My name is OLUWAFEMI Funmilola Adebisi (Mrs.). I am presently a Senior Scientific Officer in the Life Science Unit, Engineering and Space Systems Department of the Space Agency of Nigeria- National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), Obasanjo Space Centre, Km 17 Airport Road, P.M.B. 437, Garki, Abuja, Nigeria.
I feel much honored to be able to share my work and experiences in the field of space and astronomy. This platform and blog of “Astronomers Without Borders” is quite captivating to me to talk about one’s activity and report. Astronomy interests me. Therefore, I feel so good when I educate and research in this field. My hobbies to be sincere are: researching, teaching, writing, reading, counseling and travelling.
Since my young days (Primary School) I have had great interest in education and research. This interest prang up again after I was employed by NASRDA for the service of my Father Land, Nigeria in the area of Space Research and Development. I had my first degree in Biochemistry from Bowen University, Iwo, Nigeria in the year 2008 and I later proceeded for my Master of Science in Membrane Biochemistry and Biotechnology from University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria in 2011. I was gainfully employed by NASRDA in January 2013. As a Biochemist and a Biotechnologist in a Space Agency, I am concerned about space food and nutrition; plants in space; animals in space; space habitats and generally, the study of life beyond our planet, earth. I also have interest in the well-being and health of the astronauts by being involved on the life support system and related equipment for them through Space Suit Design for the proposed Nigerian Astronaut. I am involved in the research for the packaging of food for astronauts by extending shelf-life of food by reducing oxygen content.
I presently work majorly in space science especially in the area of microgravity science, whereby I research and educate in that area. I go on outreach programs as an individual or as a team to educate in the area of astronomy. I am also involved in excursions which usually hold on Wednesdays in the Agency and in special programs such as eclipse day events. Therefore, I plan to write about the following of my activities and Projects:
Microgravity Activities, Conference and Workshop Participations and my Space-Affiliations.
Astronomy Outreach Activities.
Astronomy Excursion Activities.
Special Space Activities.
Space Art and Poem Activities.
My story begins with my parents Engr. and Mrs. Isaac Adebayo Adeleke who taught me in the way of the Lord, to be diligent and to be disciplined which are keys in the fulfillment of destiny. Next is to my husband and partner Mr. Ropo Afolabi Olubiyi-Oluwafemi who is also a Space Principal Librarian who gathers information for me. He and my children have always being supportive to me in my career and always make me to realize that I can always be who I want to be in life. To top it all, my husband makes me to realize that if I put God in all that I do, “ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE”. To conclude this introductory aspect, I have always had diverse encounter with my helpers of destiny at all points of my life which can-not be over-emphasized.
1. MICROGRAVITY ACTIVITIES, CONFERENCES AND WORKSHOPS PARTICIPATION AND MY SPACE-AFFILIATIONS
i. MICROGRAVITY ACTIVITIES
I am a Winner of the United Nations Human Space Technology Initiative (UN-HSTI) “Zero-Gravity Instrument Project” (ZGIP) for the 3rd Cycle, in 2015. I won the instrument called “Clinostat” for my Agency (National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), Abuja, Nigeria) from the United Nations Office For Outer Space Affairs (UN-OOSA). This collaboration with the United Nations is for both research and educational purposes.
The Human Space Technology Initiative was launched in 2010 within the framework of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications. The role of the initiative is to provide a platform to exchange information, foster collaboration between spacefaring and non-spacefaring countries and encourage emerging and developing countries to take part in space education and research and to benefit from space applications. Those activities are built on three pillars:
(a) promoting international cooperation in human spaceflight and activities related to space exploration.
(b) creating awareness among countries of the benefits of utilizing human space technology and its applications; and
(c) building capacity in microgravity science education and research (see ST/SPACE/62/Rev.2).
In 2011, during the United Nations/Malaysia expert meeting on human space technology, participants in the working group on education, outreach and capacity-building addressed the need to develop capacity through training and education and enhanced cooperation in sharing various opportunities for using space and ground research facilities. A recommendation was made that dedicated capacity-building programmes be established through the initiative, including through the provision of educational materials and the distribution of scientific instruments (see A/AC.105/1017).
