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First OWSD Early Career Fellows Selected

December 10, 2018

Twenty women scientists will receive research grants under the new OWSD Early Career fellowship programme.

OWSD announces the selection of the first cohort of the OWSD Early Career fellowshipship programme. Twenty women scientists from 12 countries in the developing world will receive up to USD 50,000 to lead research projects at their home institutes, and to build up research groups that will attract international visitors. Funding for the fellowship is generously provided by Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC). 

The first Early Career fellows were selected from a highly competitive pool of candidates based on the strength of their research proposals and their proven scientific excellence as well as leadership skills. They range from a Cameroonian agricultural scientist studying how to improve larvae yield in African river prawns, to a Sri Lankan biochemist aiming to improve early detection of severe dengue fever, to a Congolese physicist creating an energy microgrid system in her country using biofuels generated from solar heat and biomass. 

Meet all the 2018 Early Career fellows below. 

See a press release about the Early Career fellow in French at bottom. 

L-R: Abeer Al-Qatati, Elizabeth Bandason, Pendo Bigambo, Gamou Fall, Claire D'Andre Hirwa

L-R: Nimanthi JayathilakaDimanthi Vihanga JayatilakeLilian Daniel KaaleHemu Kharel KafleEmilia Enjema Lyonga

L-R: Judith Georgette Makombu-NgueguimRosemary NalwangaMaryse Dadina Nkoua NgavoukaSiana NkyaShobha Poudel

L-R: Mashura Shammi, Seblework Mekonen ShegenKassaye Tolessa ShergeMunawar SultanaMeththika Suharshini Vithanage



Abeer Al-Qatati


Stuctural, cell and molecular biology

Her research aims to investigate the significance of the TBX2 and TBX3 genes as novel molecular targets for breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. It will investigate patients with high expression of these genes in order to determine a profile of their micro RNA, which can be used to develop a potential biomarker for breast cancer diagnosis and prognosis.

Elizabeth Bandason


Biological systems and organisms

Her research focuses on the biological control of insects. Currently, she is studying the diamondback moth, a major vegetable crop pest in Malawi that causes crop losses of 50-100% and has attracted intensive use of toxic insecticides. Her research will explore alternative control methods to effectively reduce the pesticide load in vegetables and the environment.

Pendo Bigambo


Engineering sciences

Her research focuses on using nanoprocessing technology to develop a new way to produce nanofibers from cotton-based waste fabrics, providing an alternative to environmentally-damaging textile disposal processes such as landfill. She is also investigating the potential application of sisal fibres in garment manufacturing.

Gamou Fall


Medical and Health Sciences

Her research is focused on arbovirus-vector interactions, especially on the role of mosquito saliva in the transmission of Rift Valley fever virus. Her objective is to identify and characterize mosquito saliva proteins that play crucial roles in the transmission of the virus, in order to develop new means to control transmission.

Claire D’Andre Hirwa


Agricultural Sciences

Her research focuses on promoting exotic chicken rearing in Rwanda, through a Participatory Action Research (PAR) project on smallholder chicken farming that aims to improve farmers’ knowledge of effective chicken management and increase access to improved chicken genotypes.

Nimanthi Jayathilaka

Sri Lanka

Medical and Health Sciences

Her research focuses on identifying early markers of the severity of dengue fever. She currently studies patterns of micro RNA expression during early phases of dengue infection that differ between patients who later develop severe dengue and those who don’t, as well as predictive markers of oxidative stress. She aims to develop diagnostic tools that can be used in resource-limited settings to detect such early biomarkers of severe dengue and allow for early intervention that can significantly reduce dengue-related mortality.

Dimanthi Vihanga Jayatilake

Sri Lanka

Agricultural Sciences

Her research focuses on the development of gel-based markers for use in the screening of rice germplasm in technology-limited countries, in order to more efficiently and more accurately identify genes and quantitative trait loci responsible for biotic stress resistance and abiotic stress tolerance in rice. This enables rice breeders to develop new varieties able to produce high yields under stressful environmental conditions.

Lilian Daniel Kaale


Agricultural Sciences

Her research focuses on the extraction of antifungal compounds from locally available plant materials – in particular essential oils from orange peels, chia leaves, and ocimum suave and gel extract from aloe vera – and on evaluating their effectiveness in preventing the growth and production of aflatoxins in maize and groundnuts, which cause major losses to these agricultural commodities in Tanzania and other developing countries.

