Gaps within the scientific community due to persistent issues such as lack of resources, discrimination, gender roles and stereotypes, continue to hinder the career development of underrepresented groups.

Programs like the IBRO Early Career Awards are important tools to counter the lack of diversity in science. The award, which aims to support disadvantaged early career principal investigators by providing supplementary laboratory funding, enables neuroscientists to develop their research in spite of any disadvantages they may experience due to gender, ethnicity, disability, class, or other factors. In this interview with the 2021 IBRO Early Career awardee, Associate Professor Mamus Ijomone (officially Omamuyovwi Ijomone) walks us through his academic journey and tells us how the award impacted his career.

Assoc. Prof. Mamus Ijomone 

Could you tell us about your background?

After earning my Bachelor’s, I pursued further studies based on advice from a relative who introduced me to IBRO’s commitment to support neuroscience research capacity in Africa. I completed my PhD in 2015 at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria, under the supervision of Prof. Polycarp Nwoha, before undertaking a four-month visit to the Lab of Prof. Michael Aschner, at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the US, with the support of an IBRO-ARC Bursary Award*. Subsequently, I received the IBRO-ISN Research Fellowship*, supporting a one-year postdoctoral position in Prof. Aschner’s lab in 2017. Upon completing my postdoc, I was granted the IBRO Return Home Fellowship*, now called IBRO Rising Stars, which allowed me to start up my lab on returning to Nigeria in 2018. In 2019, I received the Young IBRO Regions Connecting Award*, which allowed me to begin developing capacity for using the innovative Caenorhabditis elegans model for neuroscience research in my own lab. Presently, I am an Associate Professor at the University of Medical Sciences, Ondo (UNIMED), where I lead the Laboratory for Experimental and Translational Neurobiology (LETNeu). I am also a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where I have ongoing collaboration.

Could you tell us a bit about your lab? 

LETNeu is presently the focal point for neuroscience research at UNIMED and the only one in Nigeria fully leveraging the C. elegans model for research. We are in the process of setting up facilities to create our own C. elegans library. The lab provides training, internships and numerous technical supports to many students and researchers from institutions in the country and beyond.

The LETNeu Team. Sitting (L-R): Ms Labake Omotoso (Research Associate/Lab Manager), Dr Olayemi Ijomone (Senior Research Fellow), Ms Vivian Aneke (Graduate Intern). Standing (L-R): Mr Ileje Ukwubile (PhD Student), Mr Toheeb Oyerinde (MSc Student), Mr Victor Anadu (MSc Student), Mr Tobi Olajide (Graduate Intern), Assoc. Prof Mamus Ijomone (Group Leader).

What is your research about?

My research focuses on neurotoxicology, neurodegeneration, and neurodevelopment, aiming to understand how genetic and environmental factors interact to affect the brain. My current research examines how the nervous system is affected by exposure to heavy metals (including nickel, manganese, vanadium, and cobalt) and how gene-environmental interactions contribute to the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative and neurodevelopmental disorders including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Furthermore, given the emerging evidence of gut microbiome in these brain disorders, I also aim to investigate the involvement of interactions between the environment, genes, and gut microbiome in these disorders. Understanding these complex interactions could be key to identifying better disease biomarkers and new drug targets as well as developing multifactorial therapeutic interventions.

What motivated you to apply for an IBRO Early Career Award?

I applied to the Early Career Award during a challenging year after the COVID-19 pandemics. My lab had lost several expensive reagents (antibodies, assay kits etc) as well as our C. elegans strains due to long power outages that meant fridges and incubators had to go off. Hence, I needed the funds to restart our research activities, rebuild our C. elegans capabilities, and develop new research ideas.

What is the research project funded by an IBRO Early Career Award about?

I had developed two projects at the time. One project was titled “Neurodevelopmental toxicity of nickel: potential involvement of ERK/MAPK signalling”. The ERK/MAPK signalling pathway is involved in regulating expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines and plays a critical role in various neurodevelopmental processes including neuronal/glia survival, proliferation, and differentiation. Our prior studies had shown that nickel induces neuroinflammation and neurodevelopmental perturbation, but much is still unknown about mechanisms. Thus, with this project, we aimed to understand how activated ERK/MAPK signalling triggers neuroinflammation and contributes to perturbed neurodevelopment following early-life exposure to nickel. In the other study, we were working on the generation of preliminary data and proof-of-concept to leverage the C. elegans model for studies aimed at understanding gene-environment interactions between mutations in ASD risk genes and neurodevelopmental sequelae to metal exposures.

What was the IBRO Early Career Award helpful for? 

The grant helped us set-up a 3.5kva solar powered inverter system for back-up electricity. Given the frequent power outages, this became a necessity. The grants also helped us procure a larger incubator for growing our C. elegans strains and a new digital trinocular microscope. In addition, we also got a few consumables and small appliances. The support from IBRO allowed me to do a proof-of-concept study and gather preliminary information that was essential for my successful application to an NIH grant, K43 Emerging Global Leader Award (2022 – 2027) and the International Society for Neurochemistry (ISN) Career Development Grant (2023-2024), the following year.

Do you have any recommendations for future applicants?

Look ahead and plan. Note your research ideas and develop them into mini proposals where possible, even with no specific grant application in mind.

*This program has been discontinued. You can consult the grants calendar for a full overview of our current support opportunities. 

Join Assoc. Prof. Mamus Ijomone and apply for an IBRO Early Career Award. Applications for the current open call are open until 31 May 2024.

If you are an IBRO awardee and would like to share your experience, contact the IBRO Communications team at