Andy Brunning, OCR Chemistry and Geology Subject Advisor
October 2022 is Black History Month in the UK, promoting and celebrating the achievements and contributions from people of African and Caribbean descent in Britain. In 2021 we wrote about several Black British pioneers in STEM — in this year’s blog, I share the achievements of another six Black British scientists.
Professor Robert Mokaya
Robert Mokaya is a British-Kenyan Professor of Materials Chemistry. As of 2022, he is the UK’s only Black chemistry professor, a position he has held for 15 years.
Professor Mokaya’s research focuses on porous materials which can be used as catalysts, molecular sieves, or to capture and store gases, including capturing and storing carbon dioxide. Understanding how the structure and properties of these storage materials relate to each other helps to improve the design of these materials.
Dr Diane Ashiru-Oredope
Dr Diane Ashiru-Oredope is the Pharmacist Lead at the UK Health Security Agency, formerly Public Health England. For several years she worked as an antimicrobial pharmacist in the NHS. In her current role, she has led on several antimicrobial initiatives, influencing national and global health policies.
Her achievements include leading World Antibiotic Awareness Week in the UK and creating the global Antibiotic Guardian campaign. Both initiatives aim to raise awareness of the rising threat of antibiotic resistance, and the importance of using antibiotics appropriately, work for which she won the Microbiology Society’s Peter Wildy prize in 2022. Dr Ashiru-Oredope is also an Honorary Chair and Professor of Pharmaceutical Public Health at the University of Nottingham.
Dr Mark Richards
Dr Mark Richards is an atmospheric physicist whose parents emigrated to Britain from Jamaica. After completing a degree in chemistry and a PhD in physics, Dr Richards co-founded a company that develops wireless environmental sensors to monitor pollution and air quality.
He also received awards for his work on increasing equity in physics, as part of which he founded a UK-wide network for Black physicists. Outside of his scientific career, Dr Richards is also a passionate DJ, going by the name DJ Kemist.
Kayisha Payne is a chemical engineer of British-Jamaican and Nigerian descent, she currently works as a Healthcare and Life Sciences consultant.
In 2018 she founded a non-profit organisation, Black British Professionals in STEM (BBSTEM) which aims to inspire and support Black British students to pursue studying STEM subjects in university and beyond. She has been listed in the Financial Times’ top 100 Black and minority ethnic leaders in the UK.
Alan Powell Goffe
Alan Powell Goffe was a pathologist of British-Jamaican descent whose work aided the development of various vaccines, including those for polio and measles. He worked on preparing inactivated versions of the polio virus and was a member of a committee that aimed to develop a vaccine in Britain. He later worked on the production of a weakened strain of the measles virus.
Goffe’s involvement did not end with the vaccines’ production — he was also involved in their clinical trials. Such was Goffe’s confidence in the vaccines that his work helped to develop, he publicly tested them on himself to demonstrate their safety. Sadly, He died in 1966 at the age of 44 in a yachting accident.
Professor Ijeoma Uchegbu
Professor Ijeoma Uchegbu is a British-Nigerian Professor of Pharmacy. Her research has explored how polymers can be made to form nanoparticles in which drugs can be delivered into the body. She has won several prizes for her work, including the UK’s Women of Outstanding Achievement in Science Engineering and Technology award in 2007, and being named the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s Pharmaceutical Scientist of the Year in 2012.
Professor Uchegbu is the Chief Scientific Officer of Nanomerics, a company which specialises in improving the delivery of drugs into the body to give improved activity and reduced side effects.
Have you got suggestions for other Black British scientists you’d like to see featured? You can email us your suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us @OCR_Science. You can also sign up to subject updates to receive information about resources and support.
Andy Brunning – Subject Advisor – Chemistry and Geology
Andy joined OCR in September 2017 as the subject advisor for A Level Chemistry. He has a Chemistry BSc and a Secondary Science PGCE from the University of Bath. Before joining OCR, he worked as a chemistry teacher in Bournemouth and Cambridge. He also side lines as a science communicator and has produced infographic projects for the Royal Society of Chemistry and the American Chemical Society.