UCL News


Spotlight on Ozama Ismail

20 May 2014

This week the spotlight is on Ozama Ismail, Research Operations Manager at UCL's Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging (CABI).

Ozama Ismail

What is your role and what does it involve?
I am the Research Operations Manager at the UCL Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging (CABI).

This allows me to be fully involved in scientific research as well as play a crucial part in the behind-the-scenes aspect of science management: sometimes this is more complex than the science itself!

I ensure the day-to-day management of the department while continuing to hold an active part in my collaborative project with Eli Lily and company. This focuses on the early diagnosis and treatment strategies for Alzheimer's disease.

Within the Alzheimer's research team, I routinely run imaging experiments and assess the efficacy of candidate drugs targeting early pathology. My research management role includes me managing the lab environment and a team of 35 researchers as well as keeping a close eye on research funds.

I also help organise public engagement events, scientific conferences and social events that the department hosts or participates in. Each day is challenging but also exciting!

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?
I joined CABI in January 2013 so am still fairly new.

Prior to joining UCL, I was employed as a Phenotyper within the Mouse Genetics Project at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute from October 2007 to December 2012. I studied for my undergraduate degree at the University of Hertfordshire and obtained a BSc (Hons) in Physiology. This included undertaking a research project at Brunel University. Most of my previous work has also revolved around disease models, genetics and neurodegeneration.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
I am very passionate about science outreach programmes, widening participation and public engagement, and actively get involved in projects and schemes that the centre undertakes.

I participate in the In2Science scheme led by Rebecca McKelvey, which aims to place bright students from underprivileged backgrounds in the scientific workplace. Last summer, we hosted three Year 12 students at CABI, giving them each an unparalleled placement tailored to their aspirations.

Later this year, I will be working with UCL's Widening Participation team to contribute to events targeted at encouraging school leavers from under-represented groups to consider and pursue higher education.

Public engagement is very rewarding and a whole lot of fun! Last autumn, my colleague Holly Holmes and I coordinated the CABI Medical Imaging Stand at "Science Uncovered @ the Natural History Museum".

This summer, we are involved in something very exciting. CABI will be showcasing our research at the UK's most prestigious science exposition, the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition and I am currently leading preparations for this.

Twenty-two groups were selected from the UK, and we are the only group from UCL this year. It was a very competitive process and I am particularly proud of this effort.

As passionate as I am about outreach programmes and widening participation, the research project gives my team the opportunity to discuss science and present our work to an international audience. This is something I take pride in and find hugely exciting.

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of you to-do list? Top of my to-do list at the moment is our exhibit at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition. "Limits of Perception" will explore the next generation of biomedical imaging tools and show how combining emerging technology with natural entities can take imaging science to new heights.

We intend to put on a spectacular display of state-of-the-art imaging research from UCL, which will engage with public and scientists alike. This showcase will explain how ideas from nature allow us to see the body from the inside out, by illuminating cellular and molecular events deep inside tissues.

We will explain that by copying naturally occurring phenomena, we can gain a window into another world and develop new imaging techniques that make the body 'light up'.

The exhibition is the society's main public annual event, presenting the most exciting, cutting-edge science and technology research. It is free to attend and opens to the public on Tuesday, 1 July - please do come along!

What is your favourite album, film and novel?
Album: Frank by Amy Winehouse. Her debut album was by far her best work but I love all her music and it genuinely upsets me that we won't be hearing more of her jazz-soul genius.

Film: Big Fish. Generally, I'm a fan of Tim Burton.

Novel: Animal Farm. I remember reading it when I was a child and being fascinated by the development of anthropomorphic characters. Re-reading it again when I was a little older, the penny dropped as I realised Orwell's artistic and imaginative use of farm hierarchy to explore dystopian politics!

Hans Christian Anderson's works are an all-time childhood favourite. I enjoy his amusing style of dark story telling and it grates on me that certain animated retellings of his dark tales are given happy and colourful endings - I'm a happy person really! I'm looking at you Little Mermaid.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?
Well I know a few pizza jokes but they are pretty cheesy. So instead, I'm going to give you some solid advice: if you want to catch a squirrel, climb a tree and act like a nut.

Who would be your dream dinner guests?
Alan Carr - the man NEVER stops being hilarious!

Nigella Lawson - every dinner party needs someone to bring a seductively amazing dessert.

Will.I.Am - his quirkiness and eccentric sense of style fascinates me.

Nerina Pallot - her sweet voice could serenade us over Nigella's dessert.

Tina Fey - because if I had celebrity friends, she would, without a doubt, be my best pal!

What advice would you give your younger self?
There will never be a situation in adult life when you will need to calculate the length of a hypotenuse or remember the numerical value of pi.

Leave the long hair to the rock stars.

First year at uni doesn't count.

What would it surprise people to know about you?
Having lived in three different countries within six different towns and cities, I studied nine different languages during the course of my life.

Sadly I am only a 100% fluent in one… take a guess!

What is your favourite place?
Andalucía. I love Spain. I love the food, the culture and the people. The time I visited Seville was particularly special as it was such a culturally enriching experience.

It is a place steeped in heritage and history. The secluded beaches in Cadiz were just heavenly. It was one of those moments when you feel like you are truly in your happy place!