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Sussex student wins science communication award

Mahmoud Bukar Maina, a Neuroscience PhD student at the University of Sussex, has won a prestigious science communication award for his outreach work in Africa.

Mahmoud, 31, won the Royal Society of Biology New Researcher Science Communication Award 2017, for his outreach activities with TReND.

The TReND (Teaching and Research in Natural Sciences for Development in Africa) outreach programme aims to inspire students and change perceptions of science across the continent.

Mahmoud was born and grew up in Yobe State, Nigeria and his work was borne from his frustration with science in the country, where a lack of funding and outdated teaching methods contribute to low levels of interest.

He said: “I am delighted and feel honoured to be a recipient of this award. Growing up in a society with high level of misconception about science, I started science communication to enhance science awareness in my community and inspire young African students that could one day drive scientific research in the continent.

“It has given me great pleasure to debunk misconceptions about science during such activities and to hear young students ask questions only future scientific discoveries could unravel. This award justifies the importance of these activities and will certainly encourage me and my colleagues in TReND to continue with our mission of propagating science in Africa.”

Since the outreach programme’s inception in 2013, TReND has run engagement events in several countries, including Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania.

Mahmoud organised a Teach the Teachers Workshop in Nigeria which aimed to reinvigorate teachers’ passion for science using exciting classroom experiments.

He also organised the first ever science festival in northern Nigeria with support from the outreach team. Held in February 2017, the festival targeted school students, teachers, members of the public and policymakers.

The Royal Society of Biology Science Communication Awards aim to recognise the work carried out by young scientists and researchers which inform, enthuse and engage the public.

The judges were particularly impressed with the breadth of activities Mahmoud has undertaken. Steve Cross, Chair commented: “The judges liked the fact that he has combined a hands-on and high level approach, working both on the ground and with policy makers and lecturers.

“He is creating and leading projects in response to a gap that he has identified so that his science communication has a clear direction… we found his work very innovative and creative."

Mahmoud takes home £750 in prize money and will present his work at this year's Biology Week Annual Awards Ceremony.

He has also recently been awarded £5000 from the Physiology Society to continue his work with TReND.

TReND was created by Lucia Prieoto and Tom Baden in 2012 and, with their support, Mahmoud founded the outreach programme in 2013.

For more information on Mahmoud’s outreach work, visit his Researcher Profile.

By: Jessica Gowers
Last updated: Friday, 6 October 2017