Prof. Anthony I Okoh (Group Leader)


Prof. Anthony I Okoh

HOD, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa.

Research profile

I am the leader of the Applied and Environmental Microbiology Research Group (AEMREG) and Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology. Since its inception in 2007, this group has graduated 5 doctoral, 9 Masters and several Honours students. Currently, the group is made up of 18 postgraduate students including three members of staff, all working on projects within our following areas of interest.

Water and wastewater quality: Water Quality is a significant problem in the Eastern Cape Province and one of my major and current areas of research interest. It encompasses such areas as Water/wastewater Quality Indicators, and effluent monitoring and compliance studies. Current ongoing research involves assessment of the qualities (biotic and abiotic) of final effluents of wastewater treatment plants in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, including viral pathogens in the aquatic milieu of the Eastern Cape. We have enjoyed generous grants from the NRF, MRC and WRC in these regards.

Environmental biotechnology and antibiotic resistance surveillance: This component of our research involves the exploration and exploitation of plants and microbial diversity for important biomolecules of health and biotechnological relevance; as well as surveillance of reservoirs of antibiotic resistance.

Biographic Information

I started my research career as a graduate fellow in 1989 and became an Assistant Lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria in 1993 and rose through the rank to the post of a Senior Lecturer in 2001, a post I held until appointed Associate Professor of Microbiology at the University of Fort Hare in May 2006, and in January 2008 I was promoted Full Professor of Microbiology. In January 2009 I was appointed Head of the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology at the University of Fort Hare.

I hold a PhD degree in Microbiology and 10 diplomas in some aspects of Biotechnology and Molecular biology from reputable institutions on the continents of Africa, Asia, Europe and America. I have immense teaching, research and administrative experience in the University system. I was a member of Senate (as leader of Congregation) at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria, where I also served as a member of the Appointment and Promotion Committee of University. In 2002, I was elected for a two years term as President of Obafemi Awolowo University Staff Club. My research expertise is in the area of Applied and Environmental Microbiology with extended interest in Bioremediation, Water/wastewater quality and bioactive compounds research. I have been involved in various collaborations with eminent academics within and outside South Africa, and I review for over twenty international journals.

I have also been a recipient of such awards as Postgraduate Fellowship Award, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile – Ife, Nigeria, 1990 – 1992; United Nations University Fellowship (1998); UNESCO Biotechnology Action Council Fellowship (2000), NRF Free Standing Fellowship 2005 and currently an NRF, MRC and WRC grantholder. I have published over 130 journal articles; several conference presentations; and nucleotide sequences deposited in the genebank in my academic career of over two decades, nine of which was as a senior academic. Within the last four years, I have won seven research grants made up of four from the NRF and one each from the Medical Research Council, Water Research Commission and the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics (international) studies on water/wastewater qualities; bioactive compounds; and reservoirs of antibiotic resistance. In 2007, I established my research group called Applied and Environmental Microbiology Research Group (AEMREG) in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology of the University of Fort Hare, and the group is currently made up of 18 research students at the Honours, Master’s and Doctoral levels. I was rated as a C3 category (established researcher) scientist by the NRF in 2007 and in 2008 I won the University of Fort Hare Vice-Chancellor Emerging Research Award. In 2009 I was invited to represent South Africa in the international collaboration on the surveillance of reservoirs of antibiotic resistance (ISRAR) under the auspices of the Alliance for the Prudent use of Antibiotics (APUA) with headquarters in the Boston, USA. My lab serves as the South Africa Country lab for this collaboration and I double as the South Africa Country Laboratory Manager. Also, in 2009 I was elected into the Executive Council of the South Africa Society for Microbiology (SASM), and in 2010 I was elected as Vice President of the Society, and in 2011 I was elected President of the Society. In 2011, I was conferred with the University of Fort Hare Vice-Chancellor Senior Research Medal.

ACADEMIC QUALIFICATION

Degrees:

- B.Sc. (Hon) Microbiology, Second Class Upper Division, 1987, University of Ife, Ile-

Ife, Nigeria.

- M.Sc. (Microbiology) Distinction, 1992, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife.

- Ph.D. (Microbiology), 2002, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile – Ife.

Other Certificates/Diplomas:

- Certificate of Participation, International course on "Scale-up in Biotechnological processes" at The Institute of Biotechnology, UNAM, Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico, 27 June to 10 July 1998.

- Certificate of Participation, Theoretical and Practical course on "Structure, Function and Manipulation of the Fungal Genome" at CINVESTAV, Irapuator, Mexico, 6 –19 September 1998.

