Cambridge-Africa Team


Professor David Dunne - Director

David is a Professor of Parasitology at the Department of Pathology, University of Cambridge. For 30 years, David’ group carried out field-based research on human schistosomiasis and other human parasitic diseases in endemic rural areas in Africa. This research was conducted in long-term partnership with colleagues in Uganda, Kenya and Mali, and more recently through collaborations in Ghana, Gabon, and Tanzania.

David is currently the Director of the Cambridge-Africa Programme (which he initiated in 2008) at the University of Cambridge. Cambridge-Africa is a key strand of the University’s official international strategy, and through David’s leadership, the Programme is making the University of Cambridge’s globally-renowned expertise, resources and influence readily available to support and partner African research institutions towards international competitiveness and self-sustenance. This is being achieved through a range of research collaboration and capacity building initiatives that focus on supporting African priorities. David is also now the Director of the Wellcome Trust-Cambridge Centre for Global Health Research (WT-CCGHR:, a key Centre that has evolved out of the Cambridge-Africa Programme, with a focus on supporting African health research.

David has served on numerous advisory boards and funding panels that support African research and scientific capacity strengthening, and he leads Cambridge-Africa to provide Cambridge institutional support for African research and scholarship across all academic disciplines.

Furthermore, David is an Extraordinary Fellow at King’s College ( in Cambridge, where he actively engages all members of the College to support and participate in Africa-related activities.



Professor James Wood - Champion (Biological Sciences)

James, a veterinary epidemiologist, is Head of the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Chair of the Cambridge Infectious Diseases Strategic Research Initiative at the University of Cambridge. He joined the University of Cambridge in 2005 as Director of the Cambridge Infectious Diseases Consortium, before becoming the ALBORADA Professor of Equine and Farm Animal Science in 2009. James’ research focuses on processes underlying emergence of infectious diseases, including viral infections (e.g. lyssavirus and henipavirus) of fruit bats in West Africa (Ghana), mammalian influenza, rabies and bovine tuberculosis (including studies in Ethiopia).

Since 2008, James has been a staunch initiator and supporter of the Cambridge-Africa Programme, helping to establish the Programme in Cambridge and initiate a key link to West Africa. He is a founding member of both the Cambridge-Africa Steering and Advisory Groups, and has made excellent contributions to Cambridge-Africa’s grants-writing and philanthropic fundraising efforts. James travels to Africa frequently for his personal research, as well as to attend Cambridge-Africa related meetings, to interview prospective African fellows, etc. Being a Fellow of Wolfson College, he has also been instrumental in getting the College to provide accommodation and a social life for our Visiting African fellows, when needed.


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Dr Devon Curtis – Champion (Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities)

Devon is a Senior Lecturer and University Teaching Officer at the Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS), University of Cambridge. She is also a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Her main research interests and publications focus on power-sharing and governance arrangements following conflict, rebel movements in Africa, the United Nations, and critical perspectives on conflict, peacebuilding and development. Devon’s field research concentrates on the Great Lakes region of Africa, especially Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Previously, she worked for the Canadian government and the United Nations Staff College, and she has been a consultant for the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and for the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). Devon has had fellowships at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University and at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) at Stanford University. She has also been a Visiting Senior Advisor at the International Peace Institute in New York.

In 2012, Devon was invited to join the Planning and Steering Committee for the Cambridge-Africa Programme’s CAPREx initiative, which has a partial focus on supporting social sciences and humanities research in Africa. She has made significant contributions to CAPREx since then, by helping to develop the strategy for the initiative, playing a key role in the interviewing and selection of African fellows, and contributing to grant applications for renewing and expanding the initiative. Devon is also now a Champion for the umbrella Cambridge-Africa Programme, and is an enthusiastic member of both the Cambridge-Africa Steering and Advisory Groups. In 2014-15, she also became a collaborator for CAPREx fellow Dr Paul Omach of Makerere University in Uganda.


