, Dept. of Biological Sciences
Hometown: Lagos, Nigeria
I am from Lagos, Nigeria but I’ve lived in North Carolina for a little over 7 years now. My initial interest in science sparked from my older sister, who is a computer scientist, and my parents’ wishes for me to become a medical doctor (every Nigerian parent wishes this for their child; engineering is good, too). I really became interested in environmental science in my final year of college at University of Lagos, while carrying out my senior year thesis on using hydrocarbon-degrading fungi as petroleum bioremediation agents.
Nigeria is one of the world’s largest exporters of crude oil, which unfortunately has led to severe petroleum contamination problems in the oil-producing Niger Delta region. The goal of my research team then was to find simple, effective ways of bioremediating these contaminated areas. After completing my undergraduate program, I applied to come to the U.S. to work towards my Masters in Environmental Management at Duke University with a concentration in ecotoxicology and environmental health. This exposure to the world of environmental toxicology solidified my interest in studying the impact of the environment on human health.
I am currently conducting research on two main projects with Drs. Fry and Shea in the UNC SRP. The first involves understanding the effect of exposure to environmental metal mixtures, particularly inorganic arsenic and cadmium, on the placenta and their role in the onset of certain pregnancy related diseases. Exposure to elevated levels of these toxic metals represents a major global health problem. These metals also often occur as mixtures in the environment, creating the potential for interactive or synergistic biological effects different from those observed in single exposure conditions. The goal of my project is to demonstrate the differences in the expression of certain disease-related genetic biomarkers by metal mixtures versus single exposures and to understand the underlying pathogenesis. In order to better understand this, I use real-world environmental samples collected from highly contaminated sites using passive sampling devices for my toxicogenomic assays. My second project is on the role of glucocorticoid receptor occupancy in arsenic-mediated toxicity and modification of the epigenome in the placenta.
After I obtain my degree, I plan to continue on a research career path either in industry or academia. Eventually, I hope I can use my skills and work experience to contribute to ameliorating the environmental pollution problems in my home country.