Dr Peace Atakpa
PhD, BSc (Liverpool)
Research Fellow; Adviser to BAME Students
Sir Alan Wilson Research Fellow
I grew up in a small town called Lokoja, located in central Nigeria. Shaped by two distinct experiences, I was determined to pursue a career in the sciences of understanding how drugs work, which I eventually got to know as the subject of pharmacology. The first experience was an opportunity to participate in a science outreach programme, which was rare at the time in my little town; and the second was listening to a lecture by Dr Dora Akunyili a renowned Nigerian pharmacologist, who was at the forefront of fighting against the distribution and use of counterfeit drugs in the country.
Fuelled by this passion, I moved to Liverpool to undertake an undergraduate degree in pharmacology. I thoroughly enjoyed this time and knew I had to pursue a PhD in the same discipline. Funded by the Cambridge European and International Trust, I completed my PhD in pharmacology at Hughes Hall, here in Cambridge.
My other interests in my spare time include cooking, being involved in my local church, reading, and spending time with my family and friends.
Outside my primary research, I have been involved with an outreach programme called ‘Young Pharmas’ for sixth-formers. This involves three evenings and a full Saturday in labs conducting experiments. I have volunteered for this programme for three years. Furthermore, I am passionate about learning, breaking barriers and inspiring the evolution of STEM subjects in Africa and around the world. I find this thoroughly rewarding and hope to continue during my time at Emmanuel.
My research interest is predominantly in understanding how a small ion such as calcium is able to regulate diverse processes including, but not limited to, fertilisation, migration, metabolism, proliferation and cell death. The human body contains approximately 37 trillion cells. Each cell is like a building block containing membrane-bound pockets called organelles such as the endoplasmic reticulum, lysosomes and the mitochondria. In the course of my PhD, I investigated the mechanisms regulating the exchange of calcium between these tiny pockets, particularly the endoplasmic reticulum and lysosomes, and the consequences of this exchange in maintaining normal cellular functioning.
During my time at Emmanuel, I plan to continue with this work and expand into understanding the mechanisms regulating calcium uptake of other organelles including the mitochondria, and the consequences of the breakdown of this calcium exchange in disease mechanisms.