LSTM welcomes alumna Dr Letitia Obeng

News article 24 Sep 2015

LSTM welcomed back a notable alumna this week as Dr Letitia Obeng from Ghana visited as part of the celebrations for her 90th birthday.

Dr Obeng was the first woman in Ghana to be awarded a doctorate which she gained at LSTM in the early 1960s after moving to Liverpool with her three small children. Studying Simuliidae, or black fly, because its relevance as the vector for onchocerciasis (river blindness), she collected her research samples throughout the bodies of freshwater in North Wales. Dr Obeng’s supervisor was the University of Liverpool’s Dr Noel Hynes, a fresh water biologist.

On her return to Ghana Dr Obeng set up and was Director for the National Research Institute of Aquatic Biology, which looked at the environmental issues relating to Ghana’s lakes. She was invited to take part in the 1972 UN Human and Environment Conference in Stockholm and in 1974 was appointed the Director at the Regional Office for Africa of the United Nations Environment Programme.

Still affiliated to a number of international bodies, Dr Obeng received the Star of Ghana Award in 2006 and in 2008 was unanimously appointed as the first female president of Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences. She said she has always held LSTM in high esteem: “Due to my experiences and association with LSTM I was able to return home and do something. The school is a fantastic organisation and I will always look back to my time in Liverpool with great fondness.”

During her visit Dr Obeng was shown a tsetse fly feeding demonstration. She met with Dr Gareth Lycett and was shown some of the work that his group is undertaking using transgenic mosquitoes to understand the mechanisms by which they become resistant to insecticide, and she met with Professor Russ Stothard, Director of the COUNTDOWN Consortium, and talked through some of the work that is currently ongoing in Ghana. LSTM’s Director Janet Hemingway met with Dr Obeng before the end of her visit, presenting her with vase designed especially for LSTM by Leanne Mellor.

Following her visit to LSTM her family took her to Lake Bala in North Wales to revisit the scene of most of her PhD sample collection.