USD Student Becomes ASM Ambassador to South Dakota

Posted on: November 24, 2021   |   Categories: Announcements, News & Updates
ASM Young Ambassador, Representing your country, your community, your science

Mathew Alaba, a doctoral student at the University of South Dakota’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, has been selected as the Young Ambassador to South Dakota for the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). ASM appoints 200 Young Ambassadors of Science, a prestigious network of microbiology students and early-career microbiology researchers.

“As an ambassador [to South Dakota], my role will enhance my leadership skills and increase my professional networks,” Alaba said. “It will provide a platform for me to motivate upcoming scientists in STEM education, an activity I really enjoy doing.”

As an ambassador, Alaba plans to establish a student chapter for ASM, organize a free online microbiology workshop and work closely with ASM to connect with South Dakota universities. Dr. Navanietha Rathinam (South Dakota Mines) was named an ASM ambassador in 2020 and was part of the SD EPSCoR NSF RII Track-1 project until earlier this fall.

Mathew Alaba

Alaba joined the SD EPSCoR Track-1 project at the beginning of 2021, working in Dr. Etienne Gnimpieba’s lab with data-driven biofilm research. Alaba said working with the SD EPSCoR project has solidified his interest in that type of research and given him the chance to gain experience.

“Our lab is using different computational approaches to understand biofilm structure and prevention better,” Alaba said.

He works with a peptide-prediction workflow, and a system that detects and monitors biofilms, and a technique using biomarkers. This work is part of the 2D BEST project, South Dakota 2-Dimensional Materials for Biofilm Engineering, Science and Technology, which focuses on researching biofilms and 2-dimensional materials for a variety of real-world applications.

Alaba hopes to apply biomedical engineering to infectious diseases in his research, and he is especially interested in biofilm research and education. He enjoys working with data-driven biomedical imaging and instrumentation.

His research this summer also focused on developing a “reality sensor (RS)” that detects and visualizes bacteria, which he hopes will help young students learn about microbiology. His interest in educating youth will continue into his new role for ASM.

ASM student chapters worldwide are important for promoting STEM education, especially in microbiology. When Alaba establishes a student ASM group, it will connect college-level microbiologists from institutions across South Dakota. The chapter will allow them to collaborate on projects and share ideas through virtual meetings.

“The ASM student chapter [in South Dakota] will promote science outreaches, resources and information sharing and attract more funding for microbial education, which are the cornerstone of sustainable STEM education.”

Mathew Alaba

His previous experience includes organizing the first National Undergraduate Student Research Conference in Nigeria and working as the bylaws committee chair for USD’s Society for Biomaterials student chapter. He’s been interested in science since he was young, often crafting his own devices or problem-solving to repair them.

“In general, my interest in biomedical engineering stems from a desire to combine my training in biochemistry and public health with my penchant for innovation to improve health care delivery,” Alaba said.

About the ASM US Young Ambassador Program

American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Young Ambassadors are dynamic early-career leaders who represent ASM in their local scientific communities, facilitating networking, professional development and collaboration to strengthen science globally. This prestigious volunteer position is open to students and early-career scientists in the United States and around the world who are interested in working with ASM.