Dr Kwaku Opoku-Ware
PhD Insect Physiology
Dr Kwaku Opoku-Ware (42) has been awarded a PhD for his research into the physiology of insects, supervised by Professor Graham Goldsworthy. He worked full-time as a secondary school science teacher during his studies.
'It was difficult when I was preparing to present my research at conferences, while at the same time my school pupils were getting ready for their GCSEs, but you find time to manage everything,' says Kwaku, who also has an MSc Applied Biology from Birkbeck.
'I would often mark homework while I waited for experiments to run their course in the lab, and I did lots of research during the school holidays.'
His studies focused on how bacteria might be used to control locusts. 'Locusts are a big problem, because they are incredibly destructive. The plagues have spread from Africa to Asia, destroying crops in the developing world. I was looking at whether bacteria can be used to manipulate the behaviour of insects and even kill them to stop plagues and crop failure.
'I discovered that the immune system in locusts is very robust. When bacteria are injected, antimicrobial peptide is produced in the haemolymph that allows them to survive the injection next time. If you can identify and isolate this, it's possible it could be used to destroy the locusts' defences.'
A long-term aim for Kwaku is to work in Ghana, where, he says, he would like to 'use the knowledge I have gained and further develop my research for the benefit of Ghana.'