JKUAT Scholar Appointed to Genomics Analysis Centre, UK

SheilaDr. Sheila Cecily Ommeh, a research fellow at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Institute of Biotechnology Research, has been appointed to represent Africa at the Scientific Training Advisory Board of the Genomics Analysis Centre, United Kingdom. The Molecular Geneticist joins a team of six other highly regarded scientists at the Board that is mandated to deliberate and advise the Centre on training current and next generation of scientists in genome analysis and bioinformatics.

Sheila, who is a fast rising female researcher, brings to the Board over ten years’ research experience in molecular genetics, population genetics, molecular evolution, molecular diagnostics and genomics to infectious diseases.

In April 2014, Dr. Ommeh was part of a team of international researchers who successfully sequenced the annotated genome of a representative sample Savannah species of tsetse fly; ushering in new hope in the fight against  sleeping sickness disease that has decimated thousands of humans and livestock in Africa.

Commenting on her appointment, the soft-spoken scholar noted that it was time for early career researchers in Africa to get fully grounded in advanced bioinformatics; and that she hopes to leverage on her new role at the Centre to create awareness.

“This will enable our researchers to competently analyse and interpret the diverse genomic data that permeate the continent. In the past, such complex analyses have been carried out by collaborators in the developed countries,” said Dr. Ommeh.

To achieve this enviable objective, Sheila plans to capitalize on the convenience and flexibility of virtual training to be offered in different hubs within the continent.

“Virtual training is an innovative and cost effective way of reaching more scientists and I am positive this will be possible once the hubs are operational, “added Dr. Ommeh

Regarding the role of African women scientists in international affairs, Dr. Ommeh believes that time has come for the continent to be more assertive in highlighting and addressing its challenges for inclusive global development.

“I intend to tell the African story at the Board. To advise the executive on the most important training needs that African researchers need,” the scholar opined.

Dr. Ommeh (in hat) during indigenous chicken sampling in Turkana County

Dr. Ommeh (in hat) during indigenous chicken sampling in Turkana County

The former visiting research fellow at Italy’s Paco Tecnologico Padano is no stranger to national and international recognitions. Prior to her appointment to the Genomics Analysis Centre, Dr. Ommeh was declared among the top 40 under 40 women in Kenya who have left an indelible impact on agricultural research in Africa. In October 2009, Sheila who is also an international foundation of Science fellowship recipient was named most promising young scientist in research by the Lions Club, Italian chapter.

Dr. Ommeh earned her undergraduate degree in BSc. Biomedical science and Technology from Egerton University, Kenya in 2002 before enrolling for her M.Sc. Biotechnology at Kenyatta University, Kenya, graduating in 2007. Sheila crowned her academic journey at Tuscia University Viterbo Italy, where in collaboration with the International Livestock Research Institute, she earned her doctorate degree in Molecular Genetics in 2011.

Besides her responsibilities at the Genomics Analysis Centre, Dr. Ommeh is currently working towards establishing an advanced poultry research group to aid the national breeding program for the improvement of adaptive and production traits in Kenya.

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