Georg Foster Fellow Dr. Ramsey Kamdem and his host Professor Dr. Peter Proksch

Dr. Ramsay Kamdem, University of Yaoundé, Cameroon received a Georg Foster Research Fellowship of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to come to HHU from 2015 to 2017. During his stay in the lab of Prof. Dr. Peter Proksch, Institute for Pharmaceutical Biology and Biotechnology at HHU, he works with endophytic fungi in order to isolate molecules that could be used in the cure of cancer. The long-term goal of the collaboration is to identify natural cytostatics for cancer therapy.

Dr. Ramsey Kamdem Soup Teoua from Kamerun is a Georg Forster-Research Fellow at HHU since January 2015. (Photos: Robin Aust)

Prof. Proksch, Dr. Kamdem How did the two of you get in contact initially?

Ramsey Kamdem: I contacted the retired Prof. Krohn at TU Braunschweig. He used to come to Kamerun many times and gave seminars to us. Since he was already retired he forwarded my application to Prof. Proksch.

Prof. Proksch: Prof. Krohn was a very nice colleague. He had many contacts in different African countries.

Ramsay, you are staying at HHU for a Postdoc. How do you benefit from AvH funding as a Georg Foster scholar?

Ramsey Kamdem: I’m very grateful that Alexander von Humboldt gave me the opportunity to come here and work. There are many benefits e.g. using new material and analytical techniques that I was not able to use in my home country. I also received a lot of help by AvH to organize my living in Germany, e.g. learn the language.

Prof. Proksch: I also think that this is a very prestigous scholarship and everybody in the world knows it. This is also going to help you (Ramsay) after the return having had that status.

Dr. Kamdem is working together with Prof. Dr. Peter Proksch, Institute for Pharmaceutical Biology and Biotechnology at HHU

Prof. Proksch, how do you benefit from hosting an AvH scholar? And did you host other AvH scholars before?

Prof. Proksch: Ramsay is the third. Two came from Nigeria and Ramsay from Kamerun. First of all we get good people through the very tough selection. I am currently also part of an evaluation for scholars. The success rate for an application is between 20-30%. For the person who gets the funding, it is a really distinguishing award.

The work of my lab is very focussed on foreign relations not only through Ramsay. We have more foreign people in our group than Germans. Most of our work is centred on organisms from tropical places all over the world. That kind of exchange and communication is a very important aspect of our work. Being a Humboldt host is also prestigious for myself. - It is something that goes along both ways.

Is there a joint publication or project proposal that already results from your stay at HHU?

Prof. Proksch: It is like Ramsay said, the beginning is not so easy, I think. There are a lot of new things here to be learned. Our colleagues from Africa don’t have access to  a lot of scientific instruments and infrastructure in their own country. The beginning is mainly learning. Learning new techniques, learning how to operate the analytical machines that we have. The only thing that should be improved with this program is the fact that somebody comes and is exposed here to all sophisticated lab equipment  -everything that you can dream of. And than after a certain time we send them back. At home of course the situation is very different to what we have here. This is actually a real problem. Somebody who gets exposed to the way how we do science and the facilities and resources that we have and that we can invest into projects. It is a pity that once you have experienced this you have to give it up again and go back to rather poor conditions. Its not just a problem with regard to continuing research, it is also though for the researcher in a personal matter. Once you know what is possible it is very difficult to give it up again.

Some people manage to get around this. Right now we have another colleague visiting here - Dr. Festus Okoje from Nigeria. He was also a Humboldt scholar in my group. He went home 2 years ago and since than he somehow managed to regularly come here and stay here for 4 weeks. He is very focussed and doing a lot of research in that short time. I always host him and give him the opportunity to continue with his work.

If you fall back on what you have had before, this is very difficult to accept. I don’t see a way in which this could be changed. We are not in the position of changing the working conditions in the home countries. That’s a very slow long term process. We hope of course that every person who comes is a seed of change.


The interview was conducted by Dr. Uta Brunner, Heine Research Academies.

Verantwortlich für den Inhalt: Junior Scientist and International Researcher Center