Nigerian PhD student on campus at last

27 May 2021 | Students News

Aghogho Ohwofasa has been waiting a long time to begin his studies at Lincoln University.

The Nigerian PhD student arrived on campus recently to take up a three-year scholarship that he was awarded in 2019.

Originally due to come to Lincoln in March 2020, Aghogho experienced a major delay to his journey, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I had planned to leave Nigeria about three days before the New Zealand border was closed,” Aghogho said. “Fifteen months later, I am finally here, after spending two weeks in MIQ in Auckland. It’s great to be on campus at last.”

His Lincoln University PhD supervisors, Stephen On, Damir Torrico and Chris Winefield, are delighted that Aghogho can now begin studying with Lincoln University’s Centre of Foods for Future Consumers, which administered the scholarship.

His research focuses on the field of metagenomics, which involves understanding the microbial population of an environmental sample and offers detailed insights into microbial communities.

“With Aghogho’s project, we are looking at discovering how the microbial qualities of foods can affect their nutrition and taste,” Dr On said. “The findings can be used to improve existing products, especially fermented beverages and foods, including wine, beer, kombucha and cheese.

“The vast majority of microbial biodiversity has been missed by traditional cultivation-based methods. Metagenomics allows microbial ecology to be investigated at a much greater scale and detail than before and can apply to animal, plant, soil, water, food and public health.”

Dr On said the techniques can be incorporated into a wide range of agricultural research projects of interest to industry bodies and government funding agencies.

Aghogho’s study background stands him in excellent stead for the research project. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Delta State University in Nigeria and a master’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from COMSATS University Islamabad, in Pakistan. The master’s degree was funded by the prestigious Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth Scholarship.

He chose to attend Lincoln University due to its land-based specialisation and applied research focus.

“When I read about Lincoln, I could tell that the study programmes would be practical and whatever I did could be applied to real life and the industry,” Aghogho said. “That played a big part in my choice.”

He was selected for the Lincoln scholarship due to his impressive credentials and excellent application interview.

“The scholarship is very competitive and we interviewed four promising candidates, but Aghogho was everyone’s first choice,” Dr On said.

After completing his PhD, Aghogho plans to return to Nigeria and put his findings into practice there.

“The wine industry is a growing market in Nigeria and the research I’ll be carrying out here at Lincoln can be directly applied back home.”

Aghogho’s PhD fits perfectly into the work carried out by the Centre of Foods for Future Consumers.

Headed by Drs Torrico and On, the centre focuses on improving the links between provenance (such as place of origin, authenticity, land and agro-ecosystems) and food qualities (including production values, composition and preference).

The overall aim of the centre is to champion a shift from a production-driven to a market-driven and highly innovative agri-food sector.

PHOTO: PhD student Aghogho Ohwofasa and his supervisors, Drs Chris Winefield, Stephen On and Damir Torrico, in front of a new sequencer machine that will play a key role in Aghogho’s research.