New vector biologist

Posted 18th March 2021 by Dr. Nwamaka O. Akpodiete

I am delighted to be joining the Target Malaria team as a post-doctoral research associate in vector biology, based at the Centre for Applied Entomology and Parasitology (CAEP), at Keele University, United Kingdom. My new role will involve conducting molecular ecological studies to understand the population dynamics and ecology of the African malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae s.l. I will also be providing support and training in molecular ecology, ecological statistics and scientific writing for partner institutions in Africa and visitors at Prof. Frederic Tripet‘s Keele laboratory.

My formal educational background and research are in Medical and Molecular Entomology, and I hope to make significant contributions to Target Malaria’s efforts in mosquito control. I hold a BSc and MSc in Animal and Environmental Biology with a specialisation in entomology from the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria. I also obtained an MSc in Environmental Quality Management from the University of Benin, Nigeria, during which I conducted a field-based project surveying dipteran vectors in the Port Harcourt metropolis.

My PhD research at CAEP focused on the larval ecological adaptations of An. gambiae s.l. linked to rice field domestication in Africa, ecological speciation, and improving rearing techniques for mass release programmes. I experimented on the effects of water sources on the developmental success and phenotypic quality of An. gambiae s.l. and discovered that mineral water is better suited for rearing this mosquito species. My PhD research also revealed the reaction norms between An. gambiae s.s. and An. coluzzii to ammonia and water mineralisation, providing evidence for ecological speciation between these species.

During a research internship at the Vector Functional Genomics and Microbiology Laboratory, Institute of Biotechnology, São Paulo State University “Júlio des Mesquita Filho”, Botucatu campus, Brazil, I characterised the bacterial communities in mosquito larval trays using 16S rRNA ultra-sequencing. I discovered over 1000 bacteria species in the larval trays, learned a bit of Portuguese, and developed special friendships.

 I am a recipient of the prestigious Schlumberger Foundation’s Faculty for the Future PhD Fellowship, The Hague, Netherlands, supporting women in STEM fields from developing countries. I also received funding from the Niger Delta Development Commission’s foreign scholarship, Nigeria, which supports exceptional scholars researching STEM-related issues.

Before commencing my PhD studies, I worked as a University Lecturer at the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, for three years, where I taught courses on entomology. I am an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, United Kingdom, as well as a member of the Royal Entomological Society and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, United Kingdom.

I am passionate about malaria eradication in Africa and about projects like Target Malaria, working to develop innovative vector control approaches that integrate cutting edge techniques in molecular biology, genomics and entomology to provide novel solutions to infectious disease transmission. I look forward to enhancing my research skills, improving on my teaching and writing skills and collaborating extensively with diverse, multi-talented researchers in my new position.

I am a Nigerian who loves to travel and see the world. When I take off my researcher’s hat, I love spending time singing and dancing with my three children, walking in the woods with my husband and reading the bible. Follow me on Linkedin and Twitter !