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Spotlight: Dr Mimi Asogwa - Microbiologist - SEPA


Tell us a fun fact about yourself.


I love nature and enjoy going for long walks along the beach or nature reserves. I also enjoy Zumba.


Tell us about your career journey so far.


I studied Applied Microbiology at University in Nigeria and that gave me a good knowledge of the various aspects of Microbiology. During that time, I had the opportunity to work in brewery (helped understand the fermentation process) and in a hospital microbiology lab as part of my internship. However, I was very fascinated with Molecular Microbiology and decided to relocate to the UK to study that.

I obtained a BSc in Molecular Microbiology and during that time, I had the opportunity to embark on a 10-week project funded by the HotStart scholarship programme which ultimately sparked my interest in Microbiology research. After that, worked as a Research Assistant at the University of Aberdeen before commencing a PhD in Molecular Microbiology.


During my PhD, I carried out genetic manipulations on E coli and Salmonella and how this affects their ability to survive diverse environment and hosts. During that time, I was a post graduate demonstrator and was involved in delivering public engagement talks.

I currently working at SEPA and involved in microbial source tracking and antimicrobial resistance analysis on fresh, marine and waste waters across Scotland.

What was your favourite subject in school and why?


My favourite subject was Biology, I particularly enjoyed the practical sessions especially understanding how living things grow and respond to their environment.


What subjects/qualifications/skills are useful for your role?


A good background knowledge in Molecular microbiology is crucial because my work involves working with microorganisms to understand factors which influences their numbers in diverse habitat; changes in microbial DNA and protein structure and how this affects their ability to survive in different environment; mechanisms of bacterial interaction with human and other organisms.

Critical thinking is needed to explaining findings, understand any caveats from data, and draw reasonable conclusions.

Good communication skill is needed to communicate key discoveries obtained from projects to team members, and other scientists.

Other useful skills include data analysis, attention to detail, time management, good organisation, and supervisory skills.


What is your favourite thing about your job?


One day that comes to mind was during my PhD; I attended a Microbiology Society conference at Birmingham where I presented a poster detailing my research findings and was glad to be nominated and later won the Journal of Microbiology poster prize.

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My role involves carrying out different analysis and thus this generates lots of data. One favourite thing about my present role is presenting my project data to other colleagues because we get to discuss any trends observed, interesting, unusual, or unexpected results and try to investigate why it has occurred.


What is a normal day in your role like?


No two days are same in the lab.

Ensuring smooth running of the lab on a daily basis which involve: analysing samples delivered, reading the results of previously analysis, contacting relevant authorities if there are anomalies with obtained results, analysing generated data using appropriate tools, summarizing data generated, ordering and preparing relevant media, reagents and antibiotics, and training new staff.

We also have regular Team meeting to discuss work progress, issues arising and any unexpected results from generated data.


And what does your job title mean?


Microorganisms (sometimes called bugs, germs, or microbes) are organisms that are too small to be seen with the human eyes. Interestingly, microorganisms are found everywhere.

A Microbiologist studies microorganisms to understand how/why they grow in diverse environments and interact with other living things to help prevent and control infections worldwide.

I analyse bathing water samples across Scotland via microbial source tracking for the presence of bacteria such as E. coli and enterococci and inform the public and relevant authorities about the water quality especially if there is a potential pollution event. I also do tests to determine if bacteria from these waters are resistant to a number clinically relevant antibiotic.


Can you suggest an activity that could be done at home that illustrates an aspect of your work?


PowerPoint slides (including games and activities) describing what microorganisms are, useful/harmful microorganisms, hand, respiratory and food hygiene, vaccinations and antimicrobial use https://www.e-bug.eu/ks3-teaching-resources


Bacteria colony description https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gH--8YWdyyk

Antibiotic resistance tests https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GYt4uSjBcg



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