Kenya PIPS – An Introduction

For the next 12 weeks Hans and I (Danny) will be undertaking an internship. This internship is a necessary part of our PhD program for which we are both students of. I am based over at the John Innes Centre while Hans is based over at neighbouring University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. This internship is known as the Professional Internship for PhD students scheme, or PIPS for short. The concept is to take PhD students out of the lab for 3 months, away from their usual research and day-to-day activities and to throw them in to a new role!

This gives us PhD students the chance to develop a different skill set, to demonstrate our ability to apply our talents in a different area and to gain further and broader experience that potential future employers are looking for. Its also a great way to ‘test out’ future career options to see if its really for you.

Both Hans and I, were lucky enough to be given the opportunity to help develop and demonstrate skills relating to science communication and international capacity building among many others. We both really enjoy these areas and feel there may be potential for us to carry on with these as a possible career post-PhD. To gain a good insight in to these areas, and to develop the relevant transferrable skills will be incredibly beneficial for us.

We started talking with an institute which could provide with a suitable project. There was an interesting quirk with this potential placement too…it was located in Kenya! We got talking to key members involved with a John Innes Centre collative effort with the International Livestock Research Institute and Biosciences in Eastern and Central Africa Hub (ILRI-BecA) in Nairobi known as ACACIA.

This project was to design a pipeline for the production of training videos. The production of these videos can be continued by those at the institute and the target audience would primarily be early-career African scientists. The idea behind the video was to increase access to relevant educational content across the continent for students. I would be focusing on freely available bioinformatic training videos to compliment an in-person course delivered previously for students at ILRI in order to increase accessibility to the content. Hans would be focusing on the production of freely available transferrable skills training videos.

This project formed the bulk of the internship. The latter final portion of the project saw us heading to the coastal town of Khilifi. We were to help organise, run and record the AfriPlantSci Summer School at Pwani University. This is a summer school where talented and enthusiastic African science students travel to Khilifi to help develop and demonstrate important biological and transferrable skills.

Over the next few months, plans were starting to become more concrete, things were starting to get finalised. A solid project plan was now in place. Contracts and agreements were being drawn up. We started applying for the necessary visas. Accommodation was organised. Progress was certainly being made.

Eventually, the time came – we were ready to travel to Nairobi, Kenya.

This blog will document our adventures each week detailing what we get up to and the progress we make on our PIPS internship…so watch this space!

Danny Ward


“This work was supported by the Norwich Research Park Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP), by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council of the United Kingdom (BBSRC) through the BBSRC-STARS grant with reference BB/R020272/1 awarded for the ABCF Bioinformatics Community of Practice, and by the BecA-ILRI Hub through the Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) program. The ABCF program is funded by the Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) through the BecA-CSIRO partnership; the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA); the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF); the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and; the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (sida)”

Key personnel/contributors linked to this project:

BecA-ILRI hub (Nairobi) – Dr. Jean-Baka Domelevo Entfellner ¦ Dr. Peter Emmrich ¦ Wellington Ekaya, PhD

John Innes Centre/UEA – JIC Graduate School Office ¦ UEA Internships and Placements team ¦ Hans Pfalzgraf ¦ Danny Ward  

We would like to extend our gratitude to all those listed, along with all others, who contributed and supported towards this project in various capacities – this wouldn’t have been possible without your help.

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