PhD researcher graduates with an accolade of achievements including an interview with Sir David Attenborough

18 December 2020

PhD researcher graduates with an accolade of    achievements including an interview with Sir David Attenborough
PhD researcher graduates with an accolade of    achievements including an interview with Sir David Attenborough

Temilola Olanrewaju graduates from Ulster University with a PhD in Geography and Environmental Studies.

Originally from Nigeria, Temilola grew up in Lagos and describes his decision to study at Ulster as ‘a stroke of good fortune.’ His PhD followed on from the MSc in Environmental Monitoring and Analysis he completed in Aberystwyth University.

Temilola’s research investigated the role of organisms resident in water environments in the emergence and spread of infectious bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. This is a particularly prominent research topic as antibiotic resistance is globally recognised as a major public health issue. He commented:

“Over the last two decades, the role of the natural environment in the emergence of superbugs – strains of bacteria that are resistant to most of the antibiotics used for their treatment – has become more apparent.  In my research, I focused on an unexplored area: the effects of feeding interactions within aquatic food webs on the frequency of antibiotic resistance transfer between bacterial cells. This research furthers current knowledge on likely pathways through which superbugs resident in the environment may emerge in human society.”

Temilola’s hard work didn’t go unnoticed, amongst his achievements is winning Ulster University’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, which he describes as a major moment in his PhD journey. The 3MT competition challenges PhD researchers to present their research and the significance of it in just three minutes, whilst using non-specialised language, to a general audience.

Temilola received the Best Oral Presentation award for Ulster University’s Coleraine Campus at the Festival of PhD Research in May 2018 and he also received an award for Best Oral Presentation by an Early Career Scientist at the Society for Applied Microbiology (SfAM) Annual Conference.

To add to his achievements, as a member of the SfAM Early Career Scientists Committee, Temilola was one of four researchers who received the rare privilege of interviewing Sir David Attenborough for his SfAM fellowship award. For Temilola this was a dream come true,

“It was such an honour to interview Sir David Attenborough. I got to ask him a few questions including how he has been able to sustain his passion for capturing science and nature through documentaries over several decades, to which his answered, “It is the easiest job in the world”. He also responded to questions about his most unusual experiences, how he chooses some of the world’s loveliest locations for filming, and current challenges facing our planet. While his answers provoked a lot of laughter in the audience, they were very interesting and filled with insight. Meeting Sir David, who inspired my interest in science as a child, was a surreal experience. I still have the photograph up on my wall.”

In 2019, Temilola received an invitation from the Royal Society of Biology and SfAM to attend the Voice of the Future event at the House of Parliament, where he had the opportunity to interact and debate with MPs making policies that will shape the landscape of science and technology in the UK.

Discussing what’s next after graduation Temilola said:

“I have benefitted immensely from teaching opportunities during my PhD research, through mentorship from my research supervisors - Dr Joerg  Arnscheidt and Professor James Dooley. I will continue to work as a Teaching Associate in the School of Geography and Environmental Sciences, here at Ulster whilst I explore postgraduate research opportunities. I consider my time as a researcher at Ulster University an enjoyable experience. Like all PhDs it was challenging but extremely rewarding.”


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