Cambridge-Africa

2017 - 2018 Cohort

 

These are photos of the third cohort of PhD students sponsored by Cambridge-Africa when they started in the academic year 2017/2018.

Starting from top left: Esther, Warren, Chioma, David and Margaret (in the centre). 

Find out what they are upto below:

Esther IMG 9379

Esther Anwuzia

 

Full name Esther Anwuzia
PhD project Understanding Adolescents' Career Decision-Making and Career Wellbeing in Nigeria: A Mixed-Methods Study
PhD Supervisor (Department)

Dr Ros McLell, Department of Education

Year of completion   2021
Email  

 

WHERE ARE YOU AT THE MOMENT? 

I am currently a Postdoc at Bournemouth University on an EU project titled SPEED-You-UP, tackling inequality and deprivation in coastal communities in England, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, through an innovative entrepreneurship programme for young people at risk of early school leaving and those not in employment, education, or training.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR TIME AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE

 

You might want to share a bit about your background and what you were like when you started university. How did your interest in your subject come about and what factors led you to Cambridge? What are your enduring memories of your programme, broader student life, work, or extra-curricular activities? Many of you started initiatives and won several awards while still at Cambridge - please mention them here.

I never envisioned myself in the UK, much less as a PhD student at Cambridge. It was not until after my master’s programme that I considered the possibility of leaving Nigeria for further studies.

My PhD in Education examined the process of young people’s career decision-making and self-actualisation and the influential role of parents and teachers. I was curious (still am) about what kind of home and school environment facilitates or prevents a young person’s awareness of their potential, talent, and strengths, given children’s socio-economic backgrounds and the predominant cultural values of social and parental expectations, and social comparison in Nigeria.

With no prior experience in the UK education system, I struggled with the imposter syndrome. However, my PhD supervisor and friends within and outside the BAME Cambridge community made life bearable. Meeting and interacting with fellow female African PhD students inspired me throughout my time in Cambridge, and I’m glad I can now call some of them friends. I conducted extensive fieldwork in Nigeria for nine months and found my affiliation with Cambridge University helpful in forging and strengthening new connections. In 2018, I received the Cambridge Grand Challenges award for an internship at Heathrow International Airport, which allowed me to apply my academic knowledge and skills in industry.

 

TELL US ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE SINCE LEAVING THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE

I began my current postdoc role in October 2021, immediately after submitting my PhD thesis and moved to Bournemouth in the same month with my husband and then 4-month-old daughter. I grappled with different life transitions, all new to me – a first-time mum, my first post-PhD job, and a new town. It was challenging. I had my daughter in June 2021 while writing up my thesis, but I was determined to submit it by the September 2021 deadline.

Recovering from the C-section was an arduous experience; the support from my husband, mum, and other relatives at the time of my delivery was a blessing, and I managed to complete my thesis. My mum moved with us to Bournemouth but shortly returned to Nigeria. It was then up to my husband and me to adjust to our new life. The desire to prove myself as deserving and capable of my job and a mum whose daughter could depend on unfailingly often clashed. Slowly but not so steadily, I began to settle into both domains.

Although every day since then has felt like a whirlwind of different emotions, expectations, and demands, I am thankful for the milestones achieved so far, like surviving the first year of being a mum, passing my Viva, publishing the first paper from my PhD, successfully leading the impact evaluation of the SPEED-You-UP project in the UK, and being endorsed for the Global Talent Visa by The British Academy. My daughter is now 19 months old and continues to be more beautiful and spirited. Learning in every aspect of life is endless, but I have grown in confidence as an academic and a mum, and hopeful for new heights.

ALUMNI WISDOM (what can you tell current Cambridge-Africa PhD scholars)

Your PhD research and Viva are major targets but not the entirety of your PhD. The people you will meet and connections you will make will outlast your PhD, and some will be bridges into the next phase. You will miss home, family and friends you’ve left behind but look forward with hope and conviction that this moment will translate into outstanding rewards for you and your generation.

Publications

Anwuzia, E., & McLellan, R. (2022). The Role of Teachers in Adolescents’ Career-Specific Future Orientation. Cambridge Educational Research e-Journal, 9, 258-270. https://doi. org/10.17863/CAM.90565

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Warren Arinaitwe

Full name

Warren Arinaitwe

Department where you did your PhD

Plant Sciences

PhD supervisor

Professor John P. Carr

Title of PhD thesis

Virus-induced effects on aphid-host interactions in Solanaceous plants

Year of study

(start year – finish year)

2017-2021

Current place of employment

International Centre for Tropical Agriculture- CIAT

Position at place of employment

Plant Pathologist

Email address

w.arinaitwe@cgiar.org

 

WHERE ARE YOU AT THE MOMENT?

I work as a Cassava Pathologist (Asia) for the International Center for Tropic Agriculture-CIAT (https://alliancebioversityciat.org/who-we-are/warren-arinaitwe). I am married to Viola and together we have two boys-Timothy (14 years) and Nathanael (12 years) and a girl – Tabitha (11 years). We all live in Vientiane, Laos PDR. I love cycling - a hobby I picked during COVID lockdowns in the UK.   

 

 

TELL US ABOUT YOUR TIME AT THE UNIVERSITY

I was born and raised in a small mixed-farming community in Southwestern Uganda. I enjoyed farming crops and tending animals at a tender age, but never thought I would study plants up to PhD level and more so at the University of Cambridge. Like every Ugandan child, I aspired to becoming a medical doctor. I worked hard towards this goal. In the end, I could not join medical school because of a low grade in physics. That is how I ended up in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Makerere University (Kampala), where I obtained a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture in 2005 and later a Master of Crop Science in 2014.

