Dr Obinna Ubah
PhD Medical Sciences (Molecular and Cell Biology), 2016
From Aberdeen to Drug Discovery Expert
Your Time at Aberdeen
Why did you choose to study at Aberdeen?
I have always had a passion for biomedical research. During my search for a UK university that offered an MSc in Clinical Pharmacology, UoA was one of the UK institutions rated highly for quality of research output. In fact, about 55% of the University's research activity was rated internationally excellent, and 89% rated to be of international quality. These numbers were very impressive which was why I ended up in Aberdeen.
Why did you choose your particular course?
I trained as a pharmacist in Nigeria before relocating to the UK. I wanted to be more involved in drug discovery research, which was the reason I chose an MSc in Clinical Pharmacology. This gave me the necessary exposure to wet lab drug discovery research as well as a good foundation in the molecular aspect of pharmacology. These skills aided my PhD applications, and were also very handy during my PhD programme.
If while at Aberdeen you took part in a foreign exchange, e.g. Erasmus or Study Abroad, where did you go and what did you do?
During my PhD, I was awarded a studentship to attend a Business of Science Summer School at the University of Bologna, Italy.
What did you most enjoy about your time at Aberdeen? Did you have any particularly memorable student experiences?
I loved (and still love) the cultural diversity on our campuses, and also the nightlife - of course, I mean pre-pandemic - was unbeatable.
Did you hold any student leadership roles, e.g. Class Rep, Club Treasurer, Social Convenor?
I was a Class Rep during my MSc. I was also a British Council International Student Ambassador. In this role, I provided support to current and prospective international students.
If while at Aberdeen you benefited from a scholarship, what was the scholarship and what difference did it make to your time at Aberdeen?
My PhD studies was funded by the University of Aberdeen (School of Medical Sciences), SULSA and MSD. As an international student, any level of funding support could be the difference between success and failure. The scholarship I received for my PhD made it possible for me dedicate quality time to my research, and the result of that was a very successful PhD research output.
If talking to a group of prospective students, what advice would you give them to help them make the most of their time at the University of Aberdeen?
My advice would be to get out there, be at social and networking events as much as you can.
Your Time After Aberdeen
What was the title of your first job after graduating from Aberdeen?
Research Scientist at University of Aberdeen spin-out biotechnology company, Elasmogen Limited.
What did your first role involve?
It involved drug discovery research, basically creating novel protein-type drugs against different cancers and autoimmune diseases.
What is your current job title?
Principal Scientist and Head of Autoimmune Inflammatory Diseases Drug Discovery at Elasmogen. I am also an honorary lecturer at the University of Aberdeen, and a Future Leader Fellow (UKRI).
What is your current role?
Managing new and existing research activities, value creation in our drug pipelines, identifying new collaborators and partners, and most importantly, mentoring the next generation of scientists.
Please briefly describe the journey from your first job after graduating to where you are now.
After my PhD in 2016, I transitioned into the University of Aberdeen spin-out biotech company, Elasmogen Ltd. as a research scientist. It is important to highlight that the intellectual property (IP) and other asset developed during the course of my PhD formed part of the IP portfolio of the new spin-out. I have remained a part of this company to date, and as a founding member, I have a commitment to contributing to the success of the company. I currently lead my own research team at Elasmogen, conducting independent drug discovery and development research, and engaging with partners/collaborators. I recently received a £2M fellowship award from the UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship programme.
Was your degree at Aberdeen essential for getting to where you are now? If so, in what way?
Absolutely yes! Both my MSc and PhD degrees provided me with the core skills needed to get into the biotechnology industry.
One Top Tip
Show commitment to your studies, show up to your lectures and utilise any opportunity to have a one-to-one interaction with your lecturers. Start discussing your career options as early as you can - definitely do not wait until you are almost completing your studies to begin this conversation. Also, when in doubt, you should utilise the UoA careers service - those guys are brilliant.