On The Fly: African Summer School On Insect Neuroscience

nurse geneva;”>When Cambridge PhD student Lucia Prieto Godino met Professor Sadiq Yusuf, viagra approved a Nigerian scientist from the Kampala International University in Uganda, she learned that most neuroscientists in Africa use rats as a model system – and the seed of an idea was planted.

“Rats are expensive model organisms with very limited accessibility to genetic manipulation. Drosophila, however, are easy and inexpensive to breed and maintain in the lab, and the wealth of genetic tools available for the study of the brain makes it an attractive model organism used by many scientists in the West,” she explained. “But without training, it can seem a major step for researchers to change to this approach.”

Now, Dr Prieto Godino (currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Lausanne) and scientists from several European universities are gearing up to hold their third summer school in Uganda to help early career scientists learn how to work with flies. To date, 34 scientists from six African countries have taken part in the three-week, hands-on programme that combines both theoretical and laboratory sessions.

One participant said: “This course changed my attitude towards almost everything in science; actually I can say this course serve as an eye opener to us.” Another said: “I will carry the knowledge I have gained in the course of the workshop to other places.”


Crucial to the course’s successful organisation was the presence of a local committee in Uganda led by Sadiq Yusuf, together with fundraising by Prieto Godino to pay for the shipping of donated equipment and reagents to Africa and full scholarships for course participants. Additionally, researchers from several European universities, including Cambridge zoologists Professor Mike Bate and Dr Berthold Hedwig, have volunteered to teach at the summer school, which is now supported by the International Brain Research Organization.

“As the three weeks of the first course progressed, we realised how much of a difference could be made over there, and we decided to found an NGO to formalise and channel our future efforts in improving higher education and research in Africa. In January of 2012, with Sadiq as our African partner, we founded ‘TReND in Africa’, which stands for Teaching and Research in Neuroscience for Development in Africa,” said Prieto Godino.

TReND in Africa co-founder Dr Tom Baden, who along with Prieto Godino was a PhD student in the Department of Zoology and is now at the University of Tübingen, said: “In TReND in Africa, we aim to provide young African university graduates with the global perspective on science and society that we have enjoyed all our lives thanks to the privilege of going through a Western education system.”

The summer school is still one of the main activities developed by TReND in Africa, but activities are rapidly diversifying. Current projects include furnishing labs in Africa and supporting the development of the first MSc course in Neuroscience in Uganda in collaboration between the Kampala International University.

TReND in Africa shares ideology and collaborates with the Cambridge in Africa programme, which views strengthening of Africa’s indigenous scientific research base as crucial to the identification of its disease control and public health priorities, and to the discovery of appropriate solutions.

“Providing higher education and research capacity building locally in Africa is essential for the development of its societies,” Prieto Godino added. “It empowers the local production of knowledge and the capability of addressing local problems and challenges in a more adequate and cost-effective manner.”

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