Our UK Experience / / by Doreen Meso and Womba Kaumba

From May to July 2019 Doreen (University of Eldoret, Kenya) and Womba (Copperbelt University, Zambia) visited BGS as part of a Commonwealth Scholarship Council Fellowship, which involved a laboratory training secondment to the British Geological Survey for two months. They respectively run labs at their home institutes in Kenya and Zambia and teach practicals to students. Here they tell us about their placement at BGS... 

Doreen Meso (L), Belinda Kaninga (PhD student funded by the Royal Society's
DfID project (M)), Womba Kaumba (R)

The British Geological Survey (BGS) is a world-leading geoscience centre, which undertakes an extensive programme of overseas research, surveying and monitoring, including major institutional strengthening programmes in the developing world. We spent two months between May and July 2019 at the BGS Nottingham campus in Keyworth, funded through a Professional Fellowship awarded by the Commonwealth Scholarship Council UK (CSCUK). We originate from the University of Eldoret in Kenya (Doreen) and Copperbelt University in Zambia (Womba).

We were attached to the Inorganic Geochemistry team at BGS where they specialise in the analysis of inorganic substances across a wide suite of environmental materials, such as water, soil, sediment, rock and other biological materials. Our training included: health and safety; sample preparation; handling and analysis; data management and quality assurance (QA). Safety in the laboratory is emphasized to safeguard both employee health and the lab equipment. The Inorganic Geochemistry labs are well equipped with the latest equipment which made the environment very conducive for a good scientific experience.

We were trained in data management and quality control (QC), as the maintenance of a quality management system is vital to a laboratory undertaking research or commercial activities. The principles of QA, for example documentation, standard operating procedures (SOP's), quality control samples and monitoring processes will help us improve our own systems in our laboratories.

Doreen in the Inorganic Chemistry lab

Towards the end of our fellowship, we attended the 35th conference of the Society for Environmental Geochemistry and Health (SEGH) in Manchester from 1st-5th July 2019. We presented a poster titled 'Developing Technical Capacity for Soil Environmental Geochemistry and Health in sub-Saharan Africa: Challenges and Achievements'.

We were able to meet established scientists from around the world working on a diverse range of problems relating to the environment and health. We were also able to join the SEGH Early Career Researchers group through which we hope to develop our own network with like-minded scientists facing similar challenges, albeit in different settings, as well as meet many of the African senior scientists making up the African section of SEGH. While in Manchester, we had fun visiting sights such as the Etihad Stadium (home of Manchester City FC), Old Trafford (Manchester United FC stadium) and Jodrell Bank Discovery Center (an astrophysics center of the University of Manchester). Away from Manchester we took time to visit some places in Nottingham, London and Oxford.
Woomba at the Etihad Stadium

Overall, it has been a wonderful and memorable experience and we would like to thank the Commonwealth Scholarship Council UK as our funding body and the British Geological Survey as hosts, for the opportunity.

For more information please visit the Commonwealth Scholarships website