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Setting TReNDs in African Science!

Post Summary

  • TReND first guest blog for us at PEI
  • The TReND in Africa NGO now expanding the “3rd IBRO School on Insect Neuroscience and Drosophila Neurogenetics” from its traditional location at the Kampala International University (KIU), Uganda, to the Department of Zoology and Wildlife Conservation at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
  • Other developments include hosting 1st TReND Molecular Biology and fundraising for development of African laboratories

Are you aware of the latest scientific TReND spreading throughout the African continent? From Molecular Biology workshops in Mek’ele (Ethiopia) and Neurogenetics schools in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), to the upcoming Bioinformatics courses in Nairobi (Kenya), there is a new TReND taking hold of African science! August was an incredibly busy month for the TReND in Africa non-profit organization with expansion of the “3rd IBRO School on Insect Neuroscience and Drosophila Neurogenetics” from its traditional location at the Kampala International University (KIU), Uganda, to the Department of Zoology and Wildlife Conservation at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Based on the success of these courses at KIU over the past 3 years, the translation of the course to Tanzania was an instant success with 17 engaged participants from Tanzania, Nigeria, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Zambia, Morocco, Ghana and Zimbabwe. As usual, a contingent of 16 dedicated TReND faculty members, lead by TReND in Africa founders: Lucia Prieto Godino and Tom Baden (both Lindau alumni), descended upon Tanzania from within Africa, Europe and the USA to share their skills and promote the latest techniques in scientific research. Student awards were presented to selected attendees thanks to the ongoing support of ADInstruments Pty Ltd, Australia. According to TReND co-founder, Tom Baden: “Every year I am impressed at the huge potential and zest for scientific progress that we see in our African colleagues – some of our students are truly excellent and could easily compete for some of the world’s top research positions, if adequately supported”. Whilst running the IBRO course in Tanzania, the TReND outreach team (which is entirely composed of African scientists acting as role models for high school science students) was also invited to participate in a career day organized by the Cambridge Development Initiative. The program was hosted by Manzese Secondary School in Dar es Salaam and over 15 high schools were in attendance. The TReND outreach team inspired the students towards career paths in the natural sciences and also introduced students (and their teachers!) to TReND’s 3D printing initiatives that aim to replace expensive lab equipment with 3D printed substitutes from local facilities. This is just the beginning of an exciting collaboration between TreND and the Cambridge Development Initiative and, according to TReND volunteer Yunusa M. Garba “these initiatives provide high school students with an increased understanding of potential career options in the field of basic scientific research!” Over the past 2 years, events run by TReND’s Neuroscience Outreach Programme have reached over 1,000 students and teachers across Uganda, Nigeria and Ghana. At the same time, Switzerland-based researcher Fabiana Arieti and Matteo Ciresa (other TReND volunteers), were busy in Mek’ele, Ethiopia, conducting the 1st TReND Molecular Biology workshop to over 30 staff and students with various anatomy and biotechnology backgrounds. Despite some equipment being “stuck” in Ethiopian customs, initiative, perseverance and the generous support of the local Biotechnology Department enabled the course to run substituted “hands-on” experiments using PCR and electrophoresis techniques. TReND wishes to express their gratitude to the Ayder Campus of Mekelle University for hosting this inaugural event and to all the leaders who facilitated the group work and committed to ongoing communications with TReND! TReND also continues to support the establishment of laboratories through fundraising and the collection and distribution of donated (and, importantly, fully functional) equipment. Thanks to TReND, the Institute of Biomedical Research (IBR) was founded at KIU, Uganda, and recently, Sadiq Yusuf (a TReND co-founder and KIU academic) and other IBR researchers were awarded a Wellcome Trust grant to develop scientific outreach activities in the region. In addition, latest technologies, such as 3D printing and open source technology, are being promoted to facilitate lower-cost solutions for teaching materials and apparatus such as micromanipulators, microscopes and high-precision pipettes (http://trendinafrica.org/activities/open-source/open-source-main/). Finally, TReND is actively involved in government advocacy efforts, having recently attended the Global Advocacy Symposium of the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO), whereby similar-minded professionals endeavoured to convince the governments of African countries to make a true commitment towards developing science in the region. TReND Founder and Director, Lucia Prieto Godino, believes that “these initiatives are extremely important because there is great research being done around the African continent with international organizations such as the Wellcome Trust, Planet Earth Institute (PEI) and TReND (among others) providing important support. However, African scientists require commitment from their local Governments to establish research agendas that will lead to a sustainable and productive research environment”. Want to get involved? If you share TReND’s enthusiasm for building scientific research capacity in sub-Saharan Africa, then there are a number of ways you can get involved! Working in an exciting new environment, highly trained volunteers (http://trendinafrica.org/who-are-we/people/) can really help move academic and research programmes forward, and TReND can help link research scientists with African host universities. Similarly, fundraising, donations and corporate support are all vital components that bolster TReND’s drive to establish high quality research laboratories at African universities. As always, please feel free to view photos of our past events by following TReND’s Facebook and Twitter accounts or visiting https://www.flickr.com/photos/trendinafrica/. For more details and information on upcoming courses in Kenya and Ethiopia, please visit our website or contact Lucia and Tom at info@trendinafrica.org. To attend TReND’s November, 2014, Bioinformatics school in Nairobi, Kenya (held in collaboration with icipe), please apply at: http://trendinafrica.org/blog-posts/applications-open-for-the-trend-bioinformatics-school/

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