Ademola Aina hails from Nigeria, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Plant Genetics and Molecular Biology from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. His research focuses on harnessing the potential of African “orphan crops”, which have long been neglected by scientists, researchers and agricultural policy makers. Ademola is particularly interested in the African yam bean, which he feels is one of the more important neglected and underutilized species of tropical origin. He is working on characterizing, sequencing, and annotating the genomes of the African yam bean so as to improve its nutritional value, productivity and climate adaptability. The findings of this study will help to identify superior varieties to be used in future crop improvement programs, which will in turn help reduce poverty, hunger and malnutrition in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa and could raise the profile of these long neglected native crops, hopefully unleashing the potential of the African yam bean as a food security crop.
As an undergraduate at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria, a plant breeding and genetics course spurred Ademola’s interest in genetics and led him to enroll as a graduate student in Plant Genetics in the University of Ibadan. After earning his MSc, he took up a position as a research technician at the Bioscience Center of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), where he was exposed to hands on activities and projects involving the use of molecular techniques and procedures. He also worked as the public relations officer for the International Association of Research Scholars and Fellows (IARSAF) at IITA and was responsible for publicizing all activities and programs of the association and organizing and coordinating the monthly journal club.
As a Fall 2016 Borlaug LEAP fellow, Ademola’s US mentor will be Professor Daniel Potter, a renowned plant scientist at the University of California, Davis, with interests and experience in plant phylogeny, evolution, and taxonomy, specifically in relation to diversity and the relationships between wild crops and plants and their domesticated relatives. Dr. Potter will assist Ademola with DNA extractions and genomic library preparation in his lab coupled with sequencing, which will be conducted at the UC Davis Genome Center. Dr. Michael Abberton, Ademola's CGIAR mentor, was a former professor of plant breeding at the University of Aberystywth, United Kingdom and is the current head of the Genetic Resources Center at IITA. Dr. Abberton will supervise Ademola as he conducts morphological and nodulation diversity studies there at the IITA lab facilities. Ademola expects to complete his research and receive his PhD in March 2018.