Meet Dr. Nguekam Feugang

Written by Dawit Tesfaye in Honor of Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, Dr. Dawit Tesfaye has interviewed Dr. Nguekam Feugang, Jean Magloire, Associate Research Professor in the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences at Mississippi State University. It was a pleasure reading about his journey and his current research. I found it interesting to share his experience with you all. Enjoy reading it!!

1. What is your current position, and what does it entail?

I am an Associate Research Professor, Reproductive Biologist in the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences at Mississippi State University. I joined the department in 2007 as a Postdoctoral Research Associate working on sperm biology associated with bull fertility. Subsequently, I entered a research team within the same department led by Dr. Peter Ryan and Dr. Scott Willard. I became an Assistant Research Professor contributing to an ongoing effort to improve livestock fertility by exploring new imaging technologies. I am currently developing work focused on molecular development to enable nanotechnology-based targeting of female and male reproductive cells for fertility enhancement and therapeutic interventions.

2. Can you talk a little bit about yourself, where are you from?

I was born in Yaoundé, Cameroon, Africa, where I finished my secondary studies and obtained a baccalaureate, option Mathematics, and Natural and Life Sciences. After high school, I got a Cameroonian government scholarship for medical school in France.

3. What attracted you to the world of science?

My heart was split between medical school and agricultural school to help people in need of survival in Africa. Food insecurity was a recurring challenge on the continent, and without hesitation and against all odds, I left medical school for a graduate school in biological sciences. Later, I got a master’s degree in Animal Reproduction and Development, in which research focused on the development of porcine IVF. I did a short internship on the cryopreservation of stallion spermatozoa. After that, I received a scholarship for a doctoral degree in Animal/Biological Sciences in Belgium, investigating the impact of oxidative stress on the development of in vitro produced bovine embryos.

4. How did you get to be in your current position?

It was another personal crisis! My heart spoke out for medical science, and I accepted a position as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Reproductive Endocrinology, Infertility, and Oncology at the University of Arizona. Two years later, I found a stronger desire to help achieve food security in developing countries by better understanding local livestock fertility. I accepted a Postdoctoral associate position in animal science at Mississippi State University, working to improve my knowledge of male fertility. I have since transitioned from a postdoctoral position to a professorship studying various animal-related intrinsic and extrinsic factors affecting the fertility of livestock.

5. What are you most excited to do this year?

To continue international assistance to partners in tropical/developing African and Caribbean countries for better livestock management and production.

6. Are there ways in which you think your heritage has affected your perspective or career trajectory?

The contribution of my heritage can be seen in two ways. First, my social background. I come from a family of urban traders without any experience in animal husbandry. I was encouraged to the best and highest education without any real guidance, as I was the first family member to attend a high-learning institution. There was constant pressure for a successful curriculum to become a family doctor. However, my choice of animal science (vs. medical) disappointed the family. From then on, succeeding, whatever the hazards, became my only motivation. All obstacles or barriers had to be overcome. Second, the general perception of the contribution of minorities to science, mainly the black category. This contribution is (was) variously appreciated, which affects them in different ways. Fortunately, reproductive science is a universal discipline with global implications. I am proud of SSR as it strives to enhance its international status by developing programs that promote diversity and inclusion. In my opinion, these programs have helped to improve the confidence and participation of minority scientists in SSR, which has positively impacted their career trajectory. I have benefited from these oriented programs that facilitated my integration into a wider scientific world and the development of a new network of collaborators/partners. SSR should maintain its commendable effort for more inclusion. It is not just about science but about humanity and saving lives!

7. What words of inspiration would you like to share with the future generation of scientists, especially those coming from diverse backgrounds?

I found the inclusion of minorities, especially newcomers, much more difficult at annual meetings. I recommend that newcomers identify and connect with scientists of the same research topics during poster sessions. I found this to be the easiest way to start a connection. Additionally, the SSR should encourage/strengthen programs (i.e., social events) to bring newcomers together during the annual meeting’s first day (s).

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