Clovis Seumen. Image: Bill Cardor

Award-winning scientist and development aid worker in one

Clovis Seumen, doctoral researcher from Cameroon, receives the DAAD Prize 2021 at the University of Konstanz

This year's DAAD Prize at the University of Konstanz is awarded to Clovis Hugues Seumen Tiogang from Cameroon, who has been a doctoral researcher with cell biologist Professor Christof Hauck since 2016. The prize honours extraordinary academic achievements as well as remarkable social commitment by international students.

Seumen works in the team of Professor Christof Hauck. His expertise is in the area of molecular and cell biology. During his doctoral research, he developed a new in vitro test system that can detect microbial contamination – i.e. contamination caused by microorganisms such as bacteria – more quickly and efficiently than before. This highly sensitive method can detect such microbial contaminants within two hours and thus considerably shortens the 24-hour testing time that is currently still common in the pharmaceutical industry.

The doctoral student has comprehensive knowledge of molecular biology, including the handling of infectious patient samples and human pathogens. In addition to his university research, though, Seumen has also engaged in relevant social projects. Right from the beginning of the Corona pandemic, he supported a Konstanz diagnostic laboratory with COVID-19 tests and actively participated in a vaccination campaign for refugees in Konstanz. "Over the past few years, I have received so much support and had so many constructive experiences. Nowadays, I feel a real need to share some of it," says the biologist.

While in Cameroon, Seumen began his doctorate, but faced many difficulties: "The technological level at the University of Yaoundé I was much lower than here. As young researchers, we had little or no access to equipment and laboratory materials. Therefore, I was only able to acquire highly qualified practical experience in the laboratory here in Konstanz."

However, the beginning in Germany was not easy either – a foreign language, huge amounts of new impressions and information, new specific scientific methods and content. Nevertheless, he doesn't want to talk about "culture shock", he calls it a "challenge" of daily life. Also, Seumen wishes to talk about his social projects in Germany and Cameroon.

He realized many of them under the motto "helping others to help themselves" at the Konstanz-based association Nakupenda e.V., which he founded together with Deric Ngueyon and others. For example: Diagnostic laboratories in Cameroon received used laboratory equipment as well as laboratory materials from Germany, which advanced COVID-19 testing in the African country. The association also collected used computers and school furniture, and sent them to schools in Central Africa. In Cameroon, the Nakupenda Association produced simple incubators for premature babies and put them into operation there. "It was only then that I realized how much our contribution helps on site," Seumen reports. "The hospital staff's joy at the devices and the training we offered them was reward enough for us."

He is going to use his prize money, too, to support a social project. But he is even happier about the prize itself than about the money: "The fact that Professor Hauck nominated me for the DAAD Prize confirms to me personally that my work is valued here," he says. Clovis Seumen is going to complete his doctorate in the upcoming summer semester.