Every month, we spotlight young scholars who are doing various inspiring things in their different specializations. This month’s Young Scholar is Kevin Wamae. He has scaled through various academic quests, endeavours and has achieved remarkable academic excellence.
Though from Kenya, research and various other academic engagements have taken him within and across Africa. Most recently, our scholar has only moved back to Kenya to continue his research work on Malaria.
Here are some of his achievements over time:
- A PhD graduate of Bioinformatics from Open University UK.
- Contributed meaningfully to the success of Scientific conferences like; Keystone Symposia Malaria conference in Uganda(2017). The Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (MIM) conference in Senegal (2018). KEMRI Annual Scientific and Health Conference in Kenya (2020). And, The Genomic Epidemiology of Malaria (GEM) conference in the UK (2021).
- Published research projects in peer-reviewed journals.
- Mentored high-school students on research-related purposes.
Now, let’s find out more about Kevin’s career pursuit and how he seamlessly combines research and medicine.
Hi Kevin, can you share more on your Institution and research Interests?
I work with the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases. I’m interested in malaria research, mainly the use of bioinformatics to improve understanding of how malaria parasites are responding to control measures.
What are you currently working on and how does/will your research area affect the African community?
I’m lucky to have maintained the malaria research path I started during my PhD program. And, having extended it to include bioinformatics, a typical day in the lab involves analyzing blood samples on malaria infection. I specifically look at DNA from the malaria-causing parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, since it is an important molecule that acts as a blueprint for many biological processes.
Malaria is such a huge burden in sub-Saharan Africa where there are over 200 million cases annually and close to half a million deaths. There are several measures to tackle the widespread of malaria but, these control measures can result in significant changes in the DNA of the parasites. Interestingly, some of these DNA changes can make them resistant to control measures.
Using molecular techniques in a laboratory as well as computer algorithms, my work focuses on trying to identify this DNA so that control measures can be modified, helping us stay one step ahead of the parasite.
What are some of the challenges you experience as a young African researcher?
Researching in resource-limited settings such as Africa is tough. I struggled with expensive fees, and lack of access to study materials while in the University. Upon graduation, securing a job became the next tough nut. I was unemployed for two years and then decided to pursue my master’s. The lack of study materials and expensive fees challenges persisted. Still, I never stopped. I pushed myself, took advantage of the internet, learned new skills, and networked with like-minded people which helped me get access to opportunities. Eventually, a PhD fellowship to study malaria came which helped to pay for all the hard work and diligence. Looking back, I’ve scaled major life challenges and I still do my best to help students back home navigate their careers in research.
What’s a Quote/Word/Advice you could give to emerging early-career researchers?
I have no quote. But I’d like to urge young scholars to seek support in pursuing what they are passionate about and be aggressive about that. Not everyone might be willing to help but one help might set you on a path to success.
Where can anyone looking to engage with you or your work find you?
My Twitter page is: @kevinkariuki
Or Orcid: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7721-5534
We hope you are inspired by our young scholars. You can be the next young scholar, simply fill out the nomination form here.