Continuously seek new knowledge

Posted on May 28, 2021

NAS Featured scientist:|
Prof Abubeker Hassen in the Department of Animal Science

Q: Why did you choose to study Animal Science?
I would be lying to you if I said Animal Science was what I wanted to do at first. I wanted to study Engineering but my father convinced me to study Animal Science with the promise to give me a share in his small scale dairy farm, as two of my older brothers were already engineers. I am blessed for not getting what I wanted at first when I see how much happy I am for studying Animal Science.

Q: Why is Science, (including Animal Science) important?
Science is a tool that helps us better understand the world we live in. Animal Science, in particular, gives an opportunity to apply some of the basic concepts and knowledge acquired in biological and physical sciences in order to improve production efficiency as well as put on the table highly nutritious animal-source protein (egg, milk, meat, etc.) and numerous other benefits in a sustainable manner.

Q: Highlights of your career so far, including your time at UP?
I studied Animal Science and Pasture Science at BSc, MSc and PhD levels, respectively. My postdoc with Prof W A van Niekerk provided me with a unique opportunity to integrate my expertise on forage with ruminant nutrition and animal production. I worked mostly at the interface of plant-herbivore interaction. As a faculty staff member in the Department of Animal Science, my research scope expanded to the soil-water-plant-animal-atmosphere interface. In this regard, I have collaborated extensively within and between departments as well as with local and international experts in the field. Initially, I used an experimental approach to identify dietary additives that help to mitigate greenhouse gas production associated with ruminant production systems but my group focus has slightly shifted recently to modelling approaches where we simulate the effects of various adaptation and mitigation options at landscape and regional scale using biophysical models. 

Q: Please give us a glimpse of your most recent research.
My most recent research interest is Climate Smart Livestock Production with a specific interest in 1) dietary manipulation using novel plant materials or bioactive compounds that can be used as an additive to modulate rumen fermentation and reduce enteric methane emission, 2) elucidating the pathway for reduction by relating the metabolomics associated with the novel plants to the diversity of rumen microbes in ruminants receiving these additives, and 3) using biophysical models to test the co-benefits of these mitigation options on adaptation in order to identify more suitable options for the different livestock production system in the region.

Q: Describe a day in the life of Prof Hassen.
I wake up early in the morning, get myself ready, read some articles and check my messages to finalise my plan for the day. Thereafter, drop off my children at school and settle down to work. I start with responding to urgent and important emails. Prepare for a lecture when I have a class or attend to postgraduate students research projects. I get unconditional support from my wife over the weekdays. However, my priority during the weekends is to be a good husband by looking after our children, run errands and providing the required support to my wife who will be busy over the weekend running her own business.

Q: What qualities does a good scientist need?
A good scientist will not be afraid to take risks, always prepared to explore outside his comfort zone by collaborating with other experts in the field and passionate about empowering postgraduate students through mentorship that fits into individual students profile and interest.

Q: Who is your role model?
My father is my role model. He was not educated but knew that education was a key tool that helps to develop yourself and subsequently allow you to benefit society at large.

Q: What words/beliefs do you live by? 
Knowledge liberates, and thus I continuously seek new knowledge as there is no shortcut to success.

- Author Martie Meyer
Published by Martie Meyer

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