Yesterday (August 14, 2010) Grace Ofori-Sarpong officially became Dr. Grace Ofori-Sarpong. It was a pleasure to escort my student during the procession for Penn State University's Graduate School Summer Commencement exercise. When I put the hood on her I passed on to her my blessings with a quiet prayer that she would return to the University of Mines and Technology (UMaT, Tarkwa, Ghana) and help transform it from a man's world to a school that truly belongs to both women and men. As the first woman lecturer of this new university with a PhD, Dr. Ofori-Sarpong will no doubt have many opportunities to serve as a role model.
Grace's research on fungi-mediated aqueous processing of refractory (hard-to-treat) gold ores was supervised by Prof. Ming Tien and myself. This work is opening up new doors for biohydrometallurgy research. Dr. Ofori-Sarpong's findings established for the first time that certain fungi release metabolic products that can transform the chemical and physical characteristics of the natural carbon in such gold ores in ways that dramatically inhibit the otherwise undesirable uptake of dissolved gold cyanide complexes.
The challenge now is to find a way to keep her research work active as she returns to Ghana. She must set up an engineering microbiology lab from scratch in an academic environment which does not yet have a serious tradition of externally funded research. Given her track record at Penn State, I have every confidence that if there are research funds available anywhere in the world, she'll find a way to submit successful research proposals. Grace: Ayekoo!