Meet the 2019/20 IDeAL Postgraduate Diploma Fellows

November 12, 2019

The Postgraduate Diploma Course in Health Research Methods offered jointly by KEMRI – Wellcome Trust Research Programme and Pwani University is a unique learning opportunity that equips recent graduates with theoretical and practical knowledge on the philosophy and practice of research so as to enhance their transition into a research career or further postgraduate training.

The course covers all types of health research from basic biomedical research to social sciences and health system research and provides an opportunity for the students to develop a deep appreciation of the various elements of research through the attachment undertaken in an active research environment. Every year, 15 – 25 young graduates competitively take up these positions which offer a full-tuition scholarship and a monthly stipend.

Meet the 19 young graduates that were successfully selected for the 2019/20 programme.

Lucy Wairimu

My interest in research began when my mum was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. At a very tender age, I didn’t know what this was only to discover that it was an autoimmune disease while pursuing my undergraduate studies. Reading through it in immunology broadened my knowledge and I assisted in teaching my mum on how to manage it. From then, I valued information and how much it can transform lives.

My current PGD project is Access and Utilization of Healthcare Services among Children and Adolescents with Neurological Impairments in Low-Middle-Income countries. I aspire to be a research scientist with a key interest in neurological disorders and the various factors that influence access and utilization of healthcare services in this group of people. Additionally, through scientific research, I aspire to develop health education and promotion models that will inform on proper health-seeking behaviours.’

Lucy is a graduate from the University of Kabianga with a BSc in Environmental Health. She is a licensed public health practitioner where her roles were oriented in prevention, promotion, and protection of health. Tasked as a Community Health Assistant in Busia County, she coordinated primary health care activities, therefore, contributing tremendously towards achieving Universal Health Care.

Maureen Wanjiru Mburu

With a background in Biotechnology and Biosafety, I yearned to solve problems in the health sector through skills and knowledge I had acquired. The opportunity to pursue a Postgraduate Diploma will not only sharpen my skills in research but also help in solving health-related problems.

My research topic is the Biology of Tungiasis; Tunga penetrans genome project. In getting to know the genome of jiggers, researchers will be one step ahead in trying to find the cure for tungiasis. Tungiasis is a Neglected Tropical Disease that mostly affects the resource-poor communities. Treatment of tungiasis means the end of discrimination among children and families that are affected since people who are affected undergo discrimination.

Maureen pursued a Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology and Biosafety at the University of Eldoret. Her research topic is ‘Biology of Tungiasis, Tunga penetrans genome project.’ She looks forward to being an eminent researcher in the health sector and to use the skills obtained to make a positive impact on the health sector. She has interests in Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics.

Ezra Too

During my undergraduate studies, my mental health lecturer spurred my interest in mental health. I observed that mental wellness was one health aspect that had been largely overlooked in Kenya compared to other aspects such as communicable diseases. During my latter years in campus, a close friend contemplated suicide and this prompted me to do something about mental wellness. The opportunity to pursue a Postgraduate Diploma with a project focusing on mental health came at an opportune time for me. It allowed to join a community of researchers who are changing the mental health narrative in Kenya and beyond through research.

My research project is anchored on SDG number 3.4, 3.5 and 3.8 aiming to promote mental health and well-being, strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse and achieve Universal Health Care (UHC) for all by 2030. My project aims to highlight the burden of mental health disorders and substance abuse in our society and eventually influence policymaking with a view of increasing efforts towards addressing mental health and substance abuse in society.

Ezra pursued Nursing and Public Health at Pwani University, then interned at Nakuru Level 5 Hospital, and was later registered and licensed as a nurse. His project is a systematic review and meta-analysis of burden and risk factors for common mental health disorders and substance use disorders among young people living with HIV in Sub Saharan Africa.

Kelvinson Mwangi

Decision making is part of our day to day activities. Better decisions, however, are made based on evidence. As such, assessing the available evidence is critical in the decision-making process. My passion for health research is primarily driven by the significance of evidence in making health-related decisions. Statistical methods are among the many procedures used in evaluating evidence. Therefore, I will use my statistical knowledge to inform decisions that will lead to a healthy nation and continent.

My current research project seeks to investigate the association between malnutrition and malaria in African children. My study findings will inform decisions and policies towards a malaria-free Africa.

Kelvinson holds a BSc. in Applied Statistics with IT from Maseno University. His work focusses on evaluating the association between Malnutrition and Malaria in African children: the effect of malnutrition on malaria-specific antibodies (MSP1 and AMA1) and whether malnutrition influences the natural immunity to malaria.

Audrey Mumbi

Having conducted a great part of my internship in a health facility, I became passionate about health care. During this period I realized I wanted to be part of a research that aims to improve the quality of health care in Kenya, hence my keen interest in Health Research Methods. As a holder of a bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy, I have a keen interest in establishing a career in health systems research. I aspire to pursue a master’s degree in health systems and eventually a PhD in the same and become a renowned health researcher.

Audrey holds a bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy and working on a research project on ‘Examining the policy and implementation of HIV prevention through private retail pharmacies in Kenya’

Yvonne Kamau

Kenya is a low middle-income African country with 43% of the population living in poverty. Health challenges are mostly felt in rural areas and slums where a majority of the residents can hardly afford quality healthcare. Malaria continues to be a major public health problem in most tropical countries. My project is geared towards mass administration of a mosquitocidal drug, ivermectin, consequently eliminating malaria. This goes hand in hand with achieving SDG #3 by ending the malaria epidemic thus ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being for all at all ages. My interests lie on the impact of health policies on the achievement of quality, affordable, accessible and equal health for all.

Yvonne is a Bachelor of Pharmacy graduate from the University of Nairobi, where she earned a Distinction, in December 2017. Prior to becoming a PGD fellow, she interned at Machakos Level 5 Hospital where she gained clinical and administrative skills.

Solomon Njenga

I have statistical skills that I acquired during my undergraduate studies. I am motivated to apply my skills in the field of research to collect data, analyze, present and above all be able to draw useful inferences from the data. I am interested in solving problems in the health research sector in the Kenyan and African context at large. I hope to help solve Kenya’s health challenges and make sound decisions backed by statistical data and evidence.

Solomon holds a BSC. Degree in Mathematics and Economics, with IT, from Maseno University. Prior to becoming a PGD student, he interned at Kenya Forestry Research Institute-Central Highlands Eco-region Research Programme (KEFRI-CHERP) -Headquarters in the Biometrics and GIS department. 

Moses Mwamburi

I always aspired to be a research scientist. In high school, I had a strong interest in biology and chemistry owing to their practicality in tackling issues such as pollution and disease. It was the wide scope of research capabilities that attracted me to Analytical Chemistry; from being able to identify and isolate medicinal compounds from plants to carrying out forensic analyses-it felt like an open sea of exciting things to do as a chemist. In the fourth year of my undergraduate studies, I got exposed to the overlaps between analytical chemistry and biomedical research, and I knew it was the direction for me. The fact that I didn’t major in biological research means that I am in need for mentorship and guidance which is the reason I applied for the studentship, which has been a godsend in terms of addressing both of my needs.

My research project is anchored to SDG #3 (Good Health and Well-being) as it aims to develop an epidemiological tool for determining the malaria transmission capacity of mosquito populations as well as the efficiency of vector control interventions.

Moses holds a Bachelor’s degree in Analytical Chemistry from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. His key interest is on the application of analytical chemistry techniques in vector biology studies as an evidence-based approach towards the prevention of morbidity and mortality in Africa. He is also interested in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He is keen on furthering his studies to postdoctorate levels and eventually into a high impact research career.

Peninah Wanjiku Wachira

My curiosity towards science started when I was very young, in high school I participated in the Science and Engineering Fair. The innovative nature of science and research concerning human health and discoveries all together intrigue me. 

My interest is in considerably in neglected topics of public health concern and vulnerable groups, in this case, epilepsy: its treatment and effects particularly on the outcomes of pregnancy.

Peninah pursued BSc. in Environmental Health (Public Health) at Moi University. She has volunteered at Kilifi County Referral Hospital in the Public Health Department where she gained various skills in; primary health care promotion initiatives, disease surveillance and response, immunization, public health and sanitation, licensing and regulation of entities that sell food to the public among others. 

Mary Wanja Njoroge 

I have always been passionate about science since I was young and this made me join science clubs, participate in scientific symposiums and top my class during scientific contests. During my internship at the National AIDS Control Council, I was introduced to research methods and I felt the need to improve my research skills to enable me to conduct meaningful research in future. My efforts to realise this goal led to my application for the Post-graduate Diploma in Research, at KEMRI-Wellcome Trust.

My research is on confidence in science and vaccination coverage. I seek to find out the extent to which vaccination coverage is correlated to how populations feel about science and health globally (including vaccines and vaccination). Some vaccines have sub-optimal coverage in several countries due to health system weaknesses, vaccine stock-outs and vaccine hesitancy whose impact is being seen with the resurgence of measles in the US and several European countries. This is a setback to the gains made towards achieving immunization goals. I aspire to be a global health researcher as I inform interventions to address confidence gaps and association with vaccination coverage and advance my research career. My interests are public health research, epidemiology and vaccine studies

Mary pursued a BSc. in Environmental Health (Public Health) at Moi University. She interned at the National AIDS Control Council where she gained skills in HIV literature search, data analysis and reporting. Previously, she was an attache at the Bungoma County Referral Hospital where she gained practical skills in immunization activities and disease surveillance. 

Alfred Githuka Mburu 

Diagnosis is a key factor in health provision as successive interventions rely on its effectiveness, therefore continuous improvements in diagnostic approaches translate to better health promotion. I desire to contribute to this area that attracted me to research. My study project ‘Diagnosis of acute infections through microarray-based analysis of antibodies in lymphocyte supernatant Embraces that approach and is going to be a vital pillar in gaining knowledge and skills in the said field.’

Alfred is a young aspiring health researcher with a background in Medical Laboratory Science from Kisii University. He was first attached to Thika Level 5 Hospital in his undergraduate and later duly licensed as a Laboratory Officer.

Ken Muriithi

My interest in the field of Tungiasis was first roused during my volunteer ship period at Pwani University Bioscience Research Center (PUBREC), where I majored in one of the molecular biology projects in the lab. With time, I found myself wanting to garner more skills and use the latest molecular techniques to improve population health. The PGD program was an excellent opportunity for me to academically grow and appreciate a subject (molecular biology) which I find both interesting and innovative.

I believe that the program will be a great opportunity for me to interact and network with leading scientists as well as deepen my skills in the field of biosciences. I too expect that this program will enhance my opportunities for masters registration, which I plan to do in pursuit of a career in research.

Ken has an academic background in BSc. (Microbiology) from Pwani University.  His focus is to obtain a high-quality DNA from Tunga penetrans, sequence it and carry out the sequence analysis.


Gideon Mbithi

I have had a keen interest in science since I was young. My best subjects at my primary level were Science and Mathematics and in my secondary level Biology and Mathematics. All I wanted since my childhood was to go to university to study a science course and that’s the reason I decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Geospatial Information Science. In short, GIS is the science of “where”, “when” and “how”. The course gave me a strong foundation in matters research. It is through the exposure I got at my undergraduate level, that I started developing a strong passion for research.

The project that I am working on entails assessing secular trends in the incidence and outcome of head injuries admitted to Kilifi County Hospital (2002-2018) in Kenya, due to the increased number of motor vehicles on our roads and increasing road-related deaths. The study will provide data to aid in modelling TBI incidence in Sub- Saharan Africa as current estimates are based on limited data.

Gideon has a bachelor’s degree in Geospatial Information Science from Maseno University. He did his industrial attachment at Directorate of Resource Surveys and Remote Sensing (DRSRS) where he acquired skills on spatial analysis, data presentation and cartography. His research interests are disease mapping, spatial modelling and using GIS to better understand public health in relation to medical geography. He aspires to major his studies on remote sensing technologies. 

Pauline King’ori

My research project involves conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies focusing on vitamin D status and lower respiratory tract infections.

This project will contribute to ending preventable deaths, especially among children under five years of age. I hope to interact with researchers and to develop skills that would be helpful in my career advancement. I am passionate about biomedical research and aim to pursue further studies to understand infectious diseases and to improve global health.

Pauline graduated with BSc. Biomedical Science and Technology from Egerton University. She was attached at the Central Veterinary Laboratories-Kabete during her undergraduate studies where she learned different procedures related to animal health research. Her experience at this institution triggered her interest to pursue a career in biomedical research.

Millicent Makandi 

Growing up, I loved calculating sums and figuring out new ways of getting solutions which made me feel motivated and empowered. This has always inspired me to get into a career that is challenging and makes a difference in people’s lives. During my internship at Embu teaching and referral hospital, I dealt with many aspects of health care where I felt the need to be a contributor of keeping current medical trends to enhance evidence-based practice to provide the best care to the patients. I was incredibly fortunate to interact with the research world while working as a research assistant where I realized this would be the best platform to bring the change that I always dreamt of.

I aspire to be a global health research leader and promote evidence based reproductive-health. I hope to gain new insights, come up with innovative solutions to health problems and contribute in strengthening capacities to materialize universal health coverage.

Millicent pursued a BSc. in Nursing and Public Health at Pwani University. She interned at Embu Teaching and Referral Hospital where she saw the importance of evidence-based practices for health care providers to offer better health care. She hopes to gain new insights, come up with innovative solutions to health problems and contribute to strengthening capacities to materialize universal health coverage. Her interest is in strengthening health systems to offer quality care. 

Anita Kerubo 

Growing up, I had to take care of someone who had epilepsy and I noticed the lack of awareness regarding the disease as well as the financial toll it had on my family. I want to be a part of the community that answers questions and brings a change that counts to the less privileged.

My research is on the incidence of epilepsy. Epilepsy is a chronic non-communicable disease of the brain that accounts for a significant proportion of the world’s disease burden. Knowing this, one of the research aims is to reduce premature deaths of epileptic persons by communicating the most reliable method of calculating incidence and recommending ways of accessing quality health services and creating awareness in the affected areas.

Anita is a graduate from Maseno University with a degree in Applied Statistics with IT and an alumnus of Mama Ngina High School. Her current research work focuses on the reliability of using recall of onset of seizures to calculate the incidence of epilepsy. This studentship is the beginning of her career journey in Research and Science and aspires to be part of the solution wherever she goes by having an open mind and uniting with other people who have similar goals.

Lilian Walala

I was always interested in science, hence my decision to pursue Microbiology for my undergraduate studies. Later on, I was introduced to research and the thought of filling in the gaps and answering questions facing the society captivated my mind. With my background in Microbiology, I saw that there was still a lot to be done in terms of medical research i.e. finding vaccines for catastrophic diseases in Africa and the world at large.

This studentship has been a dream come true for me, as I expect that it is going to lay a great foundation in my aspiration to become an accomplished researcher someday. I hope that the time I will spend at the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Program will present a good opportunity for me to learn and gain knowledge and above all network and meet fellow scientists who have already made milestones in the research field.

Lilian graduated from The University of Nairobi with a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and Biotechnology.  She is an alumnus of Moi Girl’s School Nairobi. During her time in campus, she got an opportunity to be attached at the Center for Microbiology Research in KEMRI where she was first exposed to research. She did her internship at the National Public Health Laboratories in Nairobi. She hopes to use her expertise in microbiology to improve human health across the globe. Her main interest lies in the area of immunology and molecular biology. Her aim is to be a part of the next frontier of scientists who will come up with an effective vaccine for malaria.

Margaret Chifwete 

My interests are mainly in immunology and in the malaria vaccine development, and my project will explore further the contribution of non-falciparum malaria to the overall malaria disease burden.

Having done my undergraduate attachment at KEMRI-Wellcome Trust, the science and research environment gave me an urge to pursue a health research career. I aspire to grow in immunological research and pursue postgraduate training for further advancement in my career.

Margaret holds a bachelor’s degree in BSc. Biotechnology. She is working on a project to determine the prevalence of non-falciparum malaria in Kilifi and Western Kenya. 

Edwin Dzoro

My interest in research began while I was pursuing my undergraduate degree. I am a firm believer in the role of research in solving today’s challenges. Coming from a country with high poverty levels, healthcare remains a major challenge.  Through Health Systems Research I aim to develop an understanding of the dynamics between various stakeholders in order to ensure the provision of adequate healthcare services to Kilifi county, as well as the proper formulation of the policies that govern the operations and the resource allocation that goes into the health sector.

Edwin pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Statistics at the University of Nairobi, followed by an internship at the County Government of Kilifi. His project is on Examining the operations and functioning of county health stakeholders’ forum in the context of devolution in Kenya. His research interest centres around health systems and health policy. He aspires to advance his career around the areas of human health research, specializing in health services research.