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My roller coaster research journey

My roller coaster research journey
Enitome Bafor
Fri, 09/21/2018 – 11:01

Starting out as a young academic in Nigeria was somewhat of a roller coaster.

The first step for me was to get my MSc. I knew I wanted to do an MSc in pharmacology but had no idea what research topic I would want to pursue. I wasn’t quite interested in the other research projects that were currently going on at the time.

So I spoke to some of my senior colleagues but it wasn’t of much help. One of my colleagues then advised me to do my masters on a research topic that was relatively easy and simple and I would finish in good time. This sounded like a good approach!

I proceeded to choose a topic in this ‘simple and quick’ area but very quickly lost interest in it. Over time, I became interested in uterine smooth muscle function and also picked up interest in reproductive pharmacology in which I eventually got my MSc. In the course of my studies, I realized I had several questions on the topic for which I got answers to most of them from my own experiments and research.

Also, raising a family and winding through my MSc program was no easy task. I had to take a break each time I got pregnant. I concluded my MSc, with distinction, eventually, and proceeded to take my research questions beyond the shores of my country where I felt I could get some answers. I won a National scholarship and proceeded to the University of Strathclyde, UK, for my PhD. I had my three children with me.

The years of my PhD were among the worst periods of my life as I struggled to cope in a new country on my own while trying to maintain a balance between completing my PhD on time and caring for my three young children. The support of my husband, parents, parents-in-law, and close friends during this phase was priceless.

Of course there were times when I felt extremely frustrated but I knew that giving up was not an option. I had to learn several completely new techniques and topics, but in time, I caught up with my other colleagues and concluded my work in two years. During my PhD, despite the challenges of maintaining a work-life balance and raising my children, I won several awards, which motivated me and made me feel that my efforts were worthwhile.

At the conclusion of my PhD, I returned to Nigeria and started a research group of my own. I work hard to answer basic questions in my research area and assist in the training of younger colleagues.

With intense application for funds, my laboratory has been able to secure small equipment to conduct some good research. Nonetheless, applying for funds has been another strenuous process. I have applied for well over 50 grants since 2014, most of which have been unsuccessful, but I have vowed to never give up and my persistence is beginning to yield good results.

I have authored several research papers in renowned journals, I am a reviewer for several journals, I am currently making contributions to books to be published soon, I have won awards, recognitions, scholarships and grants, I have and I am mentoring young scientists, I have had the opportunity to work with renowned research experts, I have been invited to make scientific contributions and I currently run my own research group and laboratory.

When I look back at how far I have come in my research journey despite the severe limitations I have faced, I am filled with a sense of achievement knowing, of course, that the road ahead is still long. For some people my achievements may seem little because of the availability of opportunities, resources and structures to facilitate faster and easy acquisition of these in their region. But given that I’ve had to struggle through having none or little of these, my achievements and story, I feel, are worth sharing.