Meet AMR's new student representative | Bakary Sanyang27 October 2023 London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine https://lshtm.ac.uk/themes/custom/lshtm/images/lshtm-logo-black.png
What do you do at LSHTM MRC Gambia?
I am a fulltime PhD student under the MRC Gambia at LSHTM doctoral training programme. My project is nested within a clinical trial of intrapartum azithromycin intervention (PregnAnZI) for prevention of neonatal sepsis and mortality. The focus of my project is to understand the effect of the intervention on nasopharyngeal and gut microbiome development in early childhood, as well as the impact on the overall gut resistome within the first 4 months of life.
Tell us a bit about your career
My career in research started in 2011, when I joined MRC Gambia at LSHTM as a lab technician under the Pneumonia Etiology Research for Child Health (PERCH) project. I was very passionate about pursuing a career in research and MRC Gambia at LSHTM was quite within reach to start this journey. Working at the unit here has brought a lot of transformation and growth in my career. I got trained as a molecular microbiology laboratory technician and at the same time did a distance learning foundation degree program in biomedical science with St George’s University of London. I later got a scholarship to study a bachelor’s degree in public health at National Taipei University of Nursing and Health Sciences, which I finished in 2017 with distinction. I Joined MRCG again in 2018 as a scientific officer for the pregnAnZI trial and this coincided with the establishment of the genomics facility at the unit. The project had a genomics component and through this I developed interest in genomics and bioinformatics which are powerful tools that are transforming modern science. I began to learn and develop skills in this area through workshops, online courses, and practical training. In 2021, I had this PhD opportunity that I am now doing.
What has been your research focus?
My research has mainly been focused on nasopharyngeal and gut microbiome development within the context of a clinical trial of intrapartum azithromycin (The PregnAnZI trial) conducted in Gambia and Burkina Faso. In my work, I looked at the effect of the intervention on the development of the child’s microbiome between birth and 1 to 3 years of life to understand how the developmental trajectory is impacted and what potential health implications this may have for the child. I am also looking at the impact of this intervention on the overall gut resistome in the first few months of life to understand the potential effects on the selection of antimicrobial resistance.
Besides my primary work, I have been involved in the genomic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in the Gambia at MRC Gambia unit during the pandemic. I also have interest in teaching and capacity building. I have been involved as a trainer in a series of genomics and bioinformatics capacity building workshops organised by the genomics platform at MRC Gambia unit, for researchers from public health laboratories in different West African countries. I have also been a classroom assistant for a beginner’s course on SARS-CoV-2 bioinformatics organised by Wellcome Connecting Science.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I spend my day mostly between my desk and the lab, doing both wet and dry work. The first 30 to 45 minutes of my day typically involves light reading and catching up on emails and setting priorities for the day. I usually create blocks of time for routine activities like conducting laboratory experiments and data analysis with flexible periods in between to accommodate meetings and other activities that may come along the way. From late afternoon towards the end of my day I spend time learning a new skill or reading for my write ups. I close my day with a re-review of my plans for the day and prepare for the next day.
Why did you join the AMR Centre?
AMR is a big threat to the advances made in medicine over the past century and affects nearly all aspects of life. Fighting such a problem needs a concerted effort from all works of life and the AMR centre is an ideal platform to learn and contribute to this cause. As a young researcher, I am keen to learn and interact with other researchers in diverse fields to broaden my horizons on AMR and develop the research leadership skills needed to extend the global efforts on the fight against AMR to sub-Saharan Africa, where much work is still needed. Working with the multidisciplinary team at the AMR centre is a great opportunity to enhance my exposure and learn with a vibrant team of students and senior researchers at the school.
What are some highlights of the year so far?
I was lucky to be among the students selected to be part of the wider AMR cohort of the Medical Research Foundation this year and had the opportunity to attend the 6th annual AMR conference for the cohort held at the University of Bristol in August.
Can you tell us more about your experiences at the conferences?
I had the opportunity to present my work at a few conferences in the past couple of years, which has given me exposure to big scientific meetings and the opportunity to interact and network with scientists from different institutions across the globe.
Among the conferences were:
The 3rd world microbiome conference held in Vienna in April 2022, where I presented my work on the impact of intrapartum azithromycin on the infant nasopharyngeal microbiota development. I had great discussions and feedback which were helpful for my project and my personal development.
The 6th annual AMR conference for the wider AMR cohort of the Medical Research Foundation which took place in Bristol in August 2023, where I presented my work on the effects of intrapartum azithromycin on the gut microbiome and resistome during infancy. It was an exciting experience that boosted my interest in AMR research, and I made new connections with amazing students from universities across UK.
What is your aim as PhD Student representative?
My aim as the PhD student representative is to support the centre in promoting awareness of AMR as a global health problem and encourage students’ participation in the centre’s activities including our monthly seminars. I also hope to foster knowledge exchange through active interaction among the students to boost our interest in AMR research and create an active community.
What would it surprise people to know about you?
I am a nature enthusiast. I spend most of my free time growing and taking care of plants.
What would your advice be to fellow PhD candidates?
My advice to my fellow PhD students is to be optimistic and strive hard no matter where you find yourself in your journey of seeking knowledge to improve lives and make the world a better place. Expect challenges along the way but don’t see them as obstacles. Rather use them as opportunities for growth and ascend the ladder of success in reaching your career goals. Stay focused on your ultimate goal but be flexible in your thinking and approach. Reach out to people who can help when you need it, you are not alone in this journey. Finally, striving for excellence rather than perfection will help you appreciate your experiences and see the value you bring to science and the world at large.
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