Meet the scientists

AgShare.Today is working with various research programmes and a very large number of scientists, and we are very keen to ensure that everyone knows who is who in order to encourage more dialogue. So we’ll regularly be spotlighting different scientists from the various programmes in order to share their interests, experience and areas of expertise.

Dr Joseph Ndunguru

Molecular Plant Virologist, Head of InstituteDr Joseph Ndunguru
Organisation:
Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute (MARI) Tanzania
Contact information: jndunguru2003@yahoo.co.uk
Project: Disease Diagnostics for Sustainable Cassava Productivity in Africa

Dr Joseph Ndunguru is Head of the Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute (MARI) in Tanzania and principle investigator on several research initiatives, including the programme Disease Diagnostics for Sustainable Cassava Productivity in Africa (which is co-funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and UK DFID).

In September 2012, Dr Ndunguru received a presidential medal for Scientific Discoveries and Research Excellence. In 2011 he received the award for Best National Agricultural Research Scientist. He is an Adjunct Professor at the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology and is also the National Biotechnology Research Coordinator for Tanzania.

Research interests: Hi research interests focus on understanding plant viruses at the molecular level, their genome organisation, gene expression and on developing resistance to plant viruses of economic importance in Africa. Currently his main focuses are cassava mosaic geminiviruses, cassava brown streak virus and sweetpotato viruses.

Professor John Colvin

Professor of Entomology and Plant-Virus EpidemiologyProfessor John Colvin
Organisation: University of Greenwich – London, UK
Contact information: j.colvin@greenwich.ac.uk
Project: Cassava Whitefly (http://cassavawhitefly.org)

Professor John Colvin is one of the lead scientists on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funded Cassava Whitefly Project, which is searching for answers to the sharply increased cassava whitefly populations in the cassava-growing regions of East and Central Africa.

Professor Colvin is recognised internationally as a leading researcher in a wide range of subjects and has authored and co-authored more than 145 scientific publications, book chapters, knowledge-transfer and media articles. John believes strongly in the need to train and mentor the next generation of scientists and this is one of the core components of the Cassava Whitefly Project.

Research interests: After a first degree in Zoology at Oxford, Professor Colvin pursued his interests in applied entomology by completing an MSc with Distinction in Pest and Disease Management, at London University, Imperial College at Silwood Park. He then spent three years studying for a PhD on cotton-bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera), moth migration at the University College of North Wales, Bangor.

After a short post-doctoral fellowship at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, working on mosquito and tsetse fly behaviour, he joined the Overseas Development Natural Resources Institute as an entomologist. Since then, he has worked on many different economically important insect pests and plant viruses and has travelled to over 30 countries to carry out research and fieldwork.

Dr Nessie Luambano

Nematologist and Principal Investigator
Organisation: Kibaha Sugarcane Research Institute (KSRI), Tanzania
Contact information: n.luambano@agshare.today
Project: Banana Nematode Baselines Project (BNBP)

Dr Nessie Luambano leads the BNBP project, which looks at the occurrence, abundance and distribution of Plant Parasitic Nematodes – microscopic wormlike pests affecting banana plantations in Tanzania.

Dr Luambano is a trained Nematologist, having completed an MSc from the University of Reading in the UK and a PhD from the University of Nairobi. In 2013, she was awarded the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development Fellowship by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, and Agropolis Fondation.

Research interests: Dr Luambano has more than 10 years’ experience in the field of nematology, including the study of roundworms. She is interested in understanding nematodes, in order to design a strategy for managing banana nematodes in Tanzania. She is well-versed in conducting rigorous fieldwork-focused projects and working with farmers to achieve their shared objectives.

