Researcher Spotlight: Kehinde Sola Salako, U.S.

Every month, Fulbridge interviews Fulbrighters around the world (both current grantees and alumni) to get a sense of what life is like in different placements. This month, Megan Gleason, a 2018-2019 ETA to Latvia, spoke with Kehinde Sola Salako, a 2019-2020 Fulbright Researcher from Nigeria studying in the U.S. through the Foreign Fulbright Program. The Foreign Fulbright Program enables graduate students and young professionals to study and conduct research in the United States.

  1. What inspired you to study pharmacy? 

The drive for pharmacy [was] established in me right early in my life, I remember formulating a ‘medicinal paste’ sometimes when I had injury on my body, I would mix body powder with an ointment and apply it to the injury. So this quest for drug production or formulation or drug research continued such that at the verge of entering into the higher institution, I had no other option of course to study than pharmacy. 

Kehinde working on an experiment at the Center for Controlled Chemical Delivery lab, University of Utah

2. Your work focuses on targeted drug delivery of the drug N-(2-Hydroxy Propyl) Methacrylamide (HPMA) Copolymer-Amodiaquine Conjugate for use in cancer treatment. What is “targeted drug delivery”? How is it different from conventional cancer treatment?

As a result of unwanted side effects normally experienced by cancer patients due to conventionally used drugs, it becomes very necessary for me to harness the concept of targeted drug delivery which is a great means of combating side effects as well as improving efficacy [of cancer treatment]. 

Simply put, targeted drug delivery is a drug carrier system that conveys the majority of drugs to specific or diseased sites where the drugs are expected to act. 

[Drugs delivered by conventional drug delivery] are delivered in such a way that they get to both diseased and non- diseased tissues or organs, thereby causing unwanted side effects. In cancer patients, some of the usual mistaken symptoms like alopecia [hair loss], nausea and vomiting, rash and allergic reactions are not necessarily a function of the disease, but [rather] a result of the side effects of these drugs. 

However, the targeted drug delivery system conveys the majority of the drug to the cancerous tissues or organs and not much is disposed on healthy tissues. Other advantages of targeted drug delivery over conventional chemotherapy include lower doses required, and greater extended duration of drug activity.

Kehinde at the Center for Controlled Chemical Delivery lab, University of Utah

3. What are some problems or obstacles that you’ve faced since arriving in the U.S.? 

I had this problem of autonomously handling a particular experiment, I was able to conquer my fear, and I tried it out and it was successful. Also, I remember at the initial stage I had a fear of pets, but now I am getting used to them.

4. Why did you apply to Fulbright? Has your experience matched your expectations so far?

My motivation for applying for the Fulbright Program stems from my unquenchable quest for doing highly qualitative technological research and contributing my own quota to the partial fulfillment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. I also see the Fulbright program as a special added value because I will find the opportunity to network with other professionals from outside my country, which is a rare opportunity for horizontal exchange of experience and solving world health problems. 

As a lecturer, I also believe that the Fulbright experience would help impact the necessary qualities of a modern day pedagogue into me as I will have the opportunity to work with renowned professors.

Indeed, the Fulbright experience has surpassed my expectations in many ways in terms of research, cultural exchange and social life.

5. What are some of your hobbies? How have you been able to pursue these during your time in the U.S.?

My hobbies are music and analytical thinking.

 I believe that as an ambassador of the Fulbright Program, I should help foster peace, which is part of the mission of Fulbright. Therefore, I have applied myself to using music as a tool to do this by playing the flute and singing. I was able to sing and play at the flute at the welcome program organized by the Utah chapter of Fulbright association for new Fulbrighters in Utah, also I was able to sing and play the flute on the day of my department’s Christmas party. I believe that music is a very powerful tool to ease people of life’s stress, knowing fully well that peace always starts from within. On one of such occasions after performing, I remembered a professor in the University speaking passionately, thanking me because he was blessed by the music. 

Kehinde playing the flute

Also, my analytical thinking has helped me a lot during my research here in the US.

“I believe that as an ambassador of the Fulbright Program, I should help foster peace, which is part of the mission of Fulbright. […] Music is a very powerful tool to ease people of life’s stress”

6. How did you choose the University of Utah?

Well, I chose the University of Utah because I was interested in the research of renowned distinguished Prof. Jindrich Kopecek at the Department of Pharmaceutics and Pharmcaeutical Chemistry, University of Utah. The quality of research here at the University of Utah is amazing, impactful and novel.

Kehinde with her PI, Professor Jindrich Kopecek, on his 80th birthday

7. What do you think are some of the main values in the U.S.? How is this different or similar from Nigerian culture?

From my experience, the values of the U.S. include freedom of expression, volunteerism, equality and patience. For Nigerians, although there is the freedom to express but it is not as operational as it is in the US. Secondly, volunteerism seems to be a general thing here in the United States but it is not as popular in Nigeria. Thirdly, Americans believe so much in equality, this is emerging for Nigeria. Americans are actually patient but Nigerians are not as patient. However, Nigerians are highly motivated, determined and dogged people striving for success.  Finally, I will like to state that our lingua franca is English, because I meet different people in the US and they say ‘your English is good’ and I tell them ‘English is my country’s lingua franca, so it has to be good.’

8. You’re from Ekiti state, in southwest Nigeria. Tell us about your hometown – what makes it unique?

Ekiti is culturally homogenous in terms of our dialect – Ekiti dialect, although some slight variations are noticeable. The staple food in Ekiti is pounded yam (Iyan) with melon soup, crowned with bush meat if available. In the past, we used to be the state with the highest number of professors in the country and the slogan for the state was ‘Fountain of knowledge’, however, the new slogan is now ‘Land of honour and Integrity’.

One unique thing about Ekiti state is the presence of Ikogosi Warm Springs. This unique site is popular because the spring is a confluence of hot spring and cold spring meeting at a point and then flowing down as a single stream. A report has it that the warm spring has a temperature of about 70oC at the source and 37oC at the confluence. 

You are welcome to visit the land of honour and integrity!

Kehinde Sola Salako is a Fulbright Visiting Researcher at the University of Utah, where she studies the drug delivery capabilities of N-(2-hydroxy propyl) methacrylamide (HPMA) polymer used in cancer management, under the direction of Professor Jindrich Kopecek. She is from Ekiti state, located in southwest Nigeria. Kehinde is a pharmacist and a researcher, and serves on the faculty at the University of Lagos, Nigeria. She holds a Master’s in Pharmacy from the University of Lagos and is currently working on her PhD in drug delivery. Upon her return to Nigeria, she plans to continue her work on anti-cancer research.

6 thoughts on “Researcher Spotlight: Kehinde Sola Salako, U.S.

  1. JohnBosco Chika Chukwuorji

    Congratulations to you, Pharmacist Kehinde Sola Salako. I am glad you are here. Keep flying higher.

  2. Emmanuel Kofi Addo

    Wow, this is so inspiring! Thanks for sharing your research, and your passion to contribute to cancer therapy. I am glad you’re able to combine your work with playing of the flute. I will glad to know how your research goes. Thanks a lot!

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