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The University of the West Indies is pleased to announce the promotion of Dr. Helen N. Asemota, Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry and Biotechnology in the Department of Basic Medical Sciences at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, to the post of Professor, with effect from May 28, 2003.

Professor Asemota holds the Bachelor of Science degree with Upper Second Class Honours from the University of Benin, Nigeria; the Master of Science degree in Biochemistry from Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria and the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree from the University of Benin/Frankfurt University in Germany.

She joined the staff of the University in 1990 as an Associate Honorary Lecturer and was appointed Lecturer in the Department of Basic Medical Sciences (Biochemistry Section) in 1996. She was promoted to Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry and Biotechnology on indefinite tenure in 1998.

Professor Asemota has also worked as German Academic Exchange Research Fellow at the Plant Molecular Biology Department, Botanisches Institute in Frankfurt, Germany; Research Associate at the Sickle Cell Unit, Medical Research Council, UWI, Mona and as Visiting Scientist in Plant Molecular Biology at Frankfurt University Biozentrum, and as Technical Assistant under the European Union Technical Assistance Programme.

Most recently she has served as International Consultant, General Organization for Seed Multiplication, Tissue Culture Laboratories in Aleppo, Syria under the UN-FAO Technical Cooperation Programme. She was also visiting Professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, USA. She has also served the UN-FAO as International Consultant for Biotechnology in the Republic of Tajikistan.

Helen Asemota has an impressive research record of distinguished work in the areas of Biochemistry, Biotechnology and Molecular Biology. Her areas of specialisation have been post- and pre-harvest physiology and biochemistry of tropical roots and tuber crops, the development of biotechnological strategies for tuber crop improvement and the screening of plant crops for natural products.

Over the years, she has developed an internationally recognized and diverse research programme with a focus on the biochemical/metabolic effects of extracts from tropical tuber crops in animal models, in vitro propagation and acclimatization protocol development for tuber crops, and molecular genetic changes associated with developmental processes in yams.

She has accumulated a wealth of experience in this field, exploring the full scope of production and use of yams, including plant development, propagation, DNA finger printing, nutritional quality and post harvest physiology. At present, she leads a thirteen-member research team consisting of two subgroups engaged in the application of in vitro technologies to the improvement of Yam, popularly known as the UWI Yam Biotechnology Project, and the screening and exploitations of yam natural products for sustainable development.

Her work has attracted a number of research grants from organisations including the European Union, for the Bioengineering Caribbean Yams project; the Nigerian High Commission and the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica for the Yam Project Workshops for farmers; and The Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) for the production of yam experimental plants. A proposal for the Screening, Assessment and Identification of antinutritional factors in selected common Caribbean food crops and spices and study of the effects of their consumption in normal and disease states submitted to the Planning Institute of Jamaica was approved by the IV Jamaica-Mexico Bi-National Commission under the Commission’s Technical Cooperation programmes.

Professor Asemota has published consistently in highly regarded journals such as Plant Molecular Biology Reporter, International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture Medical Science Research and Nutrition Research. Many of these papers resulted from the collaborative efforts of numerous international scientists based in Britain, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria, Syria and the United States of America.

She has also taught a wide range of courses at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels
with a number of students obtaining postgraduate degrees under her supervision.

Professor Asemota serves as International Consultant for Biotechnology to Syria and Tajikistan under the FAO Technical Cooperation Programmes. She is a Member of the Third World Organisation for Women in Science, the Caribbean Biotechnology Network, the Nigerian Association of Women in Science, Technology & Mathematics, and the Biochemical Society of Nigeria. She is also a Fellow of the American Biographical Institute, Member of the Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology, the National Geographic Society and the New York Academy of Science.

Nationally, she has served as Member of the Working Group on Technical, Scientific, Educational and Cultural Cooperation at the V Meeting of the Jamaica-Mexico Joint Commission, the Inter-Ministerial Meeting for the Review of Jamaica’s Bilateral Cooperation Programmes with Hemispheric Partners organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and as Member of the Gene Bank Committee, coordinated by the National Commission on Science and Technology, the Office of the Prime Minister and the Scientific Research Council.

Helen Asemota has also been actively involved in outreach activities, working with farmers across Jamaica in the field experimentation of in vitro derived yam planting materials and revival cultivation of ‘threatened’ Jamaican yam varieties.

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