2018 Cohort

Bwanya Brian (@bwanya_brian) | Twitter

Brian Bwanya Edward – Pwani University

Bioinformatics has been a learning curve for me, being an interdisciplinary field, every day I realize that there is a whole lot more that I do not know yet, and therefore I get to face new challenges every day and that makes bioinformatics more interesting. In my sophomore year, I got introduced to molecular biology, which was the gateway for me to bioinformatics. After learning various techniques of molecular biology, I wondered what else is done with the data generated by those techniques. At that time on campus, we had one Bioinformatics graduate student who briefly gave a lecture and introduced the entire class to bioinformatics, to this date it is one of the best lectures I’ve ever had, I knew for sure Bioinformatics was the field that I wanted to pursue as a career. It has been a challenge to conduct consultations and discussions with colleagues who have more experience in certain aspects of my research, during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, I have resorted to online trainings and look for solutions on forums such as Stack Overflow. My research is on the Comparison of mitochondrial genetics of zoophilic and domestic Aedes aegypti strains in East Africa to strictly anthropophilic strains in other continents My greatest lesson has been exercising patience in research and embracing failure as a learning point. EANBiT has enabled me to participate in various workshops, trainings and conferences where I’ve met mentors and experienced researchers that have influenced me to grow not just intellectually, but also morally as a scientist.

 

 

Martha Muthina Luka – Pwani University

My first hands on experience in the field of bioinformatics was during my Post Graduate Diploma studentship at the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme (KWTRP). It is through my project that I got exposed to Linux, python and R programming. This created an interest in bioinformatics hence a decision to specialize in the field. I would define bioinformatics as the key to appreciating biology, everyday biologists exert themselves to understand various aspects of life, creating millions of pieces of data. Bioinformatics uses these pieces to reconstruct the bigger picture: life’s systems. The main challenge in my research has been delays in shipment of consumables. To handle this, I try my best to work twice as hard to catch up. My bioinformatics experience has been very exciting, the best advice I could give is Be bold, and it never killed: Knock that door, send that mail, introduce yourself, and sell yourself or your ambitions.

 

Henrick Aduda Kola – Pwani University

I secured an internship opportunity at Kenya Medical Research Institute, Nairobi, towards the end of the internship program, I decided to apply for the EANBIT scholarship program. What happened next is history, but I got the opportunity to study Bioinformatics at Pwani University funded by EANBiT. The journey has been tumultuous. I have had challenging moments and gratifying moments. I have developed exponentially as a person. I have learned a lot about myself and gained a lot of skills. I have had opportunities to travel and meet different Bioinformatics experts. My greatest takeaway is the power of collaboration, there is immense power when a group of people with similar interests get together to work towards a common goal. EANBIT has supported this by creating a suitable learning environment for us during the EANBIT residential training in Nairobi and Kilifi. I got to truly see the power of collaboration through the mini-project that was assigned to us and as a result, this experience has catapulted my learning process. I am grateful for that.

 

 

Michael Kofia Landi – Pwani University

Bioinformatics became a major interest of mine when I was introduced to a unit in my Biochemistry undergraduate course. However, the first time I wrote a code in Perl that printed “Hello world!” I was definitely sure that was the path I wanted to purse (coding in biology, at least that what I use to call it). So far I have been learning a lot in Bioinformatics, every day is always a learning day. At the moment I am working on a new topic Optimizing annotaon of bovine immunoglobulin sequences, novel germline allele discovery and simulation of immune repertoire evoluon of the African breeds, which is a really interesting experience.  Bioinformatics has a great future in terms of medical genomics and genetic diseases for example. Accessibility of the sequencing platform is rapidly increasing and will help solve a lot of biological questions. One example, personalized medicine in the future will depend on the sequencing and bioinformatics approach. EANBiT has supported me in linking me up to a research institute and do my own analysis for my project.

