PhD students

  • Mr Sumesh Kakkunnath
    SumeshKakkunnath resizedSumesh is also from Kerala India. Aim of his PhD is to understand the mechanism of disease resistance in cassava for the Cassava brown streak virus. Sumesh will use yeast two hybrid system for identifying plant proteins interacting with the viral proteins, and in particular VPg and CP. His studies are funded by the University of Greenwich’s Vice Chancellor’s scholarship scheme for 2014–17. Sumesh has a Masters in Biotechnology from the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bengaluru India, and he’s an Associate Professor at the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharawad India.

  • Ms Jackie Atim
    Jackie Atim resizedJackie is also from Uganda joined ACWP in November 2015. Her PhD will be on identifying whitefly resistance in the local and introduced cassava germplasm from Uganda and Columbia, respectively. She will then try to identify whitefly resistance genes using next generation sequencing technologies. Jackie obtained a BVS in Agriculture with Education at Kyambogo University in Uganda, MSc in Plant Biotechnology (Molecular Plant Breeding and Pathology) at Wageningen University Netherlands. She also had one year training in developmental orientated Plant Biotechnology and Biosafety from Martin Luther University Halle Germany.
  • Ms Hajar El Hamss
    Hajar El Hamss resizedHajar is from Morocco. She has a first master degree with honours in pest and disease management from ENAM (Ecole National d Agriculture de Meknes) Morocco. She completed a second MSc in Agriculture for sustainable development with distinction at NRI. She has also joined ACWP. Her PhD is on cassava whitefly endosymbionts which is expected to start in December 2015. Hajar will use a combination of insect bioassays and molecular tools to understand the role of endosymbionts on insect population development and the dynamics of cassava whitefly in African countries.

  • Ms Siji Philip Kavil
    Siji Kavil resizedSiji is from Kerala, India. She is one of our VC scholarship students for 2015-16 and is expected to start before the end of the year. Her PhD will be on developing markers and validation of cassava genes conferring resistance to cassava brown streak virus. She has a BSc in Biotechnology from Bharathiar University Kerala, and MSc in Biotechnology from Bharathdasan University, Tamilnadu. Siji also has eight years of research experience in plant molecular biology at the University of Agricultural Sciences in Karnataka India.

  • Ms Erica Ngwensang
    EricaNqwensang resizedErica is from Cameroon. She obtained an undergraduate degree in Environmental Sciences at University of Buea 2012. She then moved to Anglia Ruskin University, London in 2014 to undertake her postgraduate degree in International project management. Erica is now undertaking a PhD on the identification and characterisation of cassava genes conferring resistance to cassava mosaic virus.


  • Mr Ahmad Hamza Balarabe
    Ahmad Balarabe resizedAhmad is from Kebbi state northern Nigeria. He has obtained a Masters in Natural Resources from the University of Greenwich in 2008 and he has come back to do PhD on ‘Molecular characterization, surveillance and identifying sources of resistance to cassava mosaic viruses in Nigeria’. He’s conducting field research in Nigeria for 1.5 years on cassava virus disease surveys and epidemiology, and the remaining 1.5 years will be spent at NRI in the UK on virus diagnosis, diversity and resistance mechanisms.

  • Ms Happyness Gabriel Mollel
    Happyness MollelHappyness from Tanzania is a visiting PhD student in African Cassava whitefly Project (ACWP). She is registered at the University of Malaga (UMA), Spain from October, 2015 under the supervision of Dr Jesus Navas-Castillo. The main aim of her PhD studies is to determine biological species boundaries of the African cassava whitefly, B. tabaci and virus interaction, and also to understand the effect of viruses and host plant on whitefly biology. Part of her research work will be conducted at NRI, UK. Her studies will focus on reciprocal crossing experiment of Ipomea indica SSA2 from Spain and cassava whitefly, B. tabaci from East Africa. She has a MSc in Science (Molecular and Cell Biology) from the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, and BSc in Biotechnology and Laboratory Science from Sokoine University of Agriculture, Morogoro, Tanzania. Happyness has eight years of research experience in molecular plant virology at Mikocheni Agriculture Research Institute (MARI), Tanzania.