Reach & Teach Science in Africa

The ‘Reach & Teach Science in Africa’ project is an annual capacity building project developed by JR Biotek Foundation to strengthen research and innovation in sub-Saharan Africa through the provision of world-class scientific teaching, training and resources to 1,000 researchers and academics in African universities and research institutes by 2029.

The project is driven by students and post-doctoral researchers from the University of Cambridge. It involves mobilizing research scientists from Cambridge and other universities and industry partners across the United Kingdom to teach, mentor and provide appropriate resources to enhance scientific teaching, research and innovation in African universities.

Our first 'Reach & Teach' project will take place in collaboration with the Laboratory of Genetics, Horticulture and Seed Science, University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin Republic, West Africa from 1st-5th April 2019. This is an exciting opportunity for us to bring together, 100 agricultural researchers, lecturers and advanced postgraduate students from sub-Saharan Africa countries to learn core scientific principles, laboratory techniques and their various applications in agricultural research.

The Workshop at the University of Abomey-Calavi will provide state-of-the-art teaching in molecular biology and genetics and statistical analysis. It will also include a professional development session and an open labware design and construction (building laboratory instruments such as microscopes) workshop. Wet laboratory sessions will aim to provide the participants with knowledge and hands-on experience in important molecular biology concepts, techniques and applications in agricultural research. Knowledge and skills gained from the workshop will improve research and teaching in participating universities across sub-Saharan Africa.

Meet the Team

Our team consists of professionals who are deeply passionate about providing tailor-made solutions to advance bio-science education and research capacity building in sub-Saharan Africa. The project is driven by PhD students and postdoctoral researchers from the University of Cambridge. One thing we have in common is the passion to see African researchers develop and lead world-class research that addresses some of the most pressing challenges faced on the continent.

Carol Nkechi Ibe

Founder of JR Biotek Foundation/Reach & Teach Science in Africa Project

Carol is a PhD student & Gates Cambridge Scholar at the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge. She founded JR Biotek Foundation to provide world-class scientific training to African scientists and to promote joined up thinking on the continent's sustainable development. Carol's research aims to understand how rice roots accommodate both beneficial and detrimental fungi, and how these interactions may be modified for practical agricultural applications. Alongside her PhD, she forges partnerships with world leading experts and institutions to develop and provide quality and affordable scientific training programmes for students and researchers in Africa. She has created several programmes including the annual Molecular Laboratory Training Workshops held at the University of Cambridge and in African universities; the African Diaspora Biotech Summit; UK-Africa Food Security Symposium; Bio-innovation for Africa' Pitching Challenge, and the 'Reach & Teach Science in Africa' project. 

Kabir

Dr Kabir Mustapha Uma

Country Coordinator (Nigeria)

Kabir is the Deputy Director (Research) at the Centre for Dryland Agriculture, Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria. His research focuses on the development of mycoinsecticides to combat important garden pests in Nigeria. He is an alum of our Molecular Laboratory Training Workshop held at the University of Cambridge in 2017. 

Ruth Mukhongo

Ruth Wilhem Mukhongo

Country Coordinator (Kenya)

Ruth is an experienced soil scientist/agronomist. She is currently pursuing her PhD Soil Science program at Makerere University-Uganda under the COMPRO II project funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Her research objective is on integration of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi into soil phosphorus management for sweet potato production in Uganda. Ruth is an alum of our Molecular Laboratory Training Workshop held in Nigeria (2014) and the University of Cambridge in 2018.

Dedeou

Dedeou Apocalypse Tchokponhoue

Country Coordinator (Benin Republic)

Dedeou is from Benin Republic, but pursing his PhD in Plant Breeding at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. His research focuses on the genomics of the West African native shrub species, Richardella dulcifica with the ultimate goal to release pulp dense and high yielding cultivar.

20181207_121844

Conor Simpson

Co-Director, Reach & Teach Science in Africa Project

Conor is a PhD student at the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge. He graduated with an MSci from the University of Nottingham. For his masters project at Nottingham he worked on the N-end rule pathway of programmed protein degradation. Currently, through exploiting the natural variation in the C4 species Gynanropsis gynandra, Conor is using specific breeding methods in conjunction with quantitative genetics to calculate the heritability and number of genes responsible for certain C4 characteristics. Additionally, with the aim of identifying loci responsible for complex C4 phenotypes, such as Kranz anatomy, he is using quantitative trait loci (QTL) analysis to generate a high-density genetic map in G. gynandra.

Flora

Ms. Flora Asibe

Country Coordinator (Nigeria)

Flora is a PhD student in Crop Protection and Yam Breeding at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria and a Research Fellow at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA, Nigeria. She is an alumni of our Molecular Laboratory Training Workshop held at the University of Cambridge in 2018.

