SPOTLIGHT

Vanessa Irumva

#Burundi
#Immunology
#PhD

Where are you from?

I am Burundian and I was born in Burundi in a very supportive family. My parents encouraged me to pursue my dreams and to never give up, I am who I am today because of them. I take this opportunity to say thank you to them.

I am currently based in Burundi.

What is your educational background?

I have an MSc in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology from the Pan African University Institute for Basic Sciences Technology and Innovation (PAUISTI) in Kenya.

What is your current occupation?

I am a Immunology PhD Candidate at Friedrich Alexander Universität in Germany. My work is on the effects and regulation of IgA glycosylation.

What or who got you into STEM?

No one, I was just a curious kid from my childhood always asking questions and I just liked STEM.

What is the biggest challenge/barrier you have faced as an African in STEM?

The biggest challenges I have faced are lack of mentors and lack of equipment. In molecular biology, we require a lot of equipment that are expensive and not easily available in Africa. Due to lack of mentorship, I did not have anyone to ask questions or orientation about molecular biology, I had to learn the hard way.

How do you think your background/upbringing has been beneficial in your journey/career?

From my upbringing, I have learnt how to be perseverant and to never give up. I also learnt to have a positive mind and to fight for my dreams. I also got leadership skills which I am using today as a founder and CEO of an social enterprise ”Science-Needs-Her” that aims to raise the next generation of women in STEM.

How do you think we can start to change the narrative surrounding African contributions
to global STEM research & careers?

We need to help each other; we need to uplift each other. Moreover, we need to share opportunities and to collaborate both with local scientists but also with scientists in the diaspora. Another thing we need to mentor the next generation of scientists not only when we are asked for but also in our surroundings. Mentoring others should be a lifestyle.

What advice would you like to give to young, aspiring Africans in STEM?

Never give up, it is not easy but it’s possible. It may be tiresome, worrisome, etc. but eventually you will find it was worth it. You can be what you want. 

 

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    SPOTLIGHT

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