WACCBIP STUDENT SPOTLIGHT
Growing up, Prince Berko Nyarko could have chosen a career in either sports or science; he chose science. Now an MPhil student with WACCBIP, Prince Berko is getting closer to his dream of eradicating malaria by working with other scientists at the Cell Biology, and Immunology Laboratory, under the mentorship of Professor Gordon Awandare, towards developing a vaccine for the disease.
Where did you grow up and what are your interests?
I grew up in the Eastern Region of Ghana, where I completed my basic and Senior High School education. I am a science enthusiast. I am interested in anything which advances scientific knowledge. Though I am biased towards biology, I take equal interest in other science-related fields of study.
What were your future aspirations as a child? Did those dreams change as you grew up?
At an early age I took particular interest in sports, and represented my school at major inter-school sporting competitions. I had high hopes of representing Ghana at international sporting competitions but I also had keen interest in science and mathematics. I loved to challenge myself with difficult mathematical calculations, so I never gave up until I understood the principles behind seemingly complex scientific concepts. After Senior High School, I realised my proclivity for science outweighed that for sports. I pledged my loyalty to science and decided to pursue this great adventure to the highest level.
Which laboratory are you currently working with and when did you start?
Currently, I am in the Cell Biology and Immunology Laboratory where we study the molecular biology of the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum towards the identification of drug and vaccine targets. With respect to my MPhil studies, I have worked in this laboratory since August 2016, under the mentorship of Professor Gordon Awandare.
What is your research area and why are you passionate about it?
At the moment, I am investigating the molecular interactions that occur between the malaria parasite and human red blood cells, which helps the parasite to enter the red blood cells. I seek to contribute towards the identification of targets for the development of malaria vaccine. I am interested in malaria because of its debilitating effects in children and pregnant women, as well as its socio-economic effect in sub-Saharan Africa. Hopefully, my research will help alleviate the malaria menace, make our part of the world safer, and more livable for malaria-prone individuals.
What do you like about WACCBIP? Any experience you can share from workshops, seminars?
I am particularly pleased with the opportunities WACCBIP provide for young African scientists to explore and exhibit their talent in a world-class environment to tackle scientific problems in the African perspective. The workshops, research conferences, and seminars are avenues WACCBIP provides for fellows to learn, and also showcase their work. Through these workshops, I have had the opportunity to interact with participating faculty, who made very productive contributions to my current research as well as career paths to explore after school.
What impact do you think your research will have in the world in the next decade?
The search for an effective malaria vaccine is still ongoing. My current research seeks to address the conditions which makes the malaria parasite vary the type of molecules it uses to enter the human red blood cells. Hopefully, outcomes from my research will help explain some of the puzzling phenomena surrounding the processes leading to erythrocyte attack by Plasmodium falciparum, and thus lead towards the development of invasion-blocking or blood-stage malaria vaccine in the next decade.
Any future plans you want to share?
Presently, my short-term goal is to pursue a PhD in the molecular biosciences, with special interest in infectious diseases. In the long term, I envision myself at the frontier in the quest towards the eradication of infectious diseases of global public health concern. In addition to my research, I seek to train the next generation of world-class African scientists.
Any advice you would like to give to prospective students?
To prospective students, if you are really interested in pursuing a world-class graduate school education in the biosciences, do not hesitate to make WACCBIP your number one priority.
[Prince completed his Bachelor’s Degree at the Department of Biochemistry of University of Ghana. His favorite food is Fufu with goat light soup].