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Francis Wamonje

Francis Wamonje

Former PhD student, now SACIDS-ACE Post-Doctoral Fellow, Southern African Center for Infectious Disease Surveillance, Tanzania

Wamonje,Francis.JPG I was bitten by the PhD bug while working at an international agricultural research organisation in Nairobi, Kenya. While there, I saw many of my colleagues leave for overseas countries to pursue their postgraduate education. While I desired the same, one of the main questions at the back of my mind was how would I remain in touch with Africa-relevant research? I was very excited when a new Cambridge-led research collaboration was announced, with a focus on African crop agriculture.

While studying at the Department of Plant Sciences I was amazed at the high quality of faculty, facilities and the numerous opportunities to collaborate across scientific disciplines. Having not come from a plant virology background, I took every opportunity to learn the intricacies of the new discipline.

I benefited greatly from the excellent mentorship provided by my supervisor, Dr John Carr. What could have been a steep learning curve became a very enjoyable learning experience. It is possible to learn something new every day at the Department. At times, the tea room feels like a mini lecture room where one-on-one tutoring is occurring.

For me, one of the highlights over the years was the Department Research Day. It was exciting to see the senior faculty bring out their A game and describe the latest findings of the research being done by their students and postdocs. A lot of what was presented was world-leading research. As a student, I was gratified when my work, usually one slide or two, made the ‘final cut’ of my supervisor’s presentation. Aside from this, there were always numerous forums at which to listen to talks by world-leading plant scientists and to present my work.

Finally, being in Cambridge led me to realise the importance of being at the front line of discovery and innovation. At the Department, I was surrounded by forward thinking people keen on being world changers. I would like to think that part of that good ‘DNA’ is now part of me for life.