- Certificate of Participation, Theoretical and Practical course on "Agricultural biotechnology", Universidad de Neuvo Leon, Monterrey, Mexico, 9-13 November 1998.

- Certificate of Participation, Theoretical and Practical course on "Microalgal Biology and Biotechnology", Mosonmagyarovar, Hungary, 13 - 26 June 1999.

- Certificate of Participation, Theoretical and Practical course on "Molecular Aspect of Fertilization and Early Development", Aomori, Japan, 8 - 22 October 1999.

- Certificate of Participation, Theoretical course on "RNA Structure and Function", ICGEB, Trieste, Italy, 3 - 6 April 2000.

- Certificate of Participation, International Training Programme on "Introduction to Industrial Biotechnology" (ITP2000), 23 October to 5 December 2000, German Research Center for Biotechnology (GBF), Braunschweig, Germany.

- Certificate of Participation, ICRO/UNESCO International training course on “Ion pumps and ABC Transporters Overexpressed in yeast as drug targets”, 10 – 21 September, 2001, University of Cape Town, South Africa.

- Certificate of participation, UNESCO/ICRO/EMBO International training course on “Cell Motility, Molecular motors and the Cytoskeleton”, May 27 – June 07, 2002, University of Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil.

- Certificate of Participation, ICRO/UNESCO “International Training Course on Biotechnological Tools for Plant Improvement”, KSR College of Arts and Science, Thiruchengode, Tamil Nadu, India, September 7 – 20, 2003.

AWARDS and RESEARCH GRANTS:

(i) Postgraduate Fellowship Award of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile – Ife, Nigeria, 1990– 1992.

(ii) United Nations University Fellowship (1998) - Internship training in Environmental Biotechnology at the Environmental Biotechnology Laboratory, CIB, UAEM, Cuernavaca, Mexico.

(iii) UNESCO/Biotechnology Action Council Fellowship (2000), Molecular Microbial Ecology laboratory, German Research Center for Biotechnology (GBF), Braunschweig, Germany.

(iv) UNESCO/ICRO fellowship to participate in the Theoretical and Practical course on "Microalgal Biology and Biotechnology", Mosonmagyarovar, Hungary, 13 - 26 June 1999.

(v) UNESCO/ICRO fellowship to participate in Theoretical and Practical course on "Molecular Aspect of Fertilization and Early Development", Aomori, Japan, 8 - 22 October 1999.

(vi) UNESCO/ICRO fellowship to participate in Theoretical course on "RNA Structure and Function", ICGEB, Trieste, Italy, 3 - 6 April 2000.

(vii) GBF/ITP2000 fellowship to participate in the International Training Programme on "Introduction to Industrial Biotechnology" (ITP2000), 23 October to 5 December 2000, German Research Center for Biotechnology (GBF), Braunschweig, Germany.

(viii) UNESCO/ICRO fellowship to participate in the International training course on “Ion pumps and ABC Transporters Overexpressed in yeast as drug targets”, 10 – 21 September, 2001, University of Cape Town, South Africa.

(ix) UNESCO/ICRO/EMBO fellowship to participate in the International training course on “Cell Motility, Molecular motors and the Cytoskeleton”, May 27 – June 07, 2002, University of Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil.

(x) UNESCO/ICRO fellowship to participate in the “International Training Course on Biotechnological Tools for Plant Improvement”, KSR College of Arts and Science, Thiruchengode, Tamil Nadu, India, September 7 – 20, 2003.

(xi) Obafemi Awolowo University Research Grant on “Studies on the effect of climate differences on culturable soil microbial community structure and dymanics during mulching of different agroforestry species in tropical, sub-shaharan African Setting” (N352,700.00) 2002.

(xii) National Research Foundation Thuthuka (REDIBA) (TTK2006061400023) grant for 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011 to study the “Antimicrobial efficacy of Helichrysum sp.” (R1, 019,000.00).

(xiii) National Research Foundation Focus Area grant (FA2006042400043) for 2007-2008 for a “Surveillance study of invasive pathogens” (R227,440.00).

(xiv) Medical Research Council (South Africa) Self-initiated research grant for 2008-2009 for research on “Prevalence and distribution of invasive viral pathogens in the aquatic milieu of the Eastern Cape Province (R260,000.00).

(xv) National Research Foundation (NRF) KISC grant for 2008-2011 to study “Novel antimicrobial and anticancer related secondary metabolites of the marine Actinomycete diversity of a near-shore marine environment in the Eastern Cape Province” (R210,000.00).

(xvi) Seed money from NRF/KFD to articulate a research direction for the Algoa Bay actinomycetes diversity in 2009 (R15,000.00).

