Course in Botswana ups trainees' grant writing skills

Thursday, 5 October, 2017

Dr Sylvie Le Gall, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard, and Dr Zaza Ndhlovu, SANTHE Senior Researcher/Supervisor, UKZN.From the 3rd to 4th of October, this year, SANTHE hosted a grant proposal writing workshop at the Grand Palm Hotel in Gaborone, Botswana, entitled, “Hypothesis-driven proposal writing: from theory to practice.” It was attended by 39 students from Botswana, Canada, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia.

USA based Course Director, Dr Sylvie Le Gall, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard, lead the course together with South African based Course Co-Director, Dr Zaza Ndhlovu, SANTHE Senior Researcher/Supervisor, from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).

Le Gall runs a research group at MGH/HMS (Harvard Medical School) working on antigen processing and presentation in HIV and MTb infection. She also teaches at the Harvard Virology PhD programme and runs the education and outreach programme at the Ragon Institute where her laboratory is based. 

1st Place (tie) for Best Scientific Proposal Presentation: Fredrick Lutwama, VISTA Post-doctoral Fellow, International AIDS Vaccine Initiative - Vaccine Immunology Science and Technology for Africa (IAVI-VISTA), Kenya; Isabella Ferreira, SANTHE Masters Fellow, Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI), South Africa; Nomfanelo Maenetje, SANTHE Masters Fellow, The Aurum Institute, South Africa.

Ndhlovu’s laboratory, within UKZN’s HIV Pathogenesis Programme, leads the collection and processing of longitudinal samples from individuals with acute HIV-1 infection in Durban, South Africa. He uses these samples to investigate the dynamics of cellular immune responses in acute HIV infection and to define the ontogeny of HIV-specific CD4+ T cell responses and their relationship to the establishment of bNAbs.

Trainees were asked to submit proposals prior to the course and then spent a packed 2-day programme learning useful tips concerning scientific reading and writing. It began with a lecture by Ndhlovu on the correct structure of scientific or clinical articles, followed by a lecture by Le Gall on the structure of a research proposal. The third session of the day focussed on the hypothese of the trainees’ own proposals, with everybody working together on improving them. The second day saw the trainees divided into groups to work together on single proposals and presenting them to the class for discussion.

“My overall impression is extremely positive and students seem pleased too,” says Le Gall. “They came prepared and ready to work and learned a lot, being able to apply proposal writing principles learned in the morning in their afternoon. During discussions, they could give constructive feedback; remarkably across fields of expertise to which they belonged (virology, immunology, clinical research). They showed motivation, focus, interest, scientific maturity and were open minded.”

1st Place (tie) for Best Scientific Proposal Presentation: Makobu Kimani, SANTHE PhD Fellow, Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) Wellcome Trust Research Programme (KWTRP), Kenya; Elizabeth Wahome, SANTHE PhD Fellow, KWTRP, Kenya; Juliet Katoba, SANTHE PhD Fellow, University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), South Africa; Ngao Sichalwe, SANTHE Masters Fellow, Rwanda Zambia HIV Research Group (RZHRG), Zambia.2nd Place (tie) for Best Scientific Proposal Presentation: Tuelo Mogashoa, SANTHE Mphil Fellow, Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute (BHP), Botswana; Zandile Sibisi, SANTHE PhD Fellow, Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI), South Africa; Prisca Thami, SANTHE PhD Fellow, BHP, Botswana.2nd Place (tie) for Best Scientific Proposal Presentation: Olamide Todowede, SANTHE PhD Fellow, Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI); Tshepiso Mbangiwa, SANTHE Mphil Fellow, Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP), Botswana; Lorato Maje, Simon Fraser University (SFU) Masters Fellow, SFU, Canada; Ephraim Chikwanda, SANTHE Intern, Rwanda Zambia HIV Research Group (RZHRG), Zambia.3rd Place (tie) for Best Scientific Proposal Presentation: Alveera Singh, SANTHE Post-doctoral Fellow, Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI), South Africa; Okechukwu Ndumnego, SANTHE Post-doctoral Fellow, AHRI, South Africa; Baitshepi Mokaleng, Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP) Mphil Fellow, BHP, Botswana, Upasana Ramphal, SANTHE Masters Fellow, AHRI, South Africa.