During the United Nations/China workshop on human space technology in 2013, a recommendation was made for further expanding the role of the initiative in promoting education and outreach activities by providing educational materials and expert and astronaut forums to assist professionals and inspire students, academia and the general public regarding human space exploration (see A/AC.105/1050).
In response to those recommendations, the following scientific activities were initiated through the initiative: the zero-gravity instrument project in 2012 and the drop tower experiment series in 2013. Those activities are conducted in accordance with the multi-annual workplan of the initiative that was developed in consultation with representatives of Member States and worldwide experts (see A/AC.105/2013/CRP.16).
Third Cycle of the Zero-Gravity Instrument Project (2015-2017)
The announcement of the third cycle of the project was released on 1 January 2015 with a deadline of 30 April 2015, and 42 institutions worldwide applied. The three-month evaluation process was carried out by experts from the Human Space Technology Initiative and members of the Science Advisory Group, followed by the selection of 13 project proposals from eight countries in which the application I made for National Space Research and Development Agency, Abuja, Nigeria is inclusive (See A/AC.105/1108* on http://www.unoosa.org/res/oosadoc/data/documents/2016/aac_105/aac_1051108_0_html/53STSC-1108E.pdf).
The Clinostat won eliminates the effect of gravity. Since Nigerians have not being able to go for experiments in the International Space Station (ISS) because such experiments are rare and expensive. The Clinostat therefore makes it possible for us to perform microgravity experiments. This won clinostat is uniaxial. It can accommodate 500g of sample. Plants seeds, cells, micro-organisms and small samples from material sciences are the samples that can be experimented on it. The experimental variables are rotation speed, temperature, humidity and light conditions.
Various plant samples which are indigenous to Nigeria have being used on it for research purposes, while for the educational purpose, pupils and students come for excursion on weekly basis (Wednesdays) and students from tertiary institutions and on internship also use this instrument for educational purposes. I teach them on basic space science involving microgravity science and its applications. The application of these sciences is the simple principle behind the clinostat. I also educate NASRDA Staff in this area using the clinostat as a form of capacity building.
The objectives of this project are:
To understand the impact of gravity on the sample of interest. The idea behind this, is to know what their orientation will be in space, where there is no gravity, as well as to identify the underlying mechanisms. With clinostat experiments, the importance and impact of gravity can be demonstrated.
To conduct observational experiments with respect to the differences under microgravity environment and comparing them with those of control experiments under gravity.
The benefits of this project are that, understanding how organisms and matter react to gravity and the absence of it will lead to new applications that benefit mankind in the areas of food security, new medical cures etc and also it will create a data set of experimental results in gravity responses that will contribute to the design of future space experiments and to the advancement of microgravity research.
ii. CONFERENCES AND WORKSHOPS PARTICIPATION
University of Ghana, Ghana.
Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, Nigeria.
Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria.
Salem University, Nigeria.
University of Benin, Benin, Nigeria
National Biotechnology Development Agency, Abuja, Nigeria.
Centre for Atmospheric Research, Anyigba, Nigeria.
National Space Research and Development Agency, Abuja, Nigeria
My presentation there was aimed as awareness to University Educators, Scientists, other personnel and students. The participants were exposed to the availability of the research instrument “Clinostat” for experimentation and collaboration. They were also educated in the area of space science and technology especially that of microgravity science since it is barely a new field in this region of the globe and the clinostat was exhibited. The method for this specific presentation was an introductory visual workshop with the clinostat and the basic methodology for experimenting on the clinostat being discussed with the participants using power point-slides. At the end, the presentation was very effective. Most of the participants (approximately 95%) were seeing a clinostat for the first time. They had so much interest in participating in the simulated microgravity experiments and most of them seek to collaborate with NASRDA for experiments. In which those of them that had interest were all welcomed for collaboration.
b. Another educational activity of my microgravity project was also at the “2016 CSTD Annual Space Conference” with the conference theme “Space Technology in Nigeria: Indigenization and Collaboration”. Where I made a presentation on the topic “Changes in the Germination and Growth of Cowpea after the Influence of Microgravity Using a Clinostat” on the 30th of August, 2016 (at Prof. Ajayi Boroffice Conference Hall, National Space Research and Development Agency). The participants at that conference were from the following affiliations as either staff, lecturer or student.
China Great all Industries Corporation (Special Guest Presentation)
MenaSAT Gulf Group PLC (Special Guest Presentation)
Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria.
