Eight outstanding IFS grantees paving the way in science

Published: 2022-03-08

For International Women’s Day on the 8th of March, IFS highlights 8 outstanding scientists leading the way in solving local, regional, and global challenges.

Ms Flora Chirikona

PhD Student at the Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Kenya


Conventional wastewater treatment technologies have been shown to be inefficient in removing toxic chemical pollutants, perfluoroalkly acids. Ms Chirikona’s IFS project aims at investigating the potential of water hyacinth, an invasive aquatic plant, to produce nanofibres that can adsorp these chemical pollutants from wastewater.

The project will compare adsorption abilities of these locally prepared nanofibres to commercial products and determine the levels of these chemicals in the Nairobi River basin. The results from the project will inform and provide alternative green technologies for sustainable management of toxic perfluoroalkly acids.


Dr Gaby Monteiro
Lecturer/Researcher at University Eduardo Mondlane, Mozambique


Dr Monteiro is studying the Rift Valley fever virus - a neglected infectious disease in Africa affecting people and livestock. The goal of her project is to study the potential for using an attenuated virus as an alternative resource for a Serum Neutralisation Test - the gold standard test for RVFV confirmation diagnosis.

The test created through this project can be implemented in virology laboratories in Mozambique and other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, thereby building capacity in diagnostics and contribute to the preparedness of countries in the prevention and control of RVFV in the event of an outbreak.


Ms Iqra Sarfraz
PhD Student at the Government College University Faisalabad, Pakistan


With IFS funding, Ms Sarfraz is able to pursue her PhD research on transforming fruit waste biomass into health dietary supplements for cancer treatment. The aim of her IFS project is to identify potent inhibitors of the enzyme, Pyruvate Kinase M2, from fruit waste biomass. This enzyme is overexpressed in a number of tumour types and its inhibition results in decreased tumour growth and metastasis.

This drug discovery approach of selectively targeting tumour metabolism by fruit waste biomass derived enriched extracts represents a paradigm shift to develop new therapeutics, ultimately addressing the concerns for cost, toxicity, non-selectivity, and resistance of available chemo drugs which have restricted their widespread application and efficacy.

Dr María Eugenia Flores-Giubi

Head of Chemical Biology Department at the National University of Asuncion, Paraguay


With IFS support, Dr Flores-Giubi is investigating the molecular mechanisms involved in the response of sesame plants to a phytopathogenic fungus, Macrophomina phaseolina, present in native soil. The fungus is the causative agent of a significant disease in sesame - charcoal root rot disease.

Understanding the plant's response to this fungus will contribute to sesame plant breeding programs and the design of more specific phytopathogen control strategies that have the potential to reduce economic losses due to the disease both regionally and globally.


Dr Manyando Simbotwe

Lecturer at the University of Zambia, Zambia

Anthrax is a neglected and re-emerging zoonosis that threatens public health, biodiversity, and animal populations. More than 60 million livestock farmers and 1 billion livestock animals in Africa, Asia and Europe are at risk, and most of these are in remote and poor communities.

With IFS support Dr Simbotwe is developing and evaluating a non-species-specific Bacillus anthracis protective antigen enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay to detect antibodies in humans, livestock, and wildlife. The study will lead to the development of an inexpensive tool that can be used in resource-limited settings.


Dr Mayuri Napagoda

Senior Lecturer at the University of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka


Dr Napagoda is pursuing her IFS research on the green synthesis of metal nanoparticles using non-toxic aqueous extracts of three invasive plant species in Sri Lanka. The development of antimicrobial remedies from natural sources can provide novel products that can address the global problem of emerging multi-drug resistant microorganisms.

The preparation of metal nanoparticles with disinfecting properties through this route presents an eco-friendly, cost-effective approach to the development of antimicrobial remedies that also contributes to the management of invasive plant species.


Dr Oluwaremilekun Ajakaye

Lecturer at Adekunle Ajasin University, Nigeria

Nigeria has the highest prevalence of the neglected tropical diseases schistosomiasis, caused by parasitic worms. The WHO’s goal to eliminate this disease globally by 2025 can be hampered by significant gaps in epidemiological data, creating difficulties in understanding disease distribution and its needed interventions. Pastoral wetlands are ideal habitats for the interbreeding of these parasites in Nigeria due to the use of wetlands as water sources for both humans and livestock during the dry seasons.

With IFS funding, Dr Ajakaye will study the use of DNA sequencing in investigating the occurrence and transmission dynamics of hybrid Schistosoma species among pastoralist, their livestock, snail hosts and environmental DNA. This study is expected to provide an insight into the epidemiology of hybrids in Nigeria.


Dr Ram Devi Tachamo Shah
Researcher at Kathmandu University, Nepal


River ecosystems are largely fragmented due to dams or diversion schemes to supply water for drinking, irrigation, industrial uses and energy production. In Nepal, the government has prioritised water resources development, as a result, many rivers are either dammed or in the process of being dammed, maximising human benefits and altering flow regimes and river characteristics. These activities endanger aquatic habitats and biodiversity, with potentially irreversible and unquantifiable costs.

Through IFS support, Dr Tachamo Shah is developing a tool to evaluate the impact of hydropower dams on aquatic biodiversity. This tool will help water developers and conservationists ensure the ecological integrity of river ecosystems and will be instrumental for policy formulation to achieve sustainable water resource management in Nepal.


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