Modern perspectives: Dr David Ogbolu

Royal Society Newton International Fellow

David Ogbolu was born in 1972 at Ibadan, the second largest city in Africa after Cairo and about 120 km from Lagos in Nigeria. He graduated as a Biomedical Scientist in 1997 with bias in Medical Microbiology. During his undergraduate studies David lost both parents but did not allow this to disrupt his vision. He was appointed as a Laboratory Scientist at University College Hospital (UCH) after graduating. While working here he became a Fellow of Medical Laboratory Science Council, Nigeria, and completed a Master of Science degree. He resigned his appointment at UCH in December 2006 and joined Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Nigeria, as a Lecturer II.

In 2008, he received a British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy research award to visit the Antimicrobials Research Group (ARG) at the University of Birmingham, UK where he was able to complete genomic research which contributed to the completion of his PhD degree in Medical Microbiology in Nigeria in 2010.

In 2011 David was awarded a Royal Society Newton International Fellowship to continue his research, again in collaboration with ARG in the UK to investigate the genetic basis for carbapenem resistance in Nigerian pathogenic bacteria.

David has several published articles to his credit and has been one of the few researchers able to investigate mechanisms of antibiotic resistance amongst West African isolates. In 2005, he was a co-author of a publication that reported carriage of plasmids as a cause of bacteria resistance to quinolone antibiotics in Nigeria and recently (2011) showed the presence of isolates carrying the qnrD gene in Nigeria which was previously only been reported in China.

The contribution of black scientists

Dr Ogbolu says:

“Historically, the participation and contribution of blacks in science programmes and careers cannot be overemphasized despite their initial denial of formal education during slavery. This shuts out many blacks from professional occupations and confined them to menial jobs in industries, farms and manual trades. However, a small number of exceptionally talented were able to obtain quality education and make significant contributions to world civilization. Of notes are mathematician and astronomer Benjamin Banneker and agricultural chemist George Washington Carver. These people have become legendary for their intellect and ingenuity. Rebecca Cole was the second black woman to graduate from medical school, 1867 in New York after Dr Elizabeth Blackwell, the first white woman physician. There were also a number of successful black inventors whose inventions proved useful and important. Thomas Jennings was the first black to hold a patent in America."

"Today, blacks have continued in their contributions to the world of science to developing and improving civilization. The contributions of Mark Dean and Phillip Emeagwali to computer development and information technology are very significant. Mark was instrumental to the invention of the personal computer (PC) at IBM. Holds more than 20 total patents and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of fame in 1997. Phillip, an expert in mathematics, physics, and astronomy, won the institute of electronics and Electrical Engineers’ Gordon Bell Prize in 1989. His computers are currently being used to forecast the weather and predict future global warming. Mae Johnson travelled to space in 1992. She had a degree in both medicine and engineering. She was a source of inspiration for many black women."

"In spite of these achievements, there is still more to be desired in developing the role of black people in science, most especially from the African continent in order to be abreast in world of science. I would like to see an increase in participation in globally relevant science by black scientists. Black leaders should put in place infrastructures and facilities with good political will to encourage the current crop of scientists and upcoming ones. The present socio-political platforms in many African countries may not help the course of science from that part of the world. I would also advocate more funding to encourage the role of science in African countries as science is capital intensive and there is paucity of funds either due to total lack or insincerity due to corruption and misplaced priorities on the part of many leaders and government”