(xvii) University of Fort Hare Vice-Chancellor Emerging Researcher Award 2008.

(xviii) “International Surveillance of Reservoirs of Antibiotic Resistance (ISRAR)” grant (October 2009-September 2010) (USD21,850.00).

(xix) Water Research Commission grant on “Assessment of the prevalence of human viral and bacterial pathogens in some rivers and dams in the Amatole district municipality of the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa” (from 1 April 2010 to 31 March 2011) (R680,000.00).

(xx) University of Fort Hare Vice-Chancellor’s Senior Researcher Award 2011.

(xxi) Water Research Commission grant on “Surveillance of viral, feacal indicator bacteria and Vibrio pathogens in the final effluents of wastewater treatment facilities in the Eastern Cape Province: a vehicle for capacity development in microbial water quality science in the Province” (R900,000.00)..

WORKING EXPERIENCE:

(a) Head of Department, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa, 1 January 2009 to date

(b) Full Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa, 1 January 2008 to date.

(c) Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa, 1 May 2006 to 21 December 2007.

(d) Visiting Scientist, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa, 1 August 2005 to 31 April 2006 (as part of my leave from my University).

(e) Senior Lecturer, Department of Microbiology, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, 2001 to 2006.

(f) Lecturer I, Department of Microbiology, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, 1998-2001.

(g) Lecturer II, Department of Microbiology, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, 1996-1998.

(h) Assistant Lecturer, Department of Microbiology, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, 1993-1996.

(i) Research Officer, Biotechnology Unit, Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi, Lagos, 1992-1993.

(j) Graduate fellow, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, 1990-1992.

(k) Scientific Officer, General Hospital Mokwa, Niger State (NYSC), 1987-1988.

(l) Environmental consultant to the following studies:

(i) Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study of Five crude oil spur lines in the Niger Delta. SPDC commissioned study (1993-1994); executed by ECODEVELOPMENT CONSULTANCY SERVICES, OAU, ILE-IFE.

(ii) Monitoring and compliance studies of dredging and drilling activities by SPDC in Belema oil field, SPDC-E commissioned project (1993-1994); executed by ENPOST, OAU, ILE-IFE.

(iii) Monitoring and compliance studies of effluent discharge into swamp environment in the Niger Delta; SPDC –W commissioned project (1994-1995); executed by BODAX NIG. LTD., LAGOS.

(iv) Assessment and monitoring of Omo Biosphere reserve for Biosphere reserves and Biodiversity conservation and sustainable development in Anglophone Africa (BRAAF), 1996.

(v) Environmental Impact assessment of EDOP oil field development; commissioned by MOBIL NIG. PLC; executed by TRIPLE “E” ASSOCIATES, LAGOS, 1994.

(vi) Waste conversion by composting project; commissioned by Waste Management department, SPDC-IV; executed by ENPOST, OAU, ILE – IFE, 1995-1996.

(vii) Effluent monitoring and compliance study; commissioned by International Breweries Plc, Ilesha; executed by ENPOST, OAU, ILE-IFE, 1995.

(viii) Seabed sampling commissioned by CHEVRON NIG. PLC., ESCRAVOS; executed by JUDIX NIG. LTD., LAGOS.

(ix) Consultant Microbiologist to Environmental Resources Managers Limited (ERML).

OTHER ADMINISTRATIVE/PROFESSIONAL PORTFOLIOS

- Vice President, of South Africa Society for Microbiology (2010 to date).

- Member, Executive Committee of South Africa Society for Microbiology (2009 to date).

- South Africa Laboratory Manager, Alliance for the Prudent use of Antibiotics (APUA/ISRAR).

- Coordinator of Microbiology Programme Unit, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa, 2006 to date.

- Member, Prospectus committee, Faculty of Science and Agriculture, University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa.

- Member, Faculty Planning and Management (HODs) Committee, Faculty of Science and Agriculture, University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa, 2006 to date.

- Member, Faculty Research and Higher Degrees Committee, University of Fort Hare, Alice.

- Member, Appointments and Promotions Committee (representing Congregation), Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, 2003-2005.

- Member of Senate (representing Congregation), Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, 2003-2005.

- President, Staff Club, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria (2002-2004).

- Coordinator of Industrial Training Programme, Department of Microbiology, OAU, Ile-Ife.

- Pioneer member, University Excess workload committee, Obafemi Awolowo University.

- Member, Board of Student Affairs, OAU, Ile-Ife.

- Member, Awolowo Hall Management committee, OAU, Ile-Ife.

- Member, Results Coordination Committee, OAU, Ile-Ife.