Dr Richard Echodu

Principal Investigator and Senior Lecturer
Organisation: Gulu University, Uganda
Contact information: r.echodu@agshare.today
Project:  Sweet Potato Virus Detection Tool Project (SPVDT)

Dr Richard Echodu leads the Sweet Potato Virus Detection Tool Project (SPVDT). The project is mapping the epidemiology of sweet potato viruses in East Africa. The work also develops low-cost paper-based diagnostic tools for disease management and produce virus-free planting materials. Through his research, Dr Echodu hopes to increase crop yield and improve food security of small-holder farmers. ​

Dr Echodu is a Senior Lecturer and Dean of the Faculty of Science at Gulu University in Uganda. Dr Echodu was awarded a PhD scholarship through a US National Institutes of Health (NIH)-sponsored Global Infectious Disease Training Program and spent two years as Postgraduate Fellow at Yale University conducting his PhD research.

Research interests: Dr Echodu is a molecular biologist and geneticist. His interests lie in molecular diagnostics of diseases, epidemiology, population genetics, genomics and immunology.

Dr Justin Pita

Principal Investigator and Associate Professor 
Organisation: Université Félix Houphouët-Boigny (UFHB), Cote d‘Ivoire
Contact information: j.pita@agshare.today
Project: West African Virus Epidemiology (WAVE)

Dr Justin Pita is the Principal Investigator of the West African Virus Epidemiology for Root and Tuber Crops project (WAVE). The WAVE project aims to address viruses that affect cassava, yams and sweet potato in West Africa. Dr Pita is coordinating field surveys across six countries to establish the status of cassava viruses, their vectors and their alternative hosts. His work also alerts policy makers, the private sector and other stakeholders of the economic importance of cassava viruses and provides recommendations of policy options for managing outbreaks.

In addition to spearheading the WAVE program, Dr Pita is an Associate Professor of Biosciences at the Université Félix Houphouët-Boigny, Côte d’Ivoire. He has over 13 years of experience conducting research and development projects at many well-respected US institutions, including the Scripps Research Institute (San Diego, California), the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation (Ardmore, Oklahoma) and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center (St-Louis, Missouri, USA).

Research interests: Dr Pita’s research focuses on plant viruses and disease. Prior to his work on WAVE in Cote d’Ivoire, Dr Pita taught Plant Virology as an Assistant Professor at Pennsylvania State University. He has also conducted research on viral disease evolution at the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences.

Dr Ibrahim Mohammed

Molecular Plant Virologist, Vector Entomologist and Principal Investigator
Organisation: Kebbi State University (KSUSTA), Nigeria
Contact information: iumohammed74@gmail.com
Project:  Cassava Viruses in Northern Nigeria Project (CVNPP)

Dr Ibrahim Mohammed is the Principal Investigator of the Cassava Viruses in Northern Nigeria project. The project’s aims are to tackle the spread of cassava diseases by educating stakeholders, strengthening quarantine systems and setting up a virus diagnostic laboratory capable of carrying out surveillance, diagnosis and the characterisation of viruses in northern Nigeria. Dr Mohammed’s work includes training university researchers, postgraduate students, extension workers and quarantine officers to identify the disease accurately based on symptoms and diagnostic molecular techniques. Working in 19 states of Northern Nigeria, his research determines the threat and impact of two diseases, the Cassava Mosaic Disease, and the Cassava Brown Streak Disease, which hasn’t yet been found in the West African region.

Dr Mohammed began his research career in Nigeria in 1993 where he worked with the National Agricultural Land Development Authority as an agricultural officer. He was promoted to Assistant Chief Agricultural Officer and then moved to the Natural Resources Institute at the University of Greenwich, UK. There he undertook MSc and PhD studies to understand Cassava Brown Streak Disease; a disease which has caused devastating losses, famine and food shortages to subsistence farmers in Africa.

Research interests: Dr Mohammed has over 8 years of research experience in plant-virus-insect interactions, especially those transmitted by whitefly and infecting cassava, sweet potato, vegetables and other staple food crops in the tropics.

