Jenifer Ossai came to UMES in 2010 from Delta State in Nigeria, West Africa, with a full scholarship from the government to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biology that she earned four years later. On May 20, at the university’s spring commencement exercises, she left campus with a doctoral degree in toxicology.
As a youth, Ossai loved problem solving. Her interest in toxicology developed as she came across “an increasing number of disease cases, deaths and infections caused by foodborne bacteria, so I figured that I could develop a research project in this direction to add to the scientific knowledge.”
Her doctoral research and dissertation focused on the isolation of new antibiotics from soil actinomycetes to control diseases and infections caused by foodborne bacterial pathogens. Actinomycetes, she said, are bacteria that can be isolated from territorial and marine environments known to produce most of the commercialized antibiotics such as tetracycline and ampicillin.
“Currently, foodborne pathogenic bacteria are showing resistance to clinically used antibiotics. These foodborne bacteria are responsible for most food-related illnesses and hospitalizations, therefore, finding new antibiotic agents is highly needed,” Ossai said. “For my project, we were able to apply advanced molecular and chemical techniques in isolation and identified antibiotic agents from soil samples that could control the growth of pathogenic bacterial and fungi.”
At UMES, Ossai’s classroom and lab experiences “prepared me for a career in toxicology, because I was exposed to different areas of research and learned different skills.”
Gail Stephens, Agricultural Communications and Media Associate, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences, UMES Extension, email@example.com, 410-621-3850.
Photos by Todd Dudek, Agricultural Communications, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences, UMES Extension, firstname.lastname@example.org.