 

Joyce Kabagenyi  – Pwani University

I majored in biology for my bachelor’s degree and loved the process of DNA-RNA-Protein. When I joined the workforce, I was very intrigued by the possibility of uncovering the molecular drivers that were underlying the observed dynamic immune profiles in states of disease. This motivated me to build a career in Computational Biology and thus launching into bioinformatics as first step. My research title is Understanding the Effect of Congenital and Perinatal Infections on Immune Responses to Vaccines and Common Childhood Infections in Infants: A Big Data Approach. Throughout my experience, I have learnt to search for information and synthesize it as fast as I can, while also having an open mind to learn on the job.

 

 

Margaret Wanjiku – Pwani University

A beautiful marriage between biological sciences and computer science, is the best way I could describe Bioinformatics. I was fascinated by the idea of DNA being the blue print of life during my undergrad. That it determined how we look, diseases that are inherited and what not. This made me want to study DNA in depth and understand it and bioinformatics offered this chance. My research has been fun but to be honest it comes with its own challenges. Some days, I have to really push myself to keep going but fundamentally my love and passion for the field keeps me going even when I am stuck and feeling like I am not making any progress in my project. EANBiT has funded my journey and opened doors for me, I have met like-minded researchers and been able to pick their brains. I do not take this opportunity for granted and I will be forever grateful. 

 

 

Joseph Mulama Atemia  – Pwani University

Bioinformatics is a discipline that involves the use of computational tools and skills to come up with solutions for biological questions. My interests developed during my second year of my undergraduate studies in Biochemistry, when I met my first paragon in the Bioinformatics profession who was teaching me and became my inspiration. Since then, I engaged in learning and pursing Bioinformatics as a career.

 

 

John Wanyande Oketch  – Pwani University

I have always been interested in understanding the genetic basis of human diseases which requires analysis of genomic data. Therefore, my passion for bioinformatics begun when I was working as a research assistant. I was faced with lots of genomic data that I could not analyze beyond the wet-lab. Bioinformatics is integral in genomic research, every day we are faced with different problems that require different approaches and solutions. And through computational biology we will be able to gain a deeper understanding of the genetic basis of human diseases that will aid in proper diagnosis and treatment. And through continued development of software tools and methods; Bioinformatics will support real-time detection, tracking of diseases and easy sharing of information. Therefore, my main focus is on the Comparison of the patterns of spread of human metapneumovirus (HMPV) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in Africa using virus sequence data.

 

 

Jane Njeri – Pwani University

My name is Jane Njeri and I am an EANBiT master’s fellowship student at Pwani University, taking an MSc. In Bioinformatics. As a novice in the field, I did a field attachment in Bioinformatics during my undergraduate studies, and I enjoy using my skills to contribute to the exciting technological advances that happen on a daily basis. In addition, great mentorship and support, either financially, mentally or socially, has a massive impact in developing potential individuals who will help in solving biological problems globally. Through the EANBiT program, I am in a position to learn and employ bioinformatics methodology to my studies.

 

Fredrick Elishama Kakembo  – Makerere University

Bioinformatics is a field where Biology and Computer Science meet, given my special interests in computer science, with already self-taught skills in Python programming, I was pretty fascinated by the possibilities of Bioinformatics and how I could do almost all the genomics analysis done in the lab and more on my Laptop at any time and from anywhere. Additionally, I am very confident that I have not covered a quarter of the content in bioinformatics, however knowing that I can still do a lot  and contribute to science with the little knowledge I have so far acquired gives me hope and courage to go on and explore the field more. I believe in coming years Bioinformatics will revolutionize the way Molecular Biology research is done, where people will no longer have to always go to the lab to perform a genomics analysis but rather do it all on computational framework.

My greatest lesson in my pursuit of Bioinformatics career is that interest and passion are not solely enough to take you to the next level of your life. For my case I had both, but I did not have enough resources to take me to graduate studies to pursue my dream career in Bioinformatics, and this is where EANBiT has offered me a priceless support by catering for all the expenses while on my Master’s degree and all I am left with is just one small task; focus on my academics and excel.  Thank you so much EANBiT.

