Sofonias Tessema

Sofonias Tessema

PhD student Sofonias Tessema at lab bench
PhD student Sofonias Tessema

Why did you choose the institute for your PhD?

Firstly, I was very interested in the PhD project advertised by my supervisor. Secondly, the institute is known for its innovative research and has an international reputation for excellence in medical research.

What are the benefits of doing a PhD at the institute?

The institute combines a culture of research excellence with outstanding research facilities. The many collaborations within the institute are great opportunities for students to be mentored and learn techniques from experts. The academic and social support that the institute provides to its PhD students is amazing. There is a wide range of division and institute seminars as well as a student journal club, which are excellent opportunities to develop expertise both in your area of interest, as well as in other areas of medical research.

What is the subject of your PhD research?

I am studying the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, and how people living in malaria-affected areas develop immunity to it. My project is focused on understanding the diversity of the parasite’s var genes, which encode a protein called PfEMP1 that helps the parasite evade the host’s immune system. I am also looking at naturally acquired immunity to PfEMP1 in children living in Papua New Guinea.

What does a typical working day involve?

There is no one typical day as my project involves different types of experiments but it starts with the best coffee, which is provided by the institute. My experiments involve PCR, sequencing, protein expression and serological analyses. In between the different experiments I analyse data, do some writing and read scientific papers.

What did you do before starting your PhD?

I studied in Ethiopia, receiving a Bachelor of Biology from Jimma University followed by a Masters of Science in Biomedical Science from Addis Ababa University. I then worked as a lecturer and researcher at Addis Ababa University.