Women in Mass Spectrometry: An Interview with Kemi Osho of the University of Nevada, Reno

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Each quarter, the group Females in Mass Spectrometry (FeMS) presents empowerment awards to members that demonstrate excellence both in their work and their support of women in science. FeMS is a community-led group that has developed a network of support for women working in mass spectrometry (1). For years, FeMS has supported events all over the world where women in mass spectrometry can gather and discuss their findings and career experiences.

This quarter, FeMS presented empowerment awards to five women, including Kemi Osho, who is currently a graduate teaching and research assistant at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). LCGC International sat down with Osho to discuss her career in mass spectrometry, the empowerment award, and her work with FeMS.

Tell us a little bit about your career so far in chemistry.

I obtained my undergraduate degree in Industrial Chemistry from the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) and I earned a master’s degree in environmental chemistry from the University of Lagos (UNILAG) in Nigeria. I am currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), and am on track to complete my program by May 2025. I am a graduate research assistant in the Borotto laboratory, where I focus on utilizing tandem mass spectrometry and a radical-based fragmentation method, namely free radical initiated peptide sequencing (FRIPS), to characterize biological molecules, such as peptides and proteins. My work has been published in various scientific journals, and I have presented at conferences, contributing to the advancements of analytical science and promoting a more inclusive scientific community.

What is the most recent focus of your research?

The most recent focus of my research is on increasing radical efficiency, fragment ion abundance, and sequence coverage. My research involves the derivatization of peptides with a stable radical precursor. The modified peptide is then subjected to collision activation in the process of tandem mass spectrometry. This research aims to provide sequence information on modified peptides thus creating an understanding of protein/peptide structure and function.

Could you elaborate a bit more on the techniques you use and the application areas?

In my work, I focus on the use of radical chemistry for peptide and protein characterization. Proteins are crucial components of the body's biological processes, and understanding their structure and function is essential for developing new treatments for diseases. To support the fragmentation and sequencing of modified peptides, I employ analytical techniques, such as orbitrap mass spectrometry, ion trap mass spectrometry, and ion mobility mass spectrometry. Through these applications, my research contributes to the development of novel diagnostic and therapeutic tools in the field of proteomics research.

When did you become a member of FeMS? How has the group impacted your career?

I joined the Female in Mass Spectrometry (FeMS) recently in 2024, as a woman seeking a supportive network and opportunities for academic and professional growth. Since becoming a member, FeMS has significantly supported my career by providing an invaluable platform for career development, fostering connections with academic and industry leaders, and providing adequate resources for my growth. The encouragement from FeMS has strengthened my confidence as a woman and encourages me to take on challenging roles and advance in my career. Additionally, I would say that FeMS is a building community of support for me as a woman in the field of mass spectrometry.

Tell us a little bit about the Empowerment Award and what it means to you.

The Empowerment Award is an award with the goal of supporting women within the mass spectrometry community so as for us to fulfill our dreams. Receiving this award is a great privilege for me, as it has enabled me to focus greatly on my graduate studies and to give quality outputs in the achievement of my goals. This award not only has an adequate impact on my studies as a graduate student and as a mother but also spurred me amongst other things to pursue academic excellence as well as boost my self-confidence and create a foundation to getting me closer to my career goals.

What advice would you give to other women looking to advance their careers in analytical science?

My advice to women seeking to enhance their careers in analytical science is to embrace a willingness to learn and stay up-to-date on recent advancements in the community. Moreso, ensure that you are building a strong network by engaging with peers, mentors, and experts in the field who are willing to offer advice and support. Be prepared to make mistakes, but more importantly, be open to corrections. Put away all fear, be open to opportunities, and ensure your efforts are recognized. Also, embrace learning and development platforms, such as seminars, conferences, and workshops. Finally, believe in yourself and in your work, for you are unique.

How can the scientific community better support women in science?

The scientific community may better support women in science by creating mentorship programs, instituting networking opportunities, and providing funds for women-led research, either for conferences or workshops. Also, women scientists' accomplishments should be recognized where they can. In addition, promoting a work-life balance through a conducive working environment for women such as creating a family support opportunity. Doing so will be a great means of encouragement for women in the field.

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