WIT researcher explores the use of seashell waste in pharmaceuticals, and the removal and recovery of specific contaminants in wastewater
Brakemi Egbedi, a third-year doctoral student, is one of five postgraduate students at Waterford Institute of Technology’s (WIT) Department of Science to be awarded the 2021 Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship.
Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, announced €28m in funding for new research projects under the Irish Research Council (IRC)’s flagship Government of Ireland programmes. The investment will fund 330 awards in total, namely 254 postgraduate scholarships and 76 postdoctoral fellowships.
Potential applications of shell waste
‘Shell waste? Waste product or untapped resource’ is the title of Brakemi Egbedi’s research project, supervised by Prof Helen Hughes, Dr Mike Kinsella, and Dr Shiau Pin Tan (Graece) from WIT’s School of Science and Computing.
Brakemi’s research focuses on investigating whether novel antimicrobial compounds can be extracted from seashell waste for use as pharmaceuticals, to address the current global antimicrobial-resistance problem which threatens the effective prevention and treatment of infections caused by micro-organisms.
In addition, the efficacy of these shells as potential adsorbents for the removal and recovery of specific nutrients in wastewater would also be investigated. It is hoped that the utilization of these shells leads to the development of a circular economy in South-East Ireland, where these shells are generated.
Solving societal problems
Speaking of her joy and pride at securing this award, Brakemi said, “As a researcher who has great academic and professional ambitions and one who desires to solve societal problems via research, the IRC scholarship seemed the ideal platform to build my career aspirations. The programme itself is highly competitive, with an overall success rate of 18% in the STEM category and just 5.3% for category two applicants[i]. As a non-EU student, to secure this award on my very first attempt was a big achievement for me. The IRC award also means that the potential of my research to contribute positively to Ireland and the world at large was acknowledged.”
By-products from fisheries
Brakemi currently works in the Pharmaceutical and Molecular Biotechnology Research Centre (PMBRC) and Eco-Innovation Research Centre (EIRC) at WIT. Passionate about by-products valorisation from the fisheries sector, Brakemi and has been conducting research in this area since 2016. Her first research experience in the field of by-product utilisation was during her Master’s Degree in Science in Fisheries (Aquaculture), from the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Lagos, Nigeria, where she developed two ready-to-eat snacks from fish by-products.
The alarming number of fish by-products generated worldwide made Brakemi seek to pursue a PhD degree in the same field; this time venturing into environmental and pharmaceutical applications- two core areas of primary concern in Ireland and society at large.
[i] Government of Ireland scheme applicants will fall under one of two categories based on nationality and residency. Category One: Applicants must meet BOTH of the following criteria: be a national of a European Union member state OR Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein or Switzerland AND have been ordinarily resident in a European Union member state OR Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein or Switzerland for a continuous period of three of the five years preceding 1 September 2021. Category Two: All other applicants who do NOT meet one or both criteria.