Afolarin Ogungbemi, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, and Keitumetse Tsubane, University of Gothenburg
The Students’ Event was held on Tuesday, 5 May, during the SETAC Africa 9th Biennial Conference in Cape Town, South Africa. The event was the first of its kind in the history of SETAC Africa, and therefore many didn’t know what to expect.
The event was well attended by both students and professional experts in academia, business and government. The event started with the SETAC Africa Council student representative, Afolarin Ogungbemi, leading an interactive session on how to successfully apply for scholarships. This stimulated an exchange of ideas between students and academics who are usually in positions to evaluate scholarship applications.
Guest speaker, Bryan Brooks from Baylor University in Texas, USA, proceeded to give a motivational career talk, which further encouraged the students to aim high in their studies and career.
SETAC Global Executive Director Charlie Menzie moderated a session where experts from academia, business and government gave one-minute pitches of their career and their journey so far. Many of them acknowledged the role of SETAC in their journey, and this was really motivating for the students. Experts including Osita Anako, Shell Nigeria; Temitope Sogbamu, University of Lagos, Nigeria; Bernard Gadagbui, Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA), USA; Abdel-Razak Kadry, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and others gave inspiring talks to the students gathered for the meeting.
Next was the most anticipated event of the night, the initiating of the Student Advisory Council (SAC) of SETAC Africa. Before this meeting, we deliberated if SETAC Africa was ripe for a SAC or not and if students would be interested in this initiative. Surprisingly, a call for six student nominations eventually gave rise to 18 student nominations. This was interesting to see. The moderator of the SETAC Africa SAC initiation was Blair Paulik, a former chair of the SETAC North America SAC and outgoing chair of the SETAC North America Early Career Committee, and she was also flabbergasted by this response. It was difficult to conduct an election, and we collectively decided to initiate the SETAC Africa SAC with all 18 nominations. This is really a remarkable start for SETAC Africa SAC, and we definitely anticipate a better future for students in Africa.
Students were asked to describe in one word what they expect from the newly initiated SAC Africa, and most frequently mentioned was mentorship. Immediately, Thomas-Benjamin Seiler, the incoming vice president of SETAC Europe, gave a rendering of the current mentorship program organized during the SETAC Europe meetings. Attendees discussed strategies on how to implement this in SETAC Africa, and just that quickly, the SETAC Africa SAC already had their first responsibility assigned to them.
The event didn’t end with all the nice talks and discussions. We proceeded to a bar to have some drinks together, and later, we went to a club where we shared some incredible moments on the dance floor. Unfortunately, the dances had to be terminated in order to prepare for the conference sessions on the next day.
Thank you to everyone that made this event a success!