The Microbiologist

Amina Ahmed El-Imam, Senior Lecturer at the University of Ilorin, Nigeria, teaches microbiology and leads research teams working on renewable fuels and chemicals.

What or who inspired your spark for science?

Growing up, reading about astronauts and doctors made me fall in love with the life-changing impact these scientists made. My love for science was solidified by a visit to a bottling company where my father worked when I was about ten years old. It was in Kano, Nigeria. I watched how the bottles were sterilised and so experienced science up close. I then saw a woman in a white coat and my dad told me she was the microbiologist who ensured the products were kept sterile so that no one would get sick. I loved the idea and knew then that I wanted to be a (food) microbiologist. In senior secondary school, even though my flair for arts was starting to become a bit prominent, I was placed in science classes. So I followed my dream and went on to apply for and study microbiology at university.

For you, what’s most enjoyable about being a scientist?

It’s having the knowledge about how life works. I understand disease transmission, vaccination, how drugs work, how not to abuse them, how to keep my family healthy and safe, and so on.

I feel blessed to possess knowledge I’m able to apply every day in all that I do. When I see my children washing their hands or hear them talking about healthy eating and the benefits of eating fermented foods, I’m so proud.

The other thing I really enjoy is being able to contribute solutions to resolve real world problems with visible impact. The eureka moments when things work out in the lab or when a manuscript is published, also bring indescribable joy. When you’re not in the lab or solving equations you…

… Love to watch movies, dance or cook with the family. I also enjoy whiling away the time on social media, especially Twitter. Amina obtained her bachelor's and master's degrees from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Nigeria, then a PhD from the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom. She is also currently a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at North Carolina State University, Raleigh. She and her husband have four children.

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