CAPREx Fellows 2016-2017 Blog
Oct-Dec 2016 and Mar-Jun 2017
In Cambridge, I was based at the Centre of African Studies (CAS). I divided my five-month residence into two visits: the first, enabling me to do library research for my project, and I found the enormous library resources at Cambridge very useful indeed. The second visit from late March to June 2017 followed my field work visit to Uganda from December 2016 to March 2017. I used the three months to process, analyse data and write two articles for publication. My Cambridge collaborator, Dr. Andrea Grant, who is based at CAS and Emmanuel College, as well as the CAPREx team, helped me to settle in easily and to get plugged into the research activities at Cambridge.
The CAPREx residence has been tremendously beneficial to me in many ways. The Centre of African Studies organises several research seminars focusing on Africa, and I was able to attend several of them. A good number of them focused specifically on Uganda where I come from, and I was able to share my experiences during the seminars as well. I met many scholars researching on Uganda, those working on collaborative projects with Makerere University, as well as those who have lived and worked in Uganda. I was able to establish contact with these scholars. In particular, I benefited from discussions with a group of scholars working on ‘Digital Publics and Counter-Publics in Africa.’
The Cambridge Africa programme held a number of research seminars and events where we presented our ongoing CAPREx research projects. Apart from these seminars, there were other events which I participated in – the Cambridge-Africa Day where the programme showcased different projects it is managing; the Cambridge Africa Film Festival; formal dinners for CAPREx Fellows, and a punting expedition on River Cam. All the above events helped me to network with many scholars with interests in Uganda and Africa in general, and they presented opportunities for potential future research contacts.
My stay in Cambridge presented other opportunities as well. I was part of the CAPREx Fellows who were invited to meet His Royal Highness the Duke of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at the Fitzwilliam Museum. That is a rare opportunity in a lifetime. I was also contacted by the BBC World Service to do an interview focusing on one of Uganda’s famous historical heroines, Queen Muhumuza, who led a war of resistance against German and British colonial rule in the twentieth century. The interview drew from an article I published about this legendary woman. I was equally invited by UNESCO to attend their annual ORBICOM Symposium in Jakarta, Indonesia, in March 2017 which focused on the theme, “Peace Journalism and Conflict Resolution in the Media.” I presented a paper on “Forms of Media for Peace: Some Examples from Uganda” which will appear in a book that UNESCO plans to publish. I am indebted to the Cambridge Africa team that supported me to attend the symposium.
Finally, I attended the African Literature Conference at Yale University in New Haven, USA, with funding from CAPREx in June 2017. The conference brings together hundreds of scholars from Africa – and those from other parts of the world – who are working on several researches focusing on Africa. I presented a paper on “Technologizing Orality: Toward a Hybrid Model of Oral Media for Rural Communities in Central Uganda,” and I received useful feedback.
Over all, my CAPREx residence was a very productive experience and I am glad I made the most out of it. I am grateful for the support from the Cambridge Africa team, the CAPREx Coordinator, my Cambridge collaborator, and the CAS administrators who made my stay in Cambridge a very worthwhile experience.
August 2016-Feb 2017
My CAPREx Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in collaboration with Professor Peter F. Leadlay, Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge has given my research in drug discovery a very big facelift. In the laboratory at Cambridge, I managed to perfect many research techniques in microbiology, molecular biology and bioinformatics. I sharpened my skills in microbial genomic DNA extraction, whole microbial genome sequencing and annotation, analysis of sequenced microbial genomes using ANTISMASH BLASTS and detailed bioinformatics analysis of individual gene clusters. I also learnt how to efficiently design primers for the very high GC rich regions of Streptomyces genomic DNA and running effective polymerase chain reactions virtually became part of my own DNA. Choosing the perfect vector for the study of DNA fragments of interest, GIBSON assembly to reconstitute DNA fragments of interests and vector as one plasmid, transformation of suitable hosts to incorporate plasmid construct, gene knockout and heterologous expression were things that I really enjoyed doing in Professor Leadlays Laboratory. The science was good but, the people I met in the Leadlay laboratory were lovely, indeed. Interestingly, Professor Leadlay would show me round the Streptomyces DNA ladder on condition that I climb one of the tallest mountains in Wales, The Moel Hebog (Welsh for Bare Hill of the Hawk). With bad footwear and the tightest of jeans, I became the first Ghanaian to climb up the Moel Hebog. Visits to Gregynog, Devon and Gloucester etc. gave me memories that will last a life time. With the skills that I have gathered, my next five publications will show the world how microbial drug discovery at the University of Ghana has come of age.