Ruth Bekele and Wude Tsega, two researchers from the Ethiopian Institute of Agriculture Research (EIAR) have spent the last month at the Roslin Institute, working with CTLGH scientists based in Edinburgh to develop their knowledge in genomic techniques, establish collaborations and learn new scientific skills to support their research in Ethiopia.
Their advanced training placement at Roslin is supported by CTLGH through the UK research placement component of the BBSRC Global Challenge Research Fund’s Strategic Training Awards for Research Skills (GCRF-STARS) programme and part of their fellowship with African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD). These AWARD fellowships help to build and sharpen the scientific skills of fellows, and offer a range of technical and translational training opportunities.
Wude Tsega has a PhD in animal production and is passionate about improving livestock productivity through improving their genetics and health.
Born into a farming family, Wude is acutely aware of the importance of livestock to small rural communities. Driven to improve livestock production and improve the livelihoods of Ethiopian farmers, Wude was driven, from an early age, to become a scientist and to try and make a difference. She is currently working on ruminant livestock feed and nutrition research to improve feed efficiency at EIAR and is based at the Debre Zeit Agricultural Research Centre in Bishoftu. Wude’s research mainly focuses on the development of appropriate feed packages to improve the productivity and feed conversion of sheep and cattle.
“I am really interested in using genome technology to improve the genetics of livestock in Ethiopia and the techniques I have learnt during my time at Roslin will surely strengthen my skills and knowledge in this area.” – Dr Wude Tsege
She commented: “I have been working in the lab with Claire Neil from Simon Lillico’s team, improving my skills in DNA isolation and extraction, PCR amplification, visualization and sequencing and also learning about genome editors. I also spent time working with the livestock on the institute farms at Langhill and Dryden and improved my knowledge and skills in sheep and dairy cattle feeding and management. I was also fortunate to attend a two-day BBSRC Cross-Institute workshop: “The future role of livestock in food production” which gave me a greater understanding of the global issues surrounding livestock production and how we can tackle them.
“On my return I will apply my new knowledge and improve my own lab equipment as much as possible to strengthen my research. I will also work to establish collaborations with my colleagues focusing on livestock in Ethiopia, so that we can work together to improve livestock productivity and increase farmer’s income.”
Ruth Bekele is a researcher and National Food Science and Nutrition Research Coordinator at EIAR, based in Addis Ababa and has a degree in agricultural and biological engineering and a master’s degree in food processing technology. Her research mainly focuses on food product development and food safety. She works with industry and farmers to promote food processing, preservation methods, food hygiene and nutritional education in rural communities. This work involves teaching women, maternal and complementary feeding practices for children to tackle malnutrition and often tackles sensitive issues, cultural taboos or misconceptions about food.
Like Wude, Ruth knew from an early age that she wanted to be a scientist. Her curious nature and love of biology and chemistry led her to make her own experiments as a child. She was the first woman in her family to go to University and is grateful for her family’s support of her studies. Ruth is also grateful to her elementary and high school chemistry and biology teachers, who inspired her to become a scientist.
Seeing local children go hungry when she was young had a profound impact on Ruth and she was determined to help to improve food security in poor communities through research and education.
“I was so sad that others had no food. I wanted to have a farm like my grandfather and use it to feed others, but then I realised that, by being a scientist, I can help improve the farming systems and help reduce losses post-harvest.” – Ruth Bekele
Whilst at Roslin, Ruth has been working with Emily Clark’s team, learning RNA extraction, bioinformatics and polymerase chain reactions (PCRs). She has also spent time with Jess Powell in James Prendergast’s group learning immune cell isolation and Alewo idoko-Akoh in Mike McGrew’s group to develop skills in the culture of chicken cells for gene editing.
Ruth is positive that learning these techniques will develop her own scientific skills and enable her to train others when she returns to EIAR. The lab skills she has developed at Roslin will also help prepare her for a PhD which she hopes to start in 2020.
As well as improving their scientific skills, the EIAR-AWARD fellowship offers Ruth and Wude training in leadership, writing scientific papers, mentoring and communication to inspire and support them in their future scientific careers.
Both researchers also have access to their own mentors working in a similar area of research, to guide them on their fellowship journey and help them develop their own mentoring skills, which will provide a legacy in their own institutes for future female scientists.
Before coming to Edinburgh, both Ruth and Wude attended a GCRF-STARS workshop in Nairobi earlier this year, organised by CTLGH. Their advanced scientific training placement at Roslin was also supported by CTLGH and GCRF-STARS funding.
Both researchers are very grateful to their own institute for the opportunity to undertake this EIAR AWARD fellowship and for the support and guidance they have received from the CTLGH and Roslin scientists they have worked with whilst in Edinburgh.
“I liked living in Edinburgh, it is a very peaceful and welcoming city with very beautiful attractive old historical buildings and castles which make me so happy and I admire,” said Wude.
Ruth agreed with Wude that Edinburgh is a beautiful city and feels very fortunate to have had a training placement in Scotland’s capital city. She said: “I feel so lucky to be awarded this fellowship and to be able to spend time in Edinburgh and I cannot thank Roslin, CTLGH, AWARD and EIAR enough for the opportunity.
“I have loved everything about my time in Edinburgh. The city has so much history and is home to many imminent scientists like Sir James Young Simpson. I particularly loved the National Museum and have very special memories of visiting there. My uncle completed his master’s degree at Stirling University so Scotland is a very special place for my whole family. I will miss Edinburgh for sure – it is an ideal place to be!”
Appolinaire Djikeng, Director of CTLGH commented: “We are very grateful to our funders for their support of these fellowships. We are delighted to support these exchanges, which we believe are critical to help establish long-term collaborations between UK and African researchers and deliver a greater impact.”