PIPs Pioneer Research Peer-mentorship Network at Pwani University
Jade and Ana’s PIPs placement took place at Pwani University, Kilifi, Kenya under the supervision of Dr. Rose Kigathi and Professor Santie De Villiers. This project was a pilot for a larger one, created by ssDNAfrica , the Science Students’ Development Network in Africa. ssDNAfrica’s mission is to enhance undergraduate experience in African universities to create science ambassadors for the future. ssDNAfrica was founded by five graduate students at the University of East Anglia after they took part in the DevSET programme.
The primary aim of the project at Pwani was to provide training workshops to undergraduate students. The workshops covered various topics from finding information to reading scientific papers, and from plagiarism to presenting posters, talks and written reports. Every week a different workshop was run, multiple times, to small groups of students many of whom attended voluntarily. Each week Ana and Jade grew more confident with teaching and the students grew more comfortable with us (despite some initial difficulties with Jade and Ana’s accents).
In addition to running the set of workshops, Jade and Ana delivered surveys to staff and students to analyse the current situation at Pwani and to assess the response to our workshops. They also gave science based lectures and practical sessions and held the a very successful first Pwani University journal club. An enthusiastic group of students hope to set up a journal club society to continue this practice.
The impact of their work could be seen in the culmination of the workshops, a student colloquium. Students were asked to submit abstracts and overwhelmingly twenty five were received. Eight students gave talks and fifteen produced posters. The independent judges had a very hard time deciding on the winners. One stated that ‘they were good enough to send to an international conference!’
It is hoped that future work at Pwani will affirm what was started in this pilot project and that ssDNAfrica can grow to involve other universities across Africa.
Jade and Ana send thanks go to their supervisors at Pwani University, Dr. Rose Kigathi and Prof. Santie De Villiers, to the other founding members of ssDNAfrica, to Jodi Lilley and Matt Heaton for their constant support and to BBSRC for funding the trip through the provision of PIPs placements and the Impact for Acceleration account. A final thank you to Pwani University and every enthusiastic student that took part in the programme!