Recognizing Plant Physiology author Joel Masanga

Joel Masanga first author of Physiological and ecological warnings that dodders pose an exigent threat to farmlands in Eastern Africa

Current position; PhD Candidate in Prof. Steven Runo’s group, and Lab Manager (Plant Transformation Laboratory) at the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Biotechnology, Kenyatta University, Kenya.

Education; MSc. (Plant Biotechnology) from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Kenya; BSc. (Range Management) from University of Nairobi, Kenya.

Non-scientific interests; Community work (Tree planting), Classical music

Brief Bio; I am interested in using advances in plant sciences to improve crop production and preserve biodiversity. I started my research career in 2013, as a research assistant to Dr. Amos Alakonya at the Institute of Biotechnology Research, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. During this time, I worked on optimizing protocols for genetic transformation of maize and groundnuts – protocols I would later use as a graduate student to produce transgenic for resistance against aflatoxins. Upon finishing my masters degree, I contributed to various crop genetic improvement projects in Kenya and overseas; e.g. control of Cassava brown streak virus, management of Striga and maize lethal necrosis disease. A highlight of my training was in 2017 when I had the opportunity to visit Prof. David Baulcombe’s lab, at the department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge, to work on a project aimed at engineering maize for resistance against maize lethal necrosis disease using microRNAS. Currently, my focus is on managing noxious parasitic weeds (Striga and dodder). Using funding from International Foundation for Science and National Research Fund-Kenya, I have been able to generate knowledge on approaches to control these weeds in Kenya. In future, I hope to apply my genomics and geographical information knowledge and skills to bring tangible