Student from Tanzania gains valuable research experience as part of Queen’s iEngage Programme
Ashraf Mahmoud from Tanzania has joined the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine (WWIEM) at Queen’s University Belfast as part of the Institute’s iEngage summer research programme.
iEngage is aimed at international and local undergraduate students who are studying within the areas of biomedical, medical, health and life sciences.
The virtual research programme provides interactions and guidance from expert WWIEM researchers, helps to develop scientific skills, offers high-level insight and experience into world-class research, and delivers remote technical training in a range of cutting-edge experimental techniques.
This year, the Institute provided a travel bursary for Ashraf to travel from Tanzania to Belfast for eight weeks to undertake an in-person studentship. Ashraf is currently a 4th year medical student at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical University College in Tanzania, East Africa and was awarded his travel bursary on the basis of a competitive application and interview process.
Ashraf is passionate about health and medical research, and is particularly interested in molecular research, project management, and student-led initiatives that advocate for a better research culture for undergraduate students in Africa.
He is currently working in the laboratory of Dr Bianca Plouffe on a research project focused on diabetic retinopathy, a condition that occurs when uncontrolled glucose levels cause damage to nerves and blood vessels within the eye leading to higher risks of vision loss. He is looking specifically at SFRP2 receptors in diabetic retinopathy. The hypothesis is that higher glucose concentrations in the retinal cells make these receptors more expressed and secreted compared to a lower glucose environment. Ashraf is employing a range of experimental and molecular techniques such as ELISA, RT- PCR, and Advanced Imaging.
Speaking about his experience at Queen’s, Ashraf said: “Both Queen’s and Belfast are fantastic, and the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine is providing me with the best summer experience possible. Queen’s is very inclusive, encourages diversity, values effort and has a very solid culture of promoting high scientific research. I really appreciate the work that has been involved into making this opportunity happen for me.”
Dr Guilherme Costa and Dr Derek Brazil, iEngage programme coordinators, said: “We are delighted to host Ashraf as the first iENGAGE travel bursary awardee here in WWIEM in 2023. We hope his experience helps him develop his career and look forward to following his career in the future.”
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