Published: 08 Dec 2016 Source: University Relations Office (URO)
Dr. Marian Nkansah in the middle wth her Award
Dr. Marian Nkansah, a chemist and a lecturer at the College of Science of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) is the first ever winner of the Fayzah M. Al-Kharafi Prize, an annual award that recognizes exceptional women scientists from scientifically and technologically developing countries.
Dr. Nkansah was named the winner in Kigali, Rwanda, at the 27th General Meeting of the World Academy of Sciences (TWAS). The award recognizes her research which sheds light on the health risks involved in the human exposure to hazardous heavy metals in routine activities of daily life.
In an exclusive interview with the University Relations Office (URO), Dr. Nkansah stated, ‘My research for which this award was granted was basically focused on heavy metals in classroom dust, white clay (hyire), tea, spices and other goods.’ The findings have brought to light the health implications associated with the exposure to heavy metals in the routine activities of our daily lives.
The effects of heavy metal poisoning can be serious and long-lasting, leading to cardiovascular diseases, cancer and convulsions in children among other illnesses that can be fatal.
One study by Dr. Nkansah and her colleagues focused on commercially available tea products in Ghana. She found heavy metals that were possibly connected to plants cultivated and used as beverage, which could become contaminated through unclean water, smoggy air or polluted soil. The plants also can become contaminated during the transport process, depending on what they are exposed to.
In a study published in the journal Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, she and her colleagues found arsenic in some of the teas, but not all could pose a significant health risk.
Dr. Nkansah said her global award was an endorsement of her credibility as a scientist. She continued that it also underpinned KNUST’s position as a world class academic institution of higher learning and research. It therefore underscored the point that good research had no boundaries.
The KNUST Lecturer stated that the award is an honour to Ghana and a testament to the good educational system of Ghana, since all her education except PhD was obtained in Ghana. It also brings to fore her research findings and makes available the data to the average person on the streets in Ghana.
Dr. Marian Nkansah says she is humbled and at the same time have a sense of pride for receiving this award. “Not only because I am the inaugural recipient but also because it will serve as a great motivation for all ‘rising stars’ in science that ‘it is possible’. This award also offers great motivation for me to forge ahead and do greater exploits.”
She further noted that all researchers in developing countries should believe in themselves and enjoy doing good science of relevance. When the science is good, it doesn’t matter the sophistication of the equipment or methodology used, ‘good science’ always get recognized.
The Prize is named for 2004 TWAS Fellow Fayzah M. Al-Kharafi from Kuwait, who provides the USD 4,000 prize. Al-Kharafi, the former president of Kuwait University, was the first woman to head a major university in the Middle East. She is also a former TWAS vice president for the Arab Region.