Holy Kwabla Zanu, of the poultry nutrition group, has just had his PhD conferred in absentia. In this post, he does a retrospection of his PhD journey and recounts the many experiences he has had here at the University of New England (UNE).


Holy started his studies at UNE in December 2016 under the supervision of Professor Bob Swick whom he has a lot of gratitude for thanks to his “stupendous mentoring abilities”. His PhD thesis is entitled ‘Dietary meat and bone meal, and calcium as precursors for the onset of subclinical necrotic enteritis in broilers fed diets containing exogenous phytase enzyme’. 

Throughout his study, Holy conducted three huge experiments in total for his thesis. He has just returned a revised manuscript to a journal for publication which will hopefully make all 10 refereed publications from his Ph.D, of which he is the lead author in all ten articles. The articles are either published or accepted for publication in Poultry Science Journal (5 papers), Animal Nutrition (4 papers) and World’s Poultry Science Journal (1 revised manuscript). His thesis examiners, all in the USA, were taken aback by both the breadth and depth of his thesis. 

The drive, tenacity, and determination of the candidate to publish his work are remarkable and I commend the candidate’s sense of purpose. 

In addition to the 10 refereed papers, Holy did 8 oral and 4 poster representations at 9 conferences producing 12 conference abstracts in all. This works out as 22 scientific papers in his 3½ year studies. He also presented three animal science department seminars and participated in three-minutes-thesis competitions on three occasions.

His principal supervisor tells him “Holy, I say you have done 2 PhDs”.

I certainly feel that the candidate has done an admiral research work, has demonstrated commitment to scholarly reporting in esteemed journals and has made a notable contribution to advancing nutrition knowledge is his field of investigation.

All these outcomes, he says, did not come on a silver platter. 

“This attainment was not one of easy-go-gain”, he emphasizes. He recounts the many nights of tears and the thought to give up on the goals he had set for himself. The journey, he says, was “characterized by lots of harrowing moments”. He thinks his hard work, the tenacity of purpose and fortitude have paid off. The long hours in the animal nutrition, ICP-OES, histology, molecular and microbiological laboratories have yielded dividends, he believes. He describes his PhD in a word – a refinery. He has been tested and refined as gold. His reminiscence of the drill and avalanche of questions he got from almost 30 journal reviewers makes him heave a sigh of relief.

He believes all these outcomes couldn’t have been achieved without the team spirit in the poultry nutrition group. The appreciation for all the support he got from his peers in the group and the technical staff of UNE is immeasurable. Holy acknowledges UNE for awarding him a scholarship (International Postgraduate Research Award) to study here. “There couldn’t have been a better place elsewhere to study for my PhD, he says. 

The research facilities, well-resourced laboratories and the quality of academic and technical staff here make UNE such a cool place to study.”

He gratefully acknowledges Dr. Mike Bedford and AB Vista Feed Ingredients in the UK for funding all his experiments, laboratory works and conference travels to the USA, Italy and cities within Australia. He also expresses gratitude to the University of Education, Winneba (Ghana), where he is an academic staff, for granting him a leave of study.

“Even the best dancer on the stage must retire sometimes” (African proverb). Holy returns to his academic position in Ghana, after he takes part in the next graduation ceremony. He hopes to contribute his quota in changing the course of events in animal research. Holy will be remembered for his dedication to work, good presentation skills and proficiency in scientific writing.

Nothing is so difficult that diligence cannot master it (a proverb) is what he leaves with everyone who aspires academic excellence.

His PhD experience has taught him that working as a lone ranger is not easy, especially when the task is so herculean and the stakes are so high. But when life situations make you a lone ranger, accept it anyhow as it makes you stronger and can be an inspiration for many. Great is the honour of the results of such hard work.