Between 2005 and 2017 when I began studies at the Department of Plant Sciences, I worked as an agricultural officer with the Government of Uganda and a legume associate pathologist with CIAT supporting integrated crop management projects for common beans in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Professors John Carr, Christopher Gillian, and David Baulcombe of the Department of Plant Sciences, Cambridge had a collaborative project with CIAT (Uganda) on sustainable management of common bean viruses from 2012 to 2016 where I was instrumental in field experiments and data management. At the end of the project in 2016, I asked John Carr about the possibility of a PhD studentship in plant virology. He encouraged me to apply and provided valuable information on available scholarships, colleges, and feasible research topics. This is how I got accepted into the Department and Corpus Christi College on a Cambridge-Africa scholarship.

The collegiate system was a perfect ecosystem for me to grow into a great experimentalist, thrive socially through student associations, and establish lifetime connections with fellow students, visiting scientists, and university researchers.  During my PhD, I got several grants to conduct agricultural outreach activities in Uganda, where I trained over 200 farmers on climate-smart agriculture. In 2021, I received an equipment grant from the Cambridge-Africa Alborada Research Fund to establish a mobile soil testing platform at CIAT Uganda. The soil testing kit has since been rolled out to Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo where CIAT is supporting the bean value chain.

 

TELL US ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCES SINCE LEAVING THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE

As a family, we relocated from Uganda to Southeast Asia at the start of 2022 to begin work with CIAT Asia. At first, we struggled to cope with the new culture, spicy food, and language but we adapted quickly.    

As a pathologist for CIAT-Asia cassava program. I oversee research projects aimed at making cassava production systems more climate-smart, efficient, and resilient against transboundary pests and diseases. I engage with national agricultural research institutions in partner countries in monitoring, characterization, and management of key cassava pests and diseases. I conduct pre-emptive disease management research for Africa and the Americas in preparation for future disease outbreaks.   

I have established the first state-of-the-art regional cassava molecular pathology laboratory in Lao PDR. The cassava molecular laboratory is already pioneering groundbreaking work on characterisation of witches’ broom diseases, a highly transmissible and transboundary cassava disease endemic to Southeast Asia that has been misdiagnosed for over 20 years leading to misuse of chemicals, including antibiotics. The molecular laboratory supports cassava breeding and seed systems by testing mother plants and planting materials to ensure the multiplication and distribution of disease-free materials. The laboratory is involved in validation of molecular diagnostic technology developed in collaboration with interdisciplinary research groups across the globe and shares them with partner countries/institutions in Southeast Asia. It also serves as a regional training hub, where local scientists (through regional workshops) and post-secondary students (via local and international internship programs) are equipped with plant disease diagnostic skills. We are open to hosting interns from anywhere, (and Cambridge too!)!

In September 2023, the lab hosted the first international workshop in the region on disease diagnostics attracting experts and participants from Europe, the Americas, Australia, Africa, and Asia. We believe such intercontinental exchanges of expertise, tools, and ideas will cumulatively galvanize local capacity to counter current and emerging transboundary pests and disease outbreaks and support decisions to develop and deploy integrated disease management strategies that can be adapted globally.

 

 

ALUMNI WISDOM

If you could offer a piece of advice, a tip or simply some words of encouragement to those who have travelled from their home countries in Africa to undertake their PhD at the University of Cambridge, what would it be?

The PhD journey can be lonely, and may not be easy, but it is fulfilling. Make your research a priority, but also enjoy the rich student life at Cambridge. The first-year viva is very difficult for everyone, including native English speakers. It is OK to feel inadequate as you prepare for it!

Publications 

Pardo, J. M., Chittarath, K., Vongphachanh, P., Hang, L. T., Oeurn, S.,

Arinaitwe, W., Rodriguez, R., Sophearith, S., Malik, A.I, and Cuellar, W. J.

(2023). Cassava Witches’ Broom Disease in Southeast Asia: A Review of Its

Distribution and Associated Symptoms. Plants, 12(11), 2217.https://www.mdpi.com/2223-7747/12/11/2217 

 

Arinaitwe, W., Tungadi, T.D., Pate, A.E., Joyce, J., Baek, E., Murphy, A.M.

and Carr, J.P (2023). Induction of aphid resistance in tobacco by the

cucumber mosaic virus CMV∆ 2b mutant is jasmonate‐dependent.

Molecular Plant Pathology, 24(4), pp.391-395. https://bsppjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/mpp.13305

 

Arinaitwe, W., Guyon, A., Tungadi, T.D., Cunniffe, N.J., Rhee, S.J., Khalaf,

A., Mhlanga, N.M., Pate, A.E., Murphy, A.M. and Carr, J.P. (2022). The

effects of cucumber mosaic virus and its 2a and 2b proteins on interactions

of tomato plants with the aphid vectors Myzus persicae and Macrosiphum

euphorbiae. Viruses, 14(8), p.1703. https://www.mdpi.com/1999-4915/14/8/1703

 

Carr, J.P., Tungadi, T., Donnelly, R., Bravo-Cazar, A., Rhee, S.J., Watt, L.G.,

Mutuku, J.M., Wamonje, F.O., Murphy, A.M., Arinaitwe, W. and Pate, A.E.

(2020). Modeling and manipulation of aphid-mediated spread of non-persistently transmitted viruses. Virus Research, 277, p.197845. http://34.250.91.188:8080/xmlui/handle/123456789/1378

Chioma Rita Achi

David Chukwuma Izuogu

Margaret Kerubo Ontita