Dr Oluwafemi Adebo, a Lecturer at the University of Johannesburg’s Department of Biotechnology and Food Technology was interviewed by the Food Information Services (IFIS) on 16 March 2020. The interview script below was extracted from the IFIS interview.
This brand new interview series puts the spotlight on individuals helping to shape the food and higher education communities.
1. Tell us a little bit about what you do. What does an average working week look like for you?
My name is Dr. Oluwafemi Adebo, I am a Lecturer at the University of Johannesburg‘s Department of Biotechnology and Food Technology in South Africa, where I teach, and engage in research and community engagement activities. I conduct multidisciplinary research geared towards the improvement of traditional processes, especially fermentation combined with the use of conventional and emerging modern techniques to address hunger, malnutrition, and finding solutions to the challenges of food insecurity. My average working week starts with reviewing my list of upcoming tasks and preparing for upcoming lectures. Each week includes meeting with and teaching students, reviewing the progress of existing research and possibly conceptualizing new research, meeting with collaborators, applying for research funds (if available), writing and correcting manuscripts, reviewing manuscripts for journals, responding to emails and attending to other administrative responsibilities. Ideally, my weekends with me creating a list of tasks for the next week.
2. What do you enjoy most about your role?
I enjoy imparting knowledge, being a role model, working closely with my students, and meeting new students, stakeholders and collaborators. I also enjoy seeing my students working in the industry or returning to study towards a postgraduate degree. I love knowledge, learning, gaining more insights and contributing my quota to the existing body of knowledge. As part of my research activities, I like designing and conceptualizing experiments with an intent to address a challenge(s), implementing them, analysing data generated and disseminating the obtained results.
3. What are your proudest achievements in your career so far?
My proudest achievements so far are winning the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Early Leaders Network Award and obtaining a number of really competitive research grants (including those from FoodBev SETA, National Research Foundation of South Africa and University of Johannesburg Research Committee). Equally fulfilling is seeing my students excel through the knowledge imparted to them.
4. What do you see coming up for yourself in the future?
No one really knows what the future holds, but I do envisage seeing my research team providing feasible and practical solutions to some of the food insecurity challenges plaguing the African continent and other developing nations.
5. What do you see coming up for the industry in the future?
I foresee the current and incoming waves of new technologies impacting the way food is being processed. I envisage the industry adopting technological advancements such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, CRISPR, and 3D printing to improve food quality throughout the food chain.
6. Is there any advice would you give your younger self, regarding your career or the industry?
My advice to the younger self would be to ‘put God first, start building career skills as early as possible, surround yourself with individuals who bring out the best in you and be determined to succeed’. I would also advise my younger self to ‘have relevant mentors in their chosen career path and to remember the words of Tim Notke, “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”‘.
7. Are there any resources that you think everyone in the industry should know about? (e.g. websites, books, blogs, programmes, forums, software, etc)
Everyone in the food industry should familiarize themselves with the programmes offered by the Institute of Food Technologists, such as the Next Food Disruption Challenge, and the Certified Food Scientist programme. They should also explore the Functional Food Centre’s Certification and free online courses offered by Future Learn, and Elements of AI, among others. Everyone should familiarize themselves with articles based on their area of specialization, join applicable professional bodies, attend conferences, obtain relevant certifications and continually strive to improve their knowledge.
8. Since we’re in the food sphere… what is your favourite thing to cook?
My favourite dish to cook is Amala with Efo riro. Amala is an indigenous Nigerian food made from fermented yam and/or cassava flour and Efo riro is a vegetable soup common to the Yoruba people of Western Nigeria.
The views expressed in the article is that of the author/s and does not necessarily reflect that of the University of Johannesburg