Pilar’s PIPS Placement
During the first 6 weeks of my Professional Internship (PIPs) at the BecA-ILRI Hub in Nairobi (Kenya) I have been mainly involved in capacity building activities primarily in Bioinformatics and Data Management.
Through the African Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF), the BecA-ILRI Hub provides access to world class laboratories for African scientists conducting research on African agricultural challenges, including a wide variety of crops and livestock species. Most of my time I have been mentoring some of the African scientists currently here on different aspects of their research. First, I organised a 3h weekly training course on transcriptome data analysis for 5-6 fellows using the HPC facilities on site. I have done 1-to-1 support to several fellows on analysing Genotyping by Sequencing data, performing Genome Association Studies, identifying tools to do Population genetics studies and general assistance on R. I have also advised in a project to further characterise Theileria parva infection that causes East Coast Fever using genomic tools. These experiences have helped me develop intuitive guides to use different bioinformatics tools that I have made openly available to the bioinformatics team and have improved dramatically my teaching skills.
I was also part of a workshop titled ‘Advancing cereals genetic research using latest genomic and germplasm resources’ co-organised by JIC and BecA. The 4-day workshop (31st January – 3rd February) held 20 participants from 5 different countries. I helped organising the workshop and delivered a session on assessing natural variation in cereal genomes and a practical session on using Biomart to query genome features. Despite the challenges to teach such a diverse and heterogeneous group, it was a very positive experience for both the participants and organisers, as we got to hear about the agricultural and research challenges these scientists faced in their countries. We got very positive feedback from it and participants are already incorporating some of the tools and resources we introduced on their research.
Finally, I had the opportunity to be part of the BBSRC workshop on the sustainable intensification of agricultural systems in sub-Saharan Africa that took place at the BecA-ILRI Hub on 13-15 March. The workshop brought together UK and African scientists to define potential future funding opportunities from the UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund. It was a particularly interesting event to be part of as a PhD student, as I got to attend discussion groups and see all the parts in action to identify and explore research challenges faced by African agriculture.