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Professor Melinda Duer- Champion (Physical Sciences)

Melinda is a Professor of Biological and Biomedical Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry, who has varied research interests. Originally focussed on developing solid-state NMR spectroscopy to examine molecular structures and dynamics, particularly for complex systems, a chance conversation with a colleague in Veterinary Medicine started her interest in the molecular structure of tissues, specifically the extracellular matrix of tissues. She began to develop and apply solid-state NMR methods to study the molecular structure of bone and other biological tissues, and more conversations with a wide diversity of colleagues from the biological and medical sciences broadened her interest from simply the structural and mechanical properties of tissues to how those factors impress themselves on cell behaviour, and ultimately determine our health. Her current focus is how and why the molecular structure of tissues changes in degenerative diseases and ageing, particularly in calcified tissues like bone and hardened arteries – and utilises every possible physical characterisation technique from NMR to advanced optical imaging methods to high-resolution electron microscopy.

Melinda has been heavily involved in supporting the Cambridge Africa Programme's CAPREx  research fellowships and provides review for the University wide Cambridge-Africa ALBORADA Fund.

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Dr Pauline Essah - Manager

Originally from Ghana in West Africa, Pauline completed an honours degree in Agriculture at the University of Ghana. She then relocated to the UK to study for MPhil and PhD degrees in Biological Sciences at the University of Cambridge, followed by post-doctoral research also in Cambridge.

In 2009, Pauline joined the Cambridge-Africa Programme as the first Coordinator (for the ‘Training Health Researchers into Vocational Excellence in East Africa’ - THRiVE initiative). She has been instrumental in growing THRiVE into the unique, coordinated, multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary umbrella Cambridge-Africa Programme that now incorporates the MUII and CAPREx initiatives, the ALBORADA Research Fund, the WT-CCGHR as well as the Cambridge Africa PhD Scheme).

In 2015, Pauline was appointed by the University of Cambridge as Manager of Cambridge-Africa. She works closely with David, James and Devon to develop the strategy, aims, objectives and vision for the Programme, and has regular interaction with the University’s International Strategy Office, the Development and Alumni Relations Office, as well as the Communications Office. She is a point of call for external universities, organisations and foundations that are interested in collaborating with, or funding the programme. Pauline also oversees the work of the Coordinators of the various Cambridge-Africa initiatives, and the organisation of University-wide 'Africa' networking events and seminars. She is a member of the University of Cambridge’s InterConnect Steering Group (an Equality & Diversity Initiative), the Athena Swan Working Group (committed to advancing the careers of women in STEMM subjects) at the Department of Pathology, the Board of Trustees of the Cambridge Development Initiative (a student-led Cambridge University volunteering organisation working in Tanzania), and the UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit. Pauline is a Senior Member of Hughes Hall in Cambridge.



Dr Sophia Mahroo - Coordinator for CAPREx & The ALBORADA Research Fund

Sophia obtained a medical degree (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBChir)) from the University of Cambridge in 2009, and has since worked for local and global health-related projects in Cambridgeshire. This included two years at the Addenbrooke's Charitable Trust (Cambridge University Hospitals), where she supported the development of clinical links between the Hospitals and institutions in Botswana, El Salvador and Myanmar.

In June 2014, Sophia joined the Cambridge-Africa Programme to coordinate the THRiVE initiative in Cambridge on a part-time basis. Since May 2015, she has been coordinating the CAPREx (Cambridge-Africa Partnership for Research Excellence) initiative and the ALBORADA Research Fund. Sophia supports the African fellows and their Cambridge mentors/collaborators, arranges the logistics (e.g. UK visas and College accommodation) for fellows visiting Cambridge, and prepares their individual training portfolios. She is therefore a key link between the initiatives and the Cambridge research collaborators/mentors for our CAPREx fellows, CAPREx partners and the various funders/benefactors for the initiatives she coordinates.


