Laura Boykin, The University of Western Australia

Dr. Laura M. Boykin, Senior TED Fellow

Dr. Laura Boykin is a computational biologist and the University of Western Australia who uses genomics and supercomputing to help smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa control whiteflies, which have caused devastation of local cassava crops. In collaboration with partners, her lab is using genetic data to understand the virus and whitefly’s evolution. Boykin also works to equip African scientists with a greater knowledge of genomics and high-performance computing skills to tackle future insect outbreaks. Boykin completed her PhD in Biology at the University of New Mexico while working at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the Theoretical Biology and Biophysics group, and is currently a Senior Research Fellow at University of Western Australia and Senior TED Fellow. She was invited to present her lab’s research on whiteflies at the United Nations Solution Summit in New York City for the signing of the Sustainable Development Goals to end extreme poverty by 2030. Read more at the Boykin lab page, at the TED blog or follow on Twitter.

Joseph Ndunguru, MARI, Tanzania

Dr. Joseph Ndunguru, Director of MARI

Dr. Joseph Ndunguru is the head of the Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute in Tanzania and principle investigator of several research projects including the regional coordinator of Disease Diagnostics for Sustainable Cassava Productivity in Africa, co-funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and DFID, a project implemented in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia. In September 2012, Joseph received a Presidential medal award on Scientific Discoveries and Research Excellence and award for the best National Agricultural Research Scientist for 2011. He is an Adjunct Professor at the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology and also is the National Biotechnology Research Coordinator in Tanzania. His research interest is to understand plant virus at molecular level, their genome organization, gene expression and develop resistance to plant virus of economic importance to Africa. Cassava mosaic geminiviruses, cassava brown streak virus and sweetpotato viruses are his main focus for now. Check out Joseph’s website.

Dr. Peter Sseruwagi, Tanzania and Uganda

Dr. Peter Sseruwagi  is a Vector Entomologist, with a PhD from the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa he obtained in 2005. He is currently working in the Department of Biotechnology, Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute (MARI), Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, as the Technical Assistant Coordinator for the ‘Disease diagnostics for sustainable cassava productivity in Africa’ project, which aims to build human and infrastructural capacities of seven African NARS in east, central and southern Africa to monitor, diagnose and control whiteflies and whitefly-transmitted viruses (WTV) on cassava. He joined MARI in 2011 as a Senior Investigator/Postdoctoral Researcher on a Basic Research to Enable Agricultural Development (BREAD) Project coordinated by North Carolina State University (NCSU) to investigate the transmission of Sequences enhancing geminivirus symptoms (SEGS) by cassava whiteflies. Prior to that, he worked as Senior Scientist (Plant Virology/Entomology) and Head of Horticulture Research Programme at the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI), Uganda, and as Consultant and Research Associate in the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture-Uganda (IITA-Uganda). His main research goal is to understand and control whitefly and WTV viruses on cassava, sweetpotato and vegetable crops in sub-Saharan Africa, and he has 24 years’ research experience in: whitefly biology, ecology, vector-virus-plant interactions, molecular characterization, pest and disease crop resistance assessment, field epidemiology, surveillance methodology and IPM. He is a reviewer for 15 leading science journals and has authored over 36 ISI scientific papers in peer‐reviewed journals, and at least 52 conference presentations. He has wide collaboration within Africa and internationally.

Prof. Elijah Ateka, JKUAT, Kenya

Elijah Ateka is a senior lecturer at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in Nairobi, Kenya.  He has worked there since 2006. A virologist, Dr. Ateka’s current research at JKUAT focuses on enhancing the capacity of national cassava research programs to diagnose, characterize, monitor and sustainably manage viruses that affect cassava productivity. In 2010, Dr. Ateka took a temporary position as a visiting research fellow and scientist at the International Cooperation Center for Agricultural Education, located at Nagoya University in Japan.  There, he researched the identification of genes for resistance to rice blast in rice. Prior to joining JKUAT, he worked as a research officer at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), in the Plant Pathology Section and, later, at the Biotechnology Centre.  At KARI, Dr. Ateka worked on the USAID-funded Transgenic sweet potato project and developed research projects in plant pathology and plant virology. He went to school at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, where he received a B.Sc. in Agriculture, a M.Sc. in Plant Pathology and a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology (Virology).  His thesis was on the molecular and biological characterization of potyviruses infecting sweet potato in Africa. Dr. Ateka is a member of several professional societies, including the African Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum, the Kenya Society of Microbiology, the International Society for Tropical Root Crops, the Horticultural Association of Kenya and the Agricultural Biotechnology Network in Africa.

We have an amazing team of scientists see below:


Western Australia: 
Laura Boykin, Ammar Ghalab, Bruno de Marchi, Anders Savill, James Wainaina
Tonny Kinene, Stephen Lamb, Myriam Rodrigues
Monica Kehoe – DPIRD – Department of Primary Industry and Regional Development

Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute (MARI), Tanzania
Jospeh Ndunguru, Fred Tairo, Peter Sseruwagi, Charles Kayuki, Deogratius Mark, Joel Erasto, and Hilda Bachwenkizi.

National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI), Uganda
Titus Alicai,Geoffrey Okao-Okuja,Phillip Abidrabo, John Francis Osingada, Jimmy Akono, and Jimmy Sebayiga

Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Kenya [activity planned for November]
Elijah Ateka
Tim Makori
Brenda Muga
Sam Kiarie

Ohio State University, Ohio, USA

Laura Kubatko

Department of Anatomy, University of Otago

Dr Jo-Ann Stanton, Dr Chris Rawle,Christy Rand


Dr David Saul, Dr Abishek Muralidah