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General News of Sunday, 10 February 2019


Getting materials to convert non-edible Ghanaian oilseeds to biofuel was challenging - ICDD winner

Many have heard about the achievement of the Ghanaian MPhil Engineering Student who won the top International Award in Engineering Research but not all are privy to the hardships she had faced to win the prize.

Lois Afua Damptey’s project was centered on discovering a suitable material that could convert nonedible Ghanaian oil seeds and waste materials into biofuels.

However, the University of Ghana student said it took her many sleepless nights, dumsor, many fails, unavailability of equipment in local science laboratories, and sending hundreds of emails to get raw materials for her research work.

She admitted that it took determination, persistence, hardwork, and prayers to achieve the desired results.

Taking Ghanaweb through her exploration which started some three years ago, she said, “One of the challenges I faced was getting the materials to be able to do the project. So getting the Nim oils, trying to get the nim oils seeds to be able to extract, trying to go to Senior High Schools to be able to get (leftover) foods to extract the oils from them was quite difficult.”

According to her, her choice of raw materials was based on affordability whiles maintaining a very high-quality end product.

“Trying to modify the material to suit our local needs and to meet international standards was a huge problem,” she added.

Lois continued that there were instances where she had to study the ‘dumsor’ pattern in order to use the laboratory with ease during practicals.

Miss Damptey, however, believes there will be massive pressure on fuel in Ghana and the world all over, hence she advised that there was a need for alternatives for the scarce resource.

“In some ten years, 20 years to come, there will be a lot of pressure on the fuel basis - the crude oil that is being produced so we need to find alternative energy resources that do not finish. That can be continually be replaced over and over again and that is what my project is about.”

The 26-year-old student was hopeful that the renewable energy resource research will not be “left on the shelves” but taken up by the government and gain all the support needed.

On stereotypes that the engineering world is meant for men, Lois disagreeing with the notion said women can also take up the challenge and succeed once they are focused, driven and determined.


Lois was one of the hundreds of people who submitted abstracts of academic work done in terms of the crystallography of the like sources manner – the experimental science of determining the arrangement of atoms in crystalline solids.

Out of the lot, about 100 entries from about 27 countries were selected and asked to prepare a pictorial presentation of their academic research to the Pan African Conference on Crystallography.

After their submissions, a jury of expert chose Maame Afua’s research as the best and for that, she won two top awards.

One from the International Centre for Diffraction Data (ICDD) and the other from the Royal Society of Chemistry.

For her award as the best student, the ICDD gave her a student grant for achieving the academic award of excellence for a work.

What makes Afua’s award more extraordinary isn’t about her gender but the fact that she is an MPhil student who beat PhD students and even lecturers to win an award.

She’s like one of those intelligent primary school pupils who is called into a Junior High School class to teach her seniors Maths or Integrated Science.

However, in an interview with Kuulpeeps Lois said though she wasn’t one of the best students in her class when she got admitted to the University of Ghana, she fought her way through to become the best before she graduated.

“I wasn’t the best in my class, I was one of the least when we got to Level 100 and one thing I know about myself is that I hate to fail, so I joined study groups I wasn’t shy to go to my juniors to explain to me things I don’t understand,” she said adding that “I had a couple of resists but just before we graduated I was the best in my class.”

With her newly found best student status in her final year, Lois said she got a grant to undertake a project in the United Kingdom, a 6 months study at Aston University in the UK.

“I impressed and they offered me an MPhil which was a joint collaboration, so I did part of my study in the University of Ghana and part of my research study at Aston University,” she said.

It was this research study that she entered the competition and won the top award at the Pan African Conference on Crystallography.

Lois’ research work touched on one amazing project. She set out to find a suitable material that could convert nonedible Ghanaian oilseeds into biofuels.

…and guess what… it works… she did find that suitable material.

Her project is vital in using renewable fuels to augment the national energy needs.

On what she gets from her award, she said the award will “help me get more grants to develop my research, I can also use the facility of ICDD anytime I need it for research and I am also getting a cash prize to download scientific journals free of charge.”

“Plus it goes without saying that this award also serves as a boost for empowering women in engineering,” Lois told Kuulpeeps.