Spring 2015 Borlaug LEAP Fellow Adama Yahaya is pursuing her PhD at Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria. The focus of her research is on the mosaic viruses of maize and related cereals in the Northern Guinea Savannah of Nigeria, which can and do cause a significant amount of crop loss globally, and can be particularly devastating to subsistence farmers. Her goal is to identify and characterize these viruses, track their distribution in the Savannah region, and help develop cost-effective diagnostic tools that can be used by those in the Nigerian agriculture sector. She hopes that, in the end, her research will help reduce the instances of disease in cereal and maize crops, thus boosting productivity and increasing food security in Nigeria and across Feed the Future-targeted countries in West Africa.
After initially considering a career in medicine, Adama was introduced to agriculture as a graduate assistant. She discovered that human well-being is intrinsically linked to the food systems to which people have access. By working to improve these food sources and people’s overall nutrition, she could attempt to address health problems at the source rather than, as a physician, only treating the symptoms. In her interactions with students in the classroom and farmers in the field, she has come to realize that her ability to make a difference in her country by leading the way to help minimize the effects of crop diseases could have a huge impact. She hopes to show that as a woman working in science, she can make a difference outside the home as well as in. She would like to be an example to other girls and women looking to pursue their dreams in higher education and to help motivate them to success.
While in the US, Adama worked with Dr. Olufemi Alabi, currently at Texas A&M University, AgriLife Research and Extension Center. Dr. Alabi is an Assistant Professor in the Plant Pathology and Microbiology Department and has served as a Borlaug LEAP mentor in the past. Together, Adama and Dr. Alabi worked on virus characterization and gene mapping, as well as the progress and focus of her dissertation. Adama also worked with Dr. Lava Kumar, head of Germplasm Health/Virology and Diagnostics at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Nigeria. As a respected Plant Virologist, Dr. Kumar has done extensive research on plant viruses and maize mosaic viruses in particular. While working in his lab, Adama learned how to apply molecular diagnostic methods to viral plant disease identification. Her goal is to earn her PhD in Botany by 2017.