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



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.



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.



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.


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)


Current place of employment

International Centre for Tropical Agriculture- CIAT

Position at place of employment

Plant Pathologist

Email address



I work as a Cassava Pathologist (Asia) for the International Center for Tropic Agriculture-CIAT ( 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.   




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.



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.




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!


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. 


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.


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.


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.


Chioma Rita Achi


Full name Dr Chioma Achi
PhD project Genomic diversity and antimicrobial resistance in Salmonella isolates recovered from diverse sources in Nigeria
PhD Supervisor (Department) Professor Mark Holmes
Year of completion   2022



I share my time between the United Kingdom and Nigeria. I am a Scientific Project Co-Lead for the Ineos Oxford Institute of Antimicrobial Research and this role involves traveling across project sites. I welcomed an addition to the family in the past year, and it has been an exciting time.


I got into Cambridge on my third application - an indication that I had always had my mind on Cambridge, so, I came in with an open mind. I had some idea of what I wanted to do during my PhD, though I wasn’t completely certain of what to expect across the board; I was sure I wanted to make the most of my being there.

 Cambridge is a great place full of curious and supportive people. I found it strange at first being asked by almost everyone I came across about my PhD topic and what problems it aimed to solve - I recall giving a different answer to anyone who cared to know in my first year, not because I did not know what I was doing, but because my research topic itself was evolving. As days and weeks went by, we (with the support of my PhD supervisor) refined and redefined my PhD topic and the methodologies. Now, I can look back with pride at the immense amount of work that went into it, together with all the learning, and high and low moments.

 As mentioned above, I approached Cambridge with a completely open mind, and I must say, I enjoyed most part of my being there. I was involved in many aspects of the Cambridge Students’ life. I was Postgraduate Students’ representative in my department for one year. This role allowed me to interact closely with colleagues and faculty and to sit on the Graduate Education Committee. I also took part in many College activities. Living in the family apartment of Churchill College with my young family allowed us to build friendships with other student families from many countries; some of these friendships have transcended our being in Cambridge. I was also an Academic Officer for Churchill College MCR for almost three years. Being an Academic Officer gave me an insight into the majority of academic research conducted at Churchill College and an opportunity to enjoy academic talks over wine, cheese and biscuits most Wednesdays in College. In addition, I also had the Cambridge Africa family that made Cambridge feel more like home for me. Locked down in Cambridge during the COVID-19 pandemic, the weekly Cambridge Africa touch base, then with fellow Scholars and late Dr Amit Bhasin brought us closer as a family and made the effect of the lockdown more bearable and manageable for most Cambridge Scholars.

 I wasn’t just only a social butterfly while at Cambridge; I worked hard in other aspects, too – of course, you can’t progress to the next year at Cambridge if you don’t make good progress in the previous year. In my first year, I won the Churchill College Enterprise competition, the Isaac Newton/Cambridge Global Food Security Travel Grant in my first and second year of PhD, the ABCAM research prize for PhDs and Postdocs at the Department of Veterinary Medicine, prize for Best Oral presentation at the British Veterinary Public Health Association conference of 2019, the Public Health England Antibiotic Guardian Award – Students category, and the University of Cambridge Vice Chancellors Award for Research Impact and Engagement for Early Career Researchers 2020. So, I can confidently say I had a rewarding and enjoyable experience at Cambridge.



At my PhD graduation, I was given a tote bag with an inscription that says “The people who arrive in this city change Cambridge. The ideas that leave this city change the world.” This, I would say, has been the summary of my experience since leaving Cambridge.

My PhD at Cambridge better prepared me to face the world, so I am ever more confident taking up challenges. Immediately after submitting my PhD thesis, I took up a job as a Postdoctoral Research Associate for Antimicrobial Research at the INEOS-Institute for Antimicrobial Research at the University of Oxford as Scientific Lead for Nigeria. It was not an easy task setting up the IOI projects in Nigeria, but I am glad that with the support of colleagues and collaborators, we have now got the ball rolling.

The research we conduct at the IOI involves working with collaborators across sites and countries, and the experience has been rewarding. I am Scientific Lead for Nigeria, supporting the research we do across 8 sites in Nigeria. I am also co-lead for the AVIAR (arthropods and antimicrobial research research) study at the IOI. In July 2023, I received an upgrade from Postdoctoral Research Associate to Scientific Project Co-lead at the IOI, which is exciting and a testament to hardwork thus far. I have also built a strong network of collaborators both within the UK and in Nigeria, some of which include working on the Fish Genomics project with collaborators from the Royal Holloway University and Royal Veterinary College, University of Oxford, and many other universities and on the Nigeria Mpox project with collaborators from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the University of Oxford and other Nigerian collaborators.

I have also had the opportunity to consult for the World Bank on Antimicrobial Resistance. I will stop here, but I am optimistic for even a brighter and more successful future.

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

Enjoy and make the most of your time at Cambridge. The PhD journey might be tough and lonely and it could sometimes feel as though it would never end. But, do remember there is always light at the end of the tunnel, and at the end, you will be proud of all your accomplishments for the rest of your life. Also make friends while you are there, do all the reading, but also find time to enjoy the Cambridge Students life so you are not alone by yourself – good friends will be there for life.

Lastly, ask for help if needed, and don’t struggle alone – Cambridge is a big place, and it might be easy to feel lost, so please don’t suffer in silence.


David Chukwuma Izuogu

Margaret Kerubo Ontita