Dr Peter Wasswa

Principal Investigator
Organisation: Makerere University, Uganda
Contact information: p.wasswa@agshare.today
Project: Sweet Potato Virus Reversion Project (SPVRP)

Dr Peter Wasswa leads the Sweet Potato Virus Reversion Project. His research aims to produce varieties of sweet potato that are resistant to the diseases that are seriously constraining sweet potato production across the world. Through exploring how to breed new virus-resistant sweet potato varieties, Dr Wasswa hopes to develop cheap and sustainable planting schemes that are appropriate for the subsistence farming systems of East Africa.

Dr Wasswa is leading the program from Makerere University, Uganda, where he also lecturers in Plant Pathology and Plant Biotechnology. Before working on this project, Dr Wasswa worked with the Program for Biosafety Systems as a Senior Program Assistant, which aimed to create a regulatory framework for GM organisms in Uganda.

Research interests: Dr Wasswa has worked as a researcher at Makerere University, Uganda, and the University of Greenwich, UK, where he has focused on Plant Virology, Molecular Biology, Biotechnology. He is passionate about exploiting tools and products in agriculture that can help to solve threats to food security and bring about social economic transformation among resource poor farmers.

Dr Kiddo Mtunda

Principal Investigator
Organisation: Kibaha Sugarcane Research Institute, Tanzania
Contact information: k.mtunda@agshare.today
Project: Community Phytosanitation Project (CPP)

Dr Kiddo Mtunda runs the Community Phytosanitation Project (CPP). Her work aims to test the effectiveness of managing cassava brown streak disease (CBSD) using clean planting material and new varieties of cassava that are tolerant and resistant to the disease. In addition to distributing more resilient planting materials, the project also raises awareness about the effects of CBSD, and trains local communities on best practices in managing and controlling it.

Dr Mtunda holds a BSc in General Agriculture from the Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania, an MSc in Crop Production from Wageningen, Netherlands and a PhD in Plant Breeding from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. In addition to leading the CPP programme, Dr Mtunda is also the Head of the Root and Tuber Crops Research Programme in Eastern Tanzania. She is actively involved in developing seed systems of clonally propagated crops in Tanzania in collaboration with Tanzania Official Seed Certification Institute, IITA and other stakeholders in the seed industry.

Research interests: Dr Mtunda has over 18 years of research experience in improving the production of sweet potato and cassava and testing the technologies with farmers.

Dr Aliyu Turaki

Principal Investigator
Organisation: Kebbi State University of Science and Technology, KSUSTA, Nigeria
Contact details: a.turaki@agshare.today
Project: Yam Badnavirus Project (YBP)

Dr Turaki is a team member of the Yam Badnavirus Project, which aims to improve the understanding and response to yam badnaviruses in northern Nigeria.  ​Yam production is seriously affected by a variety of viruses, including members of the genus Badnavirus, causing yield losses as high as 50% in yam crops.

Research interests: Dr Turaki conducted his BSc and MSc at Usmanu Danfodio University, Sokoto, Nigeria, before undertaking a PhD in Molecular Plant Virology at the University of Greenwich. His research focus is in yam virus diagnosis, advanced molecular techniques such as DGGE, RCA, in situ-hybridisation, cloning technique, primer design, restriction enzyme analysis, southern blotting and sequence analysis.

Professor Sue Seal

Molecular Plant Pathologist and Principal Investigator
Organisation: Natural Resources Institute (NRI), University of Greenwich, UK
Contact details: s.seal@agshare.today
Program: Cassava Research Tools Project (CRTP)

Professor Sue Seal leads the Cassava Research Tools Project (CRTP), which focuses on applied as well as strategic research for controlling pests and diseases of tropical food crops especially those caused by viruses and insect vectors on cassava, sweet potato, yams and vegetables.

Research interests: Professor Seal obtained a BSc from Imperial College in Microbiology and a PhD from the University of Bath in identifying pathogenicity genes in the plant pathogen Xanthomonas campestris pv. vesicatoria. Professor Seal joined the National Resources Institute in 1992 to develop new molecular diagnostic projects, with a strong focus on cassava begomoviruses, whiteflies and yam viruses. Professor Seal has led nearly 50 research projects at NRI, with a combined total value of £5 million.

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