Carlos

Aristide Carlos Houdegbe

Country Coordinator (Benin Republic)

Carlos is from Benin Republic, but pursuing a PhD degree in Plant Breeding at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Carlos research aims to establish a pipeline for developing high leafy yield cultivars for African leafy vegetables in order to increase their availability for combating malnutrition and food security in Africa. During the Molecular Laboratory Training Workshop held in Cambridge in 2018, Carlos and Dedeou won the 'Bio-innovation for Africa' pitching competition with their environmentally sustainable 'EcoSeeds'.

Chikodi

Chikodi Nwokoma

Country Coordinator (Nigeria)

Chikodi is a doctoral student and research fellow (agricultural engineering) at the University of Ibadan. His research focuses on modelling the dynamics of crop water, nutrient use, stress development and yield of selected vegetable crops in Nigeria. He is an alum of our Molecular Laboratory Training Workshop held at the University of Cambridge in 2018.

Leonie

Dr Leonie Luginbuehl

Co-Director, Reach & Teach Science in Africa Project

Leonie did her PhD with Professor Giles Oldroyd at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, where she investigated the downstream transcriptional targets of three GRAS-domain transcription factors required for the establishment of the arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis in the model legume Medicago truncatula. Her work identified a lipid biosynthesis pathway that is upregulated in root cells colonized by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and provides the obligate biotrophic fungus with fatty acids as a major carbon source.  Her current postdoctoral research at the University of Cambridge focuses on understanding the cell type specific regulation of photosynthetic capacity in rice leaves.

Jacob2

Dr Jacob Ulzen

Country Coordinator (Ghana)

Jacob completed his PhD in Soil Science from KNUST, Ghana. He has a first class honours bachelor’s degree in Agriculture and a master’s in Soil Science also from KNUST. Jacob was a graduate research fellow of IITA (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture) during when he attended our Molecular Laboratory Training Workshop held at the University of Cambridge in 2017.

Olaide

Olaide Ogunsanya

Country Coordinator (Nigeria)

Olaide is a PhD student in Crop Protection at FUNAAB and a research fellow at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA, Nigeria. Her research focuses on studying the distribution of fungal pathogens affecting African yam bean (AYB) in three agro-ecological zones. Olaide is an alum of our Molecular Laboratory Training Workshop held at the University of Cambridge in 2018. After her participation in the workshop, Olaide and two other alumni started a non-profit organisation, 'Science Hub' to promote STEM education in secondary schools in Nigeria. 

Macsamuel

Macsamuel Ugbaa

Country Coordinator (Nigeria)

Macsamuel is a PhD scholar in Plant Breeding and Genetics at the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, Benue State, Nigeria. His research aims to  identify and validate moelcular markers for Alectra resistance in cowpea [Vigna unguilata (L.) Walp]. He is an alum of our Molecular Laboratory Training Workshop held at the University of Cambridge in 2017.

Emily

Emily Servante

Programme Coordinator, Reach & Teach Science in Africa Project

Emily is the Course Coordinator for Reach & Teach Science in Africa project. She is currently a PhD student studying in the Cereal Symbiosis group at the University of Cambridge. Her research focuses on the genetic potential of arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis in rice plants. Emily loved helping out at the JR Biotek Foundation Scientific Labatory Training in Cambridge 2018 during her undergraduate studies at the University of Cambridge and is looking forward to being involved in further projects in the future. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jen McGaley

Programme Coordinator, Reach & Teach Science in Africa Project

Jen specialised in Plant Sciences during her undergraduate degree at the University of Cambridge, with a final year project in the Cereal Symbiosis group. She has continued in the same lab to do a PhD project on the dynamics of nutrient exchange between plants and fungi in arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis (specifically looking at rice). Putting her keenness for microscopy to good use, Jen hopes to use confocal, multi-photon and correlative techniques to resolve the temporal and spatial dynamics of the transporters responsible for both directions of symbiotic nutrient transfer, and to further investigate the reciprocity of this exchange.

Boniphace

Bonphace Mangeni

Country Coordinator (Kenya)

Bonphace is completing his PhD in Crop Protection at the Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Kakamega, Kenya where he also lectures. His work focuses on the molecular variability of the mosaic viruses in beans based on Next Generation Sequencing analysis. Bonphace is an alum of our Molecular Laboratory Training Workshop held at the University of Cambridge in 2018.

Leander

Leander Melomey Dede

Country Coordinator (Ghana)

Leander is a PhD student in Plant Breeding at the West African Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), University of Ghana. Her research focuses on  on breeding for Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl Virus (TYLCV) resistant tomato variety in Ghana. She is an alum of our Molecular Laboratory Training Workshop held at the University of Cambridge in 2018.