 

Stella Esther Nabirye   – Makerere University

I was introduced to bioinformatics through a training on Introduction to Bioinformatics offered by H3Abionet in 2017. This opportunity allowed me to apply my experience in a HIV drug resistance work program I was involved in at the time. The Bioinformatics field is so diverse and gives one an appreciation of tools in place to manage data and gain a lot of information from it. The practical experiences in class have been thorough, working on mini projects both personal and in groups in form of assignments have helped me familiarize myself with using various analysis tools and troubleshooting errors. My greatest lesson so far especially this semester has been focus. Concentrating on what I am most interested in and giving it ample time and getting good at it. EANBiT has supported me through, the scholarship platform and also through the internship programme which though has not happened yet I believe will really help me in my future endeavors. EANBiT’s constant support encourages me to push forward.

 

 

Eneza Yoeli Mjema   – Pwani University

My Bioinformatics experience has been great so far, I have got more knowledge on what this field is about. Additionally. I have a working understanding on the different computer programs and software systems which are important when it comes to the analysis part of biological data.  My time at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) gave me a picture on how Bioinformatics is used in the research field this also cemented my ambitions for the field. Settling in Kenya at first was a challenge, but thanks to my Professor and classmates I was able to engage myself in discussing with others to catch up with the intensity of the course. In the next two years Bioinformatics will provide many solutions in different research fields from Agricultural sciences to Medical sciences.  “Practice makes perfect” is my greatest motivation.

 

 

Eric Gathirwa   – Makerere University

I was introduced to Bioinformatics in my final year as an undergraduate. It was not something I thought I would take on as a career then, till I undertook an internship at the Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics Unit of ICIPE. This reshaped my ideals of bioinformatics and I took more interest in the field. Throughout my involvement in learning Bioinformatics challenges have always been there, from adjusting to a new normal during these trying COVID 19 times, but healthy networking and collaborating and focusing on handling only what is within your reach and ability can ease the burden. There is going to be a big dynamic shift in health sciences towards employing Bioinformatics in problem-solving, this will go a long way towards understanding disease dynamics, testing the response of novel and existing drug compounds, and analyzing genetic and phylogenetic data among other needs. The Bioinformatics field is vast and more experts are needed in this area especially in Africa. For this reason, I consider myself lucky enough to be part of EANBiT’s capacity-building strategy to equip Africa with more experts in this field.

 

 

Shahiid Kiyanga  – Makerere University

To kick start my career in Bioinformatics, I needed to upgrade academically to a masters and hopefully a Ph.D. in the field. After graduating from Makerere University with a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and mathematics, I joined the pharmaceutical industry as a marketer. I later got the desire to join research and development of medicines so with my background, I was advised to join a career in bioinformatics. This program has introduced me to data analysis, vast programming languages and an understanding on how Bioinformatics is enabling life sciences to invent novel drug discovery as well as drug delivery systems for greater progress in the field of biotechnology.

 

 

Ruth Nanjala  – Pwani University

My internship at the Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics laboratory at ICIPE, grounded my interests in Bioinformatics. My understanding so far has been amazing, with a few challenges here and there. However, self-learning and practice is pushing me forward to greater opportunities. With EANBiT’s support I am able to gain access to vast number of resources and I cannot wait to see what the future holds.

 

Peter Kimani – Pwani University

I joined ICIPE as an intern in a different field under the plant health theme. During my work experience, I got to know of the bioinformatics department, with my little background in bioinformatics I was interested and decided to take this interest to the next level. I started interacting with members of the field and then the EANBiT opportunity came, I applied and got the golden chance. I have not looked back since. So far, programming has been great, I have incorporated it in my personal learning and personal projects and together with biology I believe a lot will be achieved. For instance, since we cracked the human genome, a lot has changed annually and now with the incorporation of the bioinformatics to find the hidden messages in the genome, a lot will change more so in the medical field.