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Dr Watu Wamae - Senior Coordinator for the WT-CCGHR

Watu coordinates Wellcome Trust-Cambridge Centre for Global Health Research (WT-CCGHR), which is the Centre supporting Cambridge-Africa's core global health interactions with African partners. She has a particular focus on coordinating the efforts of researchers from the University of Cambridge, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and in some cases clinicians from the Cambridge University Hospitals, to work with African colleagues to understand and solve problems related to maternal, neonatal and reproductive health (MNHR), as well as parasitic and neglected infectious tropical diseases (PNITD) in Africa. Watu also provides support in the general coordination of activities for the wider Cambridge-Africa Programme. She joined the team in September 2015.

Watu trained as a social scientist and brings rich research experience in innovation for social inclusion. She has a grounded understanding of the role of networks in supporting research capabilities in both Africa and Europe. Watu has also previously worked with government and private sector organisations in East Africa on strengthening health systems performance. 


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Corinna Alberg - MUII / THRiVE Programmes Coordinator (Cambridge)

Corinna co-ordinates the Cambridge aspects of the MUII-plus and THRiVE-2  programmes. These programmes develop partnerships between East African Academic institutions and the University of Cambridge to strengthen research capacity. Corinna joined the Cambridge-Africa Programme in August 2016.

Prior to joining the Cambridge-Africa Programme, she worked on a wide variety of projects at the PHG (Population Health and Genomics) Foundation over the past 10 years. These projects included developing a public health needs assessment toolkit to develop services in relation to congenital disorders focusing on low and middle income countries; assessing services for inherited cardiac conditions and making recommendations for improved service development; she undertook similar work on inherited ophthalmology and genetic screening services. She evaluated services aimed at decreasing the risk of inherited disorders amongst communities with high levels consanguineous partnerships in the UK. Other key interests were the mainstreaming of genomics into clinical practice and the ethical implementation of genomic technologies into health services.

Corinna has also worked on primary health care policy development in the UK, health promotion in inner city Manchester and developed materials on mental health risk assessment. She has an undergraduate degree in psychology and postgraduate qualifications in health promotion and health education and in management.

Corinna has a long standing interest in Africa and taught in Kenya in a secondary school.


More info -> MUII website

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Mr Ian Willis - Senior Executive for the WT-CCGHR

Ian holds a Masters degree in Public Health Engineering, and an MBA. He spent twelve years implementing and overseeing public health projects in Africa and the Middle East, notably in Rwanda, Sudan, Ghana, Togo and Benin, as well as the West Bank and Gaza. He also worked on shorter assignments in Morocco, Kenya, and Afghanistan. His work experience includes managing the response to cholera outbreaks, overseeing meningitis immunisation, building gravity-fed systems and other engineering works in Rwanda, health and hygiene promotion in Rwanda and Ghana, being the Deputy Chair of "Hope for African Children" (HACI) Ghana, and supporting the Ministry of Health in the West Bank and Gaza with supply chain management, sentinel and nutritional surveillance, emergency medical training, and support for the disabled.

Following his time in Africa and the Middle East, Ian returned to the UK and worked at the University of Cambridge's Research Operations Office. He then joined the WT-CCGHR in October 2014, to support its global health objectives. Ian’s key interest in the WT-CCGHR is to support the application of science and, where possible, influence policy and health practice in collaboration with the Centre's overseas partners.


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Hawa Sydique

Hawa Sydique – Crosscutting Support

Hawa is a Women’s Economic Empowerment Specialist with extensive International Development experience in girls’ education and women’s economic empowerment in sub-saharan Africa. Her experience includes the management of multi-million dollar projects in programmes such as Leadership and Enterprise, Financial Literacy, Life Skills and Leadership and Health. She also advises international NGO’s on strategy. Her passion lies in fighting against poverty with education, strengthening poor communities, unlocking opportunities for women and driving for sustainable change. Her diverse work experience started in training and development, she was Head of Enterprising Women, helping women to create and grow businesses internationally and spent many years at Goldman Sachs International. Hawa holds an MBA from Imperial College Business School, London, and a Computer Science BSc.

At Cambridge-Africa, Hawa provides vital, part-time support to the team. She helps with the preparation of reports, various administrative and coordinating tasks in relation to hosting African fellows in Cambridge, as well as maintenance of website and social media sites.