WACCBIP Holds Annual WACCBIP-ASCB-Oxford Workshop
The West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) has hosted scientists from the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) and the TrypTag team from the Dunn School of Pathology of the University of Oxford for the third WACCBIP-ASCB-Oxford workshop, which was held from January 17, 2018 to January 26, 2018, at the Department of Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology (BCMB). The two-week workshop was intended to upgrade the knowledge of 11 first-year PhD students and 26 first-year MPhil students on general topic in cell biology, methods for studying cells, and how to develop professional tools.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Prof. Gordon Awandare, Director of WACCBIP, welcomed collaborators and expressed his appreciation for their continuous support. He declared the first four days of the workshop a boot camp, with rigorous teaching and learning, dedicated to train and mentor young scientists on infectious diseases. He added that the rest of the workshop period was purposed to cover Protozoan pathogens.
“It is a pleasure to welcome you to this year’s WACCBIP-ASCB-Oxford workshop. This year, we are not only focusing on infectious diseases but also on protozoan parasites. The idea is to cover general basic knowledge about cell biology and molecular biology, have wet laboratory molecular activities, and do gene manipulations. The boot camp will emphasise mainly on these,” Prof. Awandare said.
He expressed his appreciation for the support of the guest speakers towards the growth of the workshop since 2009, and added that the collaboration has expanded the scope of students’ research in all their fields of study. He was expectant that this year’s workshop would impact participants’ knowledge and skills in their learning and research pursuits and called on them to embrace the workshop with enthusiasm.
“We demand intensity, punctuality, commitment, and total focus in this workshop. This is to bring all students to the same level. For PhD students, this workshop is critical for your comprehensive exams and this will help you get the best out of it,” Prof. Awandare said. “All questions about your proposals are welcome. Put energy in this workshop, and pay attention as there is something new to learn from everybody.”
The head of the Department of Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology (BCMB) at the University of Ghana, Dr. Lydia Mosi, also welcomed participants and underlined the importance of the workshop, which she said the department is always privileged to host. She lauded the aim of the workshop, which was to train students in cutting-edge scientific research in cell biology and encouraged them to make the most of the opportunity to improve their knowledge and skills.
“One of the greatest opportunities of this workshop is to learn from the great minds that WACCBIP and the Department of Biochemistry has collaborations with. Also expand your horizons by learning about other opportunities that this workshop presents and how to gain similar expertise from the experts,” Dr. Mosi said. “This is the first time PhD and MPhil students are sitting together to learn from each other and it is a rare opportunity to get research ideas, exchange knowledge, and help to develop your proposals. Be punctual, take notes and ask questions.”
Highlighting the importance of the workshop in investing resource towards building capabilities of students, Prof. Keith Gull of the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology at the University of Oxford, who is also the Chair of the WACCBIP International Advisory Board, congratulated participants for their admission into the enviable WACCBIP programmes. He also encouraged them to take advantage of the WACCBIP-ASCB-Oxford workshop to expand their focus and receive valuable feedbacks on their research work and presentations. He pointed out that the huge number of applications that WACCBIP attracts every year means that, having been selected, they deserve these opportunities that WACPIB presents. He also encouraged them on the need to work hard to continue to deserve these opportunities.
Prof. Dr. Friedrich Frischknecht from University of Heidelberg, Germany, also shared his thoughts on the workshop. He was optimistic that the workshop will ignite the passion of participants to undertake more rigorous research.
“Our goal is to make you participate and be interactive. We are trying to teach you how to ask scientific questions and this is an enabling workshop,” he said.
He opened the workshop with a presentation on the history of microscopy. There were also lectures on Scientific Communication Skills, Assessing and Reading Scientific Papers, Modern Light Microscopy and Flow Cytometry, Drug Vaccine Design, and Grant Writing.
Aside from WACCBIP faculty, lectures were facilitated by faculty from the University of Oxford and Oxford Brookes University. Participating lead faculty were Prof. Lars Hviid of the University of Copenhagen; Prof. Joy Power of the University of Colorado; and Prof. Kirk Deitsch of Cornell University.
Other facilitators were from BCMB, the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) and the College of Health Sciences.
After participating in journal club discussions of selected research papers and taking part in hands-on laboratory sessions, participants made group presentations on selected topics that were related to what they had learnt during the workshop.
Prof. Kirk Deitsch, was impressed with the enthusiasm of students and commended them for their punctuality throughout the workshop. Expressing his excitement for future workshops, he stated that he would return to Ghana with some of his colleagues even after he has retired.
In his closing remarks, Prof. Gordon Awandare, appreciated participants for successfully completing the workshop courses and encouraged them to apply the knowledge acquired for future research.
“I am encouraged that you have become better scientists. I thank the facilitators for taking time out of their schedules and I hope for more participation next year. We are most grateful and I hope to see improved results during the second semester of your academic work,” he said.
After receiving their certificates of participation, participants were full of praise for the facilitators and many expressed their gratitude to WACCBIP for organizing the workshop.
“I have been exposed to more research techniques and ideas. I was intrigued by a lecture on microscopy magnification by Prof. Dr. Friedrich Frischknecht. I have also developed an interest in calibration and image editing,” said. Mr. Tandoh Kwesi Zandoh, an MPhil student.
Dr. Keitie Wright, a facilitator, was happy with the range of students that WACCBIP was able to draw. She was pleased to have been invited to participate especially since it was her first time in Ghana and Africa.
Dr. Keitie Wright interacts with participants
“I had a great time in Ghana especially with the weather and food which is very different from the United Kingdom,” Dr. Wright said. “Students were interesting and very engaging. It was a fantastic experience and I hope to return for next year’s workshop.”