Sylvia Onchaga: The Great Woman Scientist of the Future!

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This is a story about youths who are working hard in their fields of choice in order to make a difference in the lives of Kenyans. I met and interviewed Sylvia Kerubo as she demonstrated live on her research activities at the Nairobi International Trade Fair 2014. This is my second time to attend this great trade fair. It is used to showcase the country’s innovative actives in various fields. I have always seen different fields represented here ranging from institutions of higher learning to modern farming techniques.

Photo: Sylvia at her University of Nairobi stand showcasing her research findings on Family Planning alternatives
I meet and interviewed Sylvia Kerubo Onchaga on 2nd October, 2014. She was one of the exhibitors at the University of Nairobi (UON) stand at the Nairobi International Trade Fair. She was born and raised in Nyamira County. The university stand showcased various innovative activities from university staff and students. I was attracted to Sylvia’s stand by the (rats on the table). 

Educational Back ground
Sylvia is a Master of Science student at the University of Nairobi. She one of the six students who received scholarships to study various natural products. This was after she earned a First Class in her bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from the University of Nairobi. She is undertaking her MSc in Reproductive Biology under RISE- African Natural Product Research Network. This program was established in 2008 to address over-exploitation and knowledge gaps in herbal medicine. The founding partners are Soikoine University of Agriculture, University of Nairobi and Makerere University. This program is considered to be part of finding African solutions for African problems.  She carries out her research with the help of lecturers under the Department of Veterinary Anatomy and Physiology.  This is housed under the School of Veterinary Medicine.  She is a proud alumni from Mary Leakey Girls High School in Lower Kabete.  

Research
Sylvia is currently working on a research using male albino rats.  She has particularly centered on two aphrodisiac medicinal plants used in Tana River as a treatment for sexual Dysfunction in men. Sylvia’s ongoing tests in Mature Wistar Albino Rats is aimed at measuring various reproductive parameters which are indicative of the plants’ potency as aphrodisiacs. These plants have been used by locals at Tana River to treat erectile dysfunction (ED), ejaculation disorders and other disorders of sexual interest. The experiments are being carried out in vivo. That is she is using animal models. She told that she will make a breakthrough because these animals are responding positively. 

Photo: Sylvia at work showing the public some albino rats used for research
Sylvia is also engaged in other research projects where she is gaining valuable experience as a young scientist. She is working as a Fellow in studying traditional contraceptives. That is the plants used for family planning in Tana River. This is a PhD study by Dr. Catherine Kaluwa. In this study, they have already carried out a survey in Tana River and published data on these medicinal plants. This data contains the documented plants used in management of Reproductive Health problems in men and women.
In addition to the above research she is also part of Dr. Dominic Ochangi’s research on Anti-cancer Plants which they collected from Kakamega.

Expected Research Impact
Sylvia started her career as an intern at the Kenya Aids Vaccine Initiative (KAVI). This is the Institute of Clinical research. Here she worked on various HIV vaccine trials. She then work at Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI)’s Center of Biotechnology. Here she worked on immunology, molecular biology and parasitology. She is also gaining a lot of experience through engaging in various doctorate research as a Research Assistant. Some of her duties include animal care and laboratory work.
Sylvia is a great inspiration to all who want to become scientists. She is very professional and gives great attention to fine details.


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Editor-in-Chief

Geoffrey Kerosi is a prolific Kenyan writer based in Nairobi City. Email: info@kerosi.com. Skype: gkerosi Whatsapp: +254713 639 776 YouTube: Kerosi TV

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