National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), Abuja, Nigeria.
Centre for Satellite Technology Development (CSTD), Abuja, Nigeria.
Centre for Atmospheric Research (CAR), Anyigba, Nigeria.
Centre for Space Transport and Propulsion (CSTP), Epe, Nigeria.
National Centre for Remote Sensing (NCRS), Jos, Nigeria.
My presentation there was aimed as a dissemination of my findings on the effect of microgravity on the root curvature and growth rate of cowpea seed (Vigna unguiculata) and to encourage for collaboration also.
c. In February, 2016 I was invited as a United Nations-funded participant to attend the conference of United Nations/Costa Rica Workshop on Human Space Technology in San Jose, Costa Rica in the Central American Region organized by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs in cooperation with the Government of Costa Rica and co-organized by the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA), as part of the Human Space Technology Initiative (HSTI) within the framework of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications. It held from 7th-11th March, 2016.
d. I also find it honourable to have won the 2016 Global Grant Scholarship to attend the Space Generation Advisory Council’s (SGAC) 5th Fusion Forum (SGFF) and 32nd Space Symposium (SS) events in Colorado Springs, USA. Though I couldn’t attend this due to a major reason.
iii. MY SPACE-RELATED AFFILIATIONS:
Astronomers Without Borders (AWB)
Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC)
(In Support of the United Nations Programme of Space Applications)
Universe Awareness (UNAWE)
One key-note Publication I have made as a co-author in the space field is “Safety Analysis of Spacesuit Design for Martian Surface” in the 67th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) 2016 which was accepted for Interactive Session (IAC-16,A5,IP,5,33017) as a reason of my affiliation to SGAC.
2. ASTRONOMY OUTREACH ACTIVITIES
I am an ambassador for astronomy education in Nigeria. I go for outreaches to schools. During this school visits I teach students/pupils and their teachers about astronomy and hands-on-activities like making a prototype satellite, Water Rocket, Viewing through the Telescope, Display of the Solar System Prototype to scale which especially amazes them when they are shown the size of the Earth to the Sun to scale etc.
3. ASTRONOMY EXCURSION ACTIVITIES
Schools apply for excursions to NASRDA. This is inclusive of primary schools, secondary schools and tertiary institutions. Students in summer-schools during the period of their holidays are also inclusive. This takes place on Wednesdays. I and the rest of the team teach both the teachers and their student/pupils about astronomy and hands-on-activities like making a prototype satellite, Water Rocket, Viewing through the Telescope, Display of the Solar System Prototype etc. I also teach them basic space and microgravity science using the Clinostat during excursions. This is quite interesting to me as an ambassador for astronomy education in Nigeria.
4. SPECIAL ASTRONOMY ACTIVITIES
The Special Space Activities include solar eclipse days such as the one held on 28th September, 2015 in Nigeria whereby schools and other people were invited to view the eclipse with the aid of solar glasses. This year 2016, there was also solar annular eclipse on Thursday 1st September, 2016 in Nigeria. Primary and Secondary schools pupils and students were invited from all over the country to come and view at NASRDA centre. There were also several other centres across the country where the eclipse was viewed. Thousands of the Solar/Eclipse glasses were distributed to this effect on and before-hand to aid the view. Several lectures were given to participants to help them understand what this eclipse is all about. The team which I am a member was able to reach out to everyone ranging from the literate to illiterate, young to old, employed to unemployed, city people to village people, individuals, corporate organisations and households. It was indeed a big and educative event in the field of space and astronomy in Nigeria.
5. SPACE ART & POEM ACTIVITIES
I am also an artist and a poet. I am into Space art and poem. I draw things about space, microgravity, new space innovations etc. An example is the one published on the AstroPoetry Blog (http://astronomerswithoutborders.org/awb-programs/arts-and culture/astropoetry/item/astropoetry.html) of the Astronomers Without Borders. The poem can be seen below amongst many others.
Imagine being an astronaut,
Going up into the sky,
Going up into the outer space,
Drawing closer and closer to the moon,
Drawing closer and closer to the stars,
Drawing closer and closer to the Mars,
Experiencing microgravity will be wonderful,
Experiencing the universe as a whole,
The comets, gases, galaxies, dust...