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Department of Pharmacology


An Interview with Dr Peace Atakpa

Dr Peace Atakpa holds a highly prised Junior Research Fellowship at Emmanuel College, and is undertaking her post‐doctoral research in the Taylor laboratory in the Department of Pharmacology. Originally from Nigeria, Peace completed her undergraduate studies in the University of Liverpool, before moving to Cambridge University for her PhD, funded by the Cambridge European and International Trust.

Peace is investigating the mechanisms that regulate calcium signalling in cellular organelles, which can have major impacts on cell and organ function. We interviewed Peace and asked her about her experience working in Pharmacology.

Who are you and what do you work on?

I am Peace Atakpa-Adaji, a junior research fellow with Emmanuel College and I work on the mechanisms regulating organellar Calcium exchange

What do you love about your job?

The flexibility to drive the project where the science leads. Meeting people from diverse cultures

How/why did your research lead you to Cambridge?

I completed my undergraduate degree in pharmacology at the University of Liverpool. I then applied to do a PhD with Prof. Colin Taylor’ lab on the dynamics of lysosomal Ca2+ uptake at this department funded by the Cambridge Trust. After this, I received a junior research fellowship with Emmanuel college which has allowed me to continue to investigate various aspects of organellar Calcium dynamics. In summary, I came for my PhD and I am still here.

Other than science what is most important for you in life?

Definitely family but also the drive and hope for a truly more diverse scientific community with better access for ethnic minorities.

Do you have any advice to early-career women scientists?

I am still very much an early career scientist and one thing that has really helped me is a supportive boss/mentor that actively encourages my scientific and career growth. So, it would be to find a supportive boss or mentor. Next is constant personal reminder to enjoy the process.

Did you have to face any hurdles as a woman in science?

A major hurdle so far was going off on maternity leave. Coming back, I felt out of my depth but quickly got back into the swing of things thanks to a great work environment.

What/Who first sparked your interest in Science?

I think attending a science outreach programme in high school, this was very rare at the time in my little town. But also listening to a lecture by Dr Dora Akunyili a renowned Nigerian pharmacologist just around the same time.

When did you decide to become a research scientist?

At the end of my undergraduate program, I was convinced I needed to at least explore research more. It has been six years since and still enjoying it.

Why is science fun?

Because you are always dancing between the simplicity and paradoxical complexity of biological systems at any one time, therefore there is always some fascinating to find out even about the simplest of questions.

What and when was the last experiment you did in the lab?

Knocking down a protein called KRAP in HeLa cells using siRNA. And oh, this morning, fingers crossed it works when I do the Calcium assays in a few days.

If you were to choose a laboratory superpower what would it be?

It will be the ability to read a 100 research papers on a burning question in five minutes.

How do you relax?

Spending time with my 16-month-old daughter. But also listening to gospel and afrobeat music.

How would you like to be remembered?

I hope to be remembered as a colleague who cared about her science and the people she worked with.