Drake Mboowa

How Can We Better Predict the Hydrolytic Potential of Cellulase Enzyme Mixtures on Model and Realistic Lignocellulosic Substrates?
John Saddler

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I opted for UBC for my graduate degree because I wanted to study at a university that is ranked in the top 35th position in the world. This was coupled by availability of funding and a supervisor who took me on as his student. Jack Saddler is one of the greatest professors in the field of bioenergy/ biotechnology and I am honored to be working with his lab. He happens to be the sole reason that made me choose UBC.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

First and foremost, I chose UBC for my graduate studies because I anticipated that it will provide me with a platform to expose my brilliance on an international level. Then I wanted to add a remarkable experience to my career whereby you start a totally new different life on a foreign soil, meet and make new friends and future potential employers from all over the world.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

The first surprise that I got upon arriving at UBC was that professors prefer to be called by their names rather than titles (Prof.). At my former University, any attempt to address any professor by their names without adding the title (Prof.) can be tantamount to failure of that Professor’s course and to the extreme not graduating. As for life in Vancouver, I appreciate the organization of the city and the fact that there is always lots of stuff to do. On one weekend you can go to beaches, shopping, dinners, breweries, hiking, street festivals and parades, movies and concerts.

What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

I enjoy the fact that I have had to develop my own research with my supervisor just giving me guidance on how to further my research. The other aspect that I enjoy most is the independence that I have to choose and register for the courses that I feel can help me write my thesis which was not the case during my undergraduate.

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

I was lucky to have done a research thesis at my undergraduate. I got involved in doing lab work, collecting data from the field, analyzing the data using ANOVA and SPP, writing my thesis with referencing tools such as endnote and Mendeley. I was also able to get two publications from the thesis which I feel best prepared me for graduate school.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

Outdoor games: soccer, beach volley ball, jogging, swimming, biking most especially to Stanley Park and around the sea wall.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Find out which courses you need to take to accomplish your degree and help you with your research. Stay up to date with news about scholarships, training workshops, seminars, jobs and any other related info around faculty of forestry through weekly emails, forestry website, social media (@ubcforestry).


Learn more about Drake's research

Prior to joining graduate school at UBC, I was undertaking my research in areas of potential cogeneration of methane cooking gas from organic waste at different landfill sites in Uganda and India. This research led me to acknowledge that not only can we generate cooking gas from biomass but we can also generate bio-ethanol. This led me into looking for professors that have the same research interest. My desire to do research in biomass conversion is premised on environmental concerns that have cropped up due to industrialization all over the world. At present, the increasing demand for conventional energy sources centered on coal, oil and natural gas as a driver for economic progress has proven to have an adverse effect on the environment, social life, and economic progress of people. This has led to realization and development of renewable energy systems based on hydropower, wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal as a substitute of fossil fuels. However, there has been an increase in research on bio-conversion of agricultural biomasses to produce bio-ethanol as a potential substitute of fossil fuels. Bioethanol production is a four-staged process which include; materials preparations, pretreatment, hydrolysis and fermentation. My research is twofold with (i) evaluating representative ways of predicting the hydrolytic potential of enzyme preparations on lignocellulosic biomasses and (ii) development of an assay that can better predict enzymatic hydrolysis. My research critiques the present methods that are used to measure hydrolytic potential of commercial enzyme preparations.