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Spotlight on... Teteh Champion #BHMwithBWiS19


Black British (my Mum's from Sierra Leone)

Education and career

Population and Ecosystem Health (PhD) University of Glasgow 2017- present Medical Parasitology (MSc) London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Class of 2017 Biochemistry and Neuroscience (BSc Hons) Keele University Class of 2014

I was always curious about how things work as a child, I did well in Biology in school and my parents convinced me to continue on to study the areas of Biology I was most interested in at uni. I really enjoyed uni but it was pure serendipity that I chose a Parasitology module in my final year and found a topic that I was passionate about and could see myself having a career in. I took time away from studying after graduating: it took me a while to decide on what exactly to do next, gain the confidence to apply for a postgrad course and then earn some money to study in London when I'd made up my mind to apply to LSHTM. As I was finishing up my masters thesis I saw this PhD advertised on twitter. It was advertised late in the summer and within a few weeks of travelling up to Scotland for the interview, I was moving up here to start. It's been challenging but I'm also learning and have learnt a lot and I'm excited for what's next once I finish.

My research is focused on a human parasite called Schistosoma mansoni. I'm specifically looking at the environmental aspect of this disease and the role of sanitation. As with most parasites, the schistosome has a cool and complex lifecycle: it needs both a human and snail host. Humans get infected from water contact contaminated by infected aquatic snails. Likewise, snails get infected when their aquatic habitat is contaminated with parasite-infected human faeces. I'm currently looking into a way to monitor the parasite and human faeces in the soil environment and hoping to relate that back to the sanitation facilities and their impact on disease transmission.

What are your career goals?

As much as I'm fascinated by parasites and have enjoyed researching them in an academic setting, I'm also interested in applying this knowledge to the real world. After I finish this research project I'd like to move out of academia and into the research policy sector.

Tell us about a pivotal moment in your career

It was a while ago now but probably getting my undergrad results before graduation. I put a lot of time and energy into my studies to get a first and it was a great feeling to have it pay off. Exam/essay results aren't the be-all and end-all but I think at the time the result gave me a real boost to my confidence that I needed to pursue postgrad study.

Is/Are there individual(s)/organisations that have particularly impacted where you are today?

Apart from my Mum? : ) I was recently at the Black Girl Festival and saw Dr Nicola Rollock talk about her experiences in academia. Hearing her and the other panellists were heartening and rang true to my own experiences and feelings towards being in academic institutions.

Outside of your scientific career, what are your interests, hobbies and aims?

I love hiking. One of the benefits of moving to Scotland is access to the gorgeous countryside up here. It's dead easy to get out of the city and go on a ramble to refresh after being in the lab/office all week.

We also have a new BAME society at UofG and it's been really nice to meet fellow students of colour at the uni, as Glasgow, in general, is not the most diverse place. It's been nice to have a safe space to reflect on our experiences and get support too.

Why did you join the Black Women in Science Network?

I haven't really been able to find representation in my immediate working environment so I've had to look online for a network to meet other Black women and non-binary people in the STEM sector.

What advice would you give to other black women in science?

"Kila Ndege huruka kwa bawa lake” – Every bird flies with its own wings.

Keep in touch with me @TetehSC on Twitter.

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