When the plan to return to his homeland in Nigeria was interrupted by COVID-19, Ya’u Adamu decided to join the University of Iowa to start his doctoral studies in interdisciplinary human toxicology, which has been a great experience for him in many ways. Learn more about Ya’u below.
What is your personal and academic background?
I graduated with a pharmacy degree from the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria, a master’s degree in clinical pharmacology from UniSZA - Malaysia, and an MPH in epidemiology from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.
After graduation from pharmacy college, I worked at a pediatric hospital in Kano as a pharmacist, in charge of a pharmaceutical services and care unit. In addition, I partnered with non-governmental organizations to promote public health in rural areas.
Growing up, I had a strong passion for research and teaching, so I planned to join academia to be a part of the exciting pursuit of unlocking several scientific advancements and training tomorrow’s leaders to better humankind. Before coming to the United States in 2018, I was working as a lecturer with the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at Bayero University Kano (BUK), where I was teaching pharmacology and therapeutics courses to biomedical and allied health sciences students.
As a PhD student in the Interdisciplinary Human Toxicology Program at the University of Iowa and as a graduate research assistant in Dr. Thorne Peter's lab, I am privileged to acquire broad research experiences. For example, one area of my current research involves the assessment of long-term exposure to environmental pollutants in biological samples collected from a cohort of mother-child dyads living in a minority community in East Chicago. In another aspect of my research, we investigate how the body uptakes, distributes, enzymatically metabolizes, and gets rid of unwanted pollutants from the body. Also, my research involves using computational modeling of toxicological behaviors of toxic pollutants generated from animals’ experiences to predict and assess potential risks in humans – Health Risk Assessment! Also, I have been involved in a systematic review and meta-analysis project to evaluate the effectiveness of some therapeutics agents among people with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bloodstream infections.
Also, I have been a teaching assistant for CPH:3400:0AAA Health, Work, and the Environment course, where I lead three discussion sections about different topics related to health, work, and the environment. It has been a fantastic experience interacting with my students, seeing them asking questions, and giving feedback on their experiences in my classes.
What prompted you to pursue your doctoral studies at the University of Iowa?
My initial plan was to leave the United States immediately after the end of my program at Texas A&M University in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic halted my plan! Subsequently, I applied and got admission offers from several universities. Finally, I decided to join the University of Iowa Human Toxicology Program because of the way I felt welcomed, valued, and appreciated during the interview and admission process. As importantly, the highly student-centered nature, diverse research expertise, flexible lab rotations, and non-discriminatory funding opportunities of the University of Iowa Human Toxicology Program further sealed my fate to come here. I’m so glad I selected the University of Iowa over other schools.
Can you provide some examples of your experience as an international student at the UI?
My experience as an international student at the University of Iowa has been great so far. Before coming here, I was an international student in another country, then in a different university within the United States. These experiences equipped me with skillsets that helped me adapt to the university community. The people here are super nice and welcoming; everyone is willing and ready to support you if you reach out. In addition, my advisor and lab members have been incredibly supportive.
How do you get involved on campus?
I’m currently serving as a grad member of the International Student Advisory Board (ISAB). In ISAB, we advocate for the needs and concerns of international students by inviting university stakeholders to speak to them, improving access to services, and encouraging international students to apply for grants and fellowships. For example, in collaboration with the University of Iowa Professional Clothing Closet, ISAB initiated a winter coat drive to address the concerns of international students who are new to Iowa's winter seasons.
Also, I’m serving as a co-programming director of the Interdisciplinary Human Toxicology Program’s Student Advisory Committee (SAC), where we meet every month to voice student concerns. In the SAC, we host events for students to socialize, create questions and answers, and relevant resource lists for applicants and new students in our program. Also, we manage our program's social media, and we help identify and invite potential speakers from different toxicology-related careers to make presentations in our weekly toxicology seminars. Also, we collaborate with other student organizations in hosting social events.
Furthermore, I was involved in the iPeer Mentorship Program, where I, as a mentor, was paired with new international students (mentees) for their transition in the first semester, their personal development, and to empower them to experience becoming leaders on campus. It has been so rewarding to use my experience to advise and help my mentees make better decisions during their first semester. Also, the program provided me with an opportunity to expand my cultural understanding and make great friends. I encourage returning and incoming international students to get involved in this program.
I recently joined the Friends of International Students Program. I have been matched with a great American host friend where we went out to explore many places within Iowa City. My family and my host friend's family planned to meet for intercultural interactions. My host friend has a lot of traveling experience, making it easy to have various conversations. It has been a memorable experience living in Iowa City. My family is still exploring food and places around Iowa City, Coralville, and Cedar Rapid areas.
These on-and-off-campus involvements have allowed me to form relationships and connect with individuals from various backgrounds, countries, and fields.
Outside of my work, I enjoy traveling, meeting new people, playing or watching soccer, and staying home with family, and watching TV drama series/movies with my wife.
Can you tell us about your future career plans? How is the UI preparing you for your future success?
After graduation, I hope to use the skills and experience gained from this program to become an outstanding scholar conducting innovative research in either academia or the industrial sector. I feel fortunate to be accepted in my current lab because my advisor, Dr. Thorne Peter, his lab managers, and the lab mates have been incredibly supportive toward doing my experiments and connecting me with relevant resources. My PhD mentor has trusted me with many sensitive projects so far, and I can’t thank him enough for the support and freedom he gives me to explore any idea I want to explore as long as I can explain my hypothesis behind it. In addition, I have outstanding faculties/committee members supporting me in doing my research and teaching jobs. Another great thing about the University of Iowa is that it is super easy to collaborate with people due to its supportive culture and environment!
What advice would you give to other international students on campus and prospective international students considering the UI?
My advice to the international students on campus is we should step up to make a difference, be open-minded, and explore the great resources available for students on campus. There are endless resources on-and-off-campus to explore, including the Academic Success Center, involvement opportunities, physical or mental health/emotional concerns, and resources for off-campus students. For the prospective students, I would advise them to do everything possible to come to the University of Iowa because it’s great to be here! Overall, we should follow our passion and work smartly hard towards achieving our dreams.