Monday, 28 September 2015

Phytochemical Society of North America - Poster award

Written by Okiemute Rosa Johnson-Ajinwo, ISTM PhD student.

Okiemute Rosa Johnson-Ajinwo receiving her award.
It all began in December 2014, when I was taking stock of my research work for the year and planning what my thesis would look like. I had submitted my skeleton thesis to my Lead supervisor, Dr Wen-wu Li and my co-supervisor, Dr Alan Richardson. Then a thought flashed into my mind, “could you attend a conference in North America, where there is so much research on-going in your field of interest (Phytochemistry).”

In January 2015, I stumbled upon The Phytochemical Society of North America, (PSNA) online. What caught my attention was that this society had a lot of distinguished scholars in my field as its long-standing members. The membership for a student is $20 and for a non-student member is $40 annually, which I thought were very affordable and commendable.

The venue of the conference, Illinois, was equally important. Notable achievements of the university include an outstanding record of 22 Noble Prize Winners, the World’s largest public library and the Blue Waters and the petaflop supercomputer: capable of 13 quadrillion calculations/second. This sparked up my interest for participation, but the next hurdle was how to fund this activity!

Together with Dr Li, we considered several options for funding and most importantly putting forth an application for the KPA Bursary. I applied for the highly coveted KPA Bursary and my application was successful. Having secured funding, I sent in two abstracts, titled: “Design, Synthesis, Drug-Likeness and Anti-Ovarian Cancer Activity of Thymoquinone Analogues” (accepted as a poster presentation) and “Anti-Malarial activities of Margaritaria discoidea and other Nigerian Medicinal plants” (accepted as an oral presentation).

The conference was well-organized, and had participants from Canada, the United States, Mexico and parts of Asia, Europe and South America. The meeting featured about 85 posters, fifteen key speakers, 1 Elsevier award speaker and three Neish award speakers. During the award ceremony, a notable scholar, Prof. Richard Nixon, was awarded, the Pioneer award for 2015. I won the PSNA Best Poster Award and the Frank and Mark Loewus Travel Award.

Unlike other meetings I have attended, where the poster judges simply browse through the posters and then make their decisions in private, this meeting specifically allocated 1hr: 30mins to interview the presenters of the posters. I was asked various questions about my research, the extent of work carried out by myself for the presentation, future plans, intentions for patent and professional aspirations.

This meeting afforded me the opportunity to interact with other professionals in my field outside the UK. Also I established some important networks and got some valuable contacts and inputs for my present research and continued professional development.

A highlight of the presentations made was the astounding presentation by Lloyds Sumner, of NOBLE Foundation, “Large-scale, computational and empirical UHPLC-MS-SPE-NMR annotation of plant metabolomes”. Following up from the meeting was an invitation to write a review in a peer-reviewed journal. Dr. Li and I have titled the proposed work; “Review of the Chemistry and Anti-Malarial activity of the plant family Euphorbiaceae”.

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