My name is Chiamaka and I’m a first-generation Nigerian (Igbo)-American, scientist, poet, dancer, singer, and world-traveler ;). Really, I’m whatever I want to be in the moment. The name of my blog is a play on my middle name – ugochi -(which means God’s pride in Igbo, a tribal language in Nigeria. You – go – chi!
I recently graduated with an M.S. in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology from the University of Michigan and I have a B.S. in Biochemistry and French minor from the Georgia Institute of Technology. I have 4 years of research experience focused on combating antibiotic resistance in Escherichia coli (E. coli). For my science peeps – I worked as a structural biophysicist and used X-ray crystallography to solve novel protein structures implicated in bacterial pathogenesis. During my Masters I studied biofilm regulation in E. coli through molecular cloning. Specifically, I studied a transcription factor that regulates the major components of biofilms. Simply and concisely put, I study the mechanisms in place that enable antibiotic resistance in E. coli.
I recently moved to Brussels, Belgium on two research grants funded by the Fulbright and the Belgian American Educational Foundation. I am a research scholar at the de Duve Institute where I work on – yep, you guessed it – antibiotic resistance in E. coli. I study the outer membrane (OM) in E. coli (the outer covering that protects the cell) and proteins involved in maintaining its function/structure. The OM serves as a permeability barrier to protect bacteria from toxic agents (like antibiotics). Our goal is to better understand these bacterial defenses so that we can disrupt them, make more effective medicine, and prevent deaths caused by bacterial infections worldwide.
I created this blog because I enjoy sharing my experiences. This is my way of making a tangible souvenir of Europe to bring back with me to the U.S.
My motivation for starting this blog now is the fact that this is my first time moving out of the country as an autonomous unit; I’m black, I’m a scientist, and I’m living abroad. I feel like that’s worth documenting; so far it’s sparked a lot of positive conversation inspiring others to pursue their dreams abroad and I couldn’t be happier! It’s one of the best feelings in the world when someone reaches out to me saying “Hey…how’d you get the Fulbright? I think I want to apply” or “How did you set up this opportunity abroad?” or “I’ve always wanted to live abroad and seeing you do it has inspired me to try!”
I can’t tell you why this excites me, maybe it’s because I remember when the thought of living in another country – let alone doing amazing science abroad – was a pipe dream. It was one of those things I kind of talked about, sort-of wanted, but didn’t truly believe I could do it.
Well, I am here!
And I’m excited to share story with you!