News & Media

Covering ground in her research

The inaugural lecture of Prof Veronica Ngole-Jeme, Department of Environmental Sciences, titled Soil matters, took place on 27 July 2017.

The title of the lecture was informed by the desire to highlight the role of soil properties in the significance of soils. The lecture indicated how Ngole-Jeme was introduced to environmental soil science and the lines of research that she has followed since then.

It looked at soil matters—such as texture, pH, cation exchange capacity, electrical conductivity, total surface area, organic matter content, mineralogical composition, and heavy metal concentrations—that have formed the pillars of her research.

Environments in which she has researched on these various properties include landfills, landslides, unpaved roads and mining environments. Ngole-Jeme also looked at how these soil properties influence the effectiveness of some soil management techniques for agricultural purposes, the outcome of geophagia (deliberate soil ingestion) and their role in the indigenous use of soils/clays in selected communities for cosmetic purposes.

Aspects of heavy metals she talked about included characterisation of their concentrations in soils from these different environments and the human health exposure risks associated with heavy metals in geophagic soils, soils along unpaved roads and soils in the surroundings of mining environments.

The lecture highlighted how these soil properties could contribute to the occurrence of landslide events, retard contaminant migration in the environment (landfills) and their uptake food crops from the soil (agriculture), increase health complications associated with soil ingestion (geophagia), increase the likelihood that an individual may suffer from heavy metal associated non-cancer and cancer related health complications in their lifetime as a result of heavy metal exposure.

Ngole-Jeme’s ongoing research focuses on the remediation of heavy metals contaminated soil and she hopes to expand that to the role of organo-mineral interactions in the behaviour of heavy metals in soils.

A perfect day begins with?

Prayers and sometimes a walk before a cup of herbal tea (preferably turmeric tea + lemon + black pepper)

And ends with?

A bowl of fruit

What is the one thing you cannot do without?

Bible

You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What colour would you be and why?

I would love to be GREEN because of its earthiness, and it symbolises growth, peace, and harmony, which is what I treasure in a work environment.

Who would you most like to have dinner with in your academic field, and why?

Brian J Alloway, Emeritus Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences, at the University of Reading. He has done quite a lot on environmental pollution, specifically on heavy metals in soils. His works prompted my interest in heavy-metals-related soil research.

What lesson did you learn on your first job that you are using as a professor?

Doing at least one thing every day that contributes towards the growth of your organisation.

*Compiled by Sharon Farrell