Maria, a research technician with the ILRI Biotech theme is passionate about science, specifically animal research and enjoys every minute of her work. From the time she was young she always aspired to be a scientist and it was not by chance or a mistake that she studied Bachelor of science Bsc (Biochemistry, zoology) for her undergraduate at University of Nairobi and later her masters in Msc. Applied Parasitology, where she characterized Hydroxyl ethyl thiazole kinase gene of Plasmodium falciparum (an enzyme unique to the parasite and absent in the host) as a possible novel drug target at the same university.
Soon after her studies, Maria got an internship opportunity at ILRI in 2010 where she worked in the AVID project and was later on employed as a research technician in the same project where she worked on sample preparation for whole genome sequencing and optimization of primers.
In her position at AVID she learnt how to carry out whole genome sequencing using 454 next generation sequencer, a fairly new, less than 2 years old technique where in Africa is only used in Kenya and South Africa. Fascinated by this new technique that enables one to carry out high throughput sequencing and by the words of her mentor Prof. Irungu, who constantly encouraged her to aim higher in her career she applied for an AusAID scholarship and was successful in her application.
She commences her PhD studies this July at Deakin University, Australia which will focus on whole genome SNPs analysis of Culicoides, an insect that causes Blue Tongue disease. Currently very little information about this disease in Kenya is available, yet from her field work in Busia and Marigat in Kenya, she has observed a significant presence of the vector of this disease. Through her study, she hopes to establish the vectorial capacity of the Culicoides species in Kenya in order to ascertain the threat posed by their presence in Kenya.
Maria credits her ILRI supervisor Dr. Steve Kemp who has been very supportive of her work, enabling her to achieve immense growth in her scientific career in the last 2 years and even now when she embarks on her dream journey to attain her PhD.