Hemu Kharel Kafle


Astronomy, Earth and Space Sciences

Her research focuses on the assessment of drought in Nepal and its impact on food and water availability in the country. Currently, she is developing a tool to monitor drought in South Asia using combined satellite and meteorological datasets, with the goal of earlier detection and prediction of drought in time to minimize its impact.

Emilia Enjema Lyonga


Medical and Health Sciences

Her research is focused on identifying the genetic mutation that renders the Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria resistant to many antimicrobial agents, leading to therapeutic failure. Klebsiella pneumoniae is medically known as one of the most important opportunistic pathogens, causing hospital-acquired and healthcare-associated infections worldwide.

Judith Georgette Makombu-Ngueguim


Agricultural Sciences

Her research focuses on developing improved larviculture methods for the giant African river prawn Macrobrachium vollenhovenii, an overexploited species that sustains commercial fisheries in most of West Africa and the main candidate for African prawn aquaculture. The key constraint of the development of Africa prawn culture is the lack of seed (postlarvae). Her project aims to boost the production of postlarvae in hatcheries from 3-9% to 30-40%, making postlarvae much more readily available to farmers.

Rosemary Nalwanga


Medical and Health Sciences

Her research project will develop ceramic filters made from locally available materials – in particular the Neem and Moringa plants – to replace silver colloidal for treatment of household drinking water in underprivileged communities in Uganda. The project also involves training of women in slums in use of the new filters. The project is to be implemented in partnership with a private sector company that will be responsible for designing and constructing prototypes of the filters.

Maryse Dadina Nkoua Ngavouka

Republic of the Congo


Her research focuses largely on energy production from biofuels and solar panels. Her project produces biofuel through the integration of solar heat in a parabolic concentrator into thermochemical processes of biomass (e.g. algae). The main objective of her research project is to create an affordable and sustainable microgrid energy system for Congolese communities.

Siana Nkya


Structural, Cell and Molecular Biology

Her research focuses on the use of genomics in understanding and developing interventions for Sickle Cell Disease in Africa. Her project will produce a portable, simple to use and affordable DNA-based diagnostic assay for the diagnosis of hemoglobinopathies, disorders resulting from genetic defects that cause structural abnormalities in the hemoglobin molecule which are widespread in Tanzania.

Shobha Poudel


Agricultural Sciences

Her research focuses on the cost-benefit analysis of Climate-smart Agriculture (CSA) in the different agro-ecological zones of Nepal. She aims to better inform smallholder farmers about the economic profitability as well as the social and environmental benefits of CSA practices that are imperative for them to make informed decisions.

Mashura Shammi


Chemical Sciences

Her research focuses on understanding the relationship between natural and anthropogenic dissolved organic matter (DOM) and greenhouses gases in the Ganges River system. Emission of greenhouses gases – particularly methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2) gas – have not been previously estimated in the Ganges River system. The project will help characterize the biogeochemistry of this major water system in Bangladesh.

Seblework Mekonen Shegen


Medical and Health Sciences

Her research focuses on assessing human exposure and risks from chemical pesticide application. In Ethiopia and other developing countries where pesticide use is often necessary to meet food demands, humans are exposed to pesticides through contaminated water, food, air and soil. Studying the human exposure and risks from pesticides can help to identify at-risk groups, alert populations and inform regulations.

Kassaye Tolessa Sherge


Agricultural Sciences

Her research focuses on the development of a near infrared spectroscopy- (NIRS) based model to predict coffee cup quality (e.g. acidity, body, flavour) and biochemical composition (e.g.caffeine, chlorogenic acid, sucrose) from green coffee beans. The NIRS approach is eco-friendly and provides for faster, easier and more accurate assessment of coffee quality.

Munawar Sultana


Agricultural Sciences

Her research project focuses on the development of a veterinary vaccine and a simple low-cost diagnostic kit for Foot-and-Mouth Disease virus (FMDV), using microbial genomics and bioinformatics tools. Availability of a field-ready stable FMDV quick diagnostic test could save an estimated USD 100,000 each year and improve rural agro-economy and employment.

Meththika Suharshini Vithanage

Sri Lanka

Astronomy, Earth and Space Sciences

Her research focuses on developing solutions for remediation of gaseous and liquid emissions from open dumpsites of municipal solid waste, by converting biowaste into carbonized product, biochar. The conversion of biowaste into biochar contributes to reducing waste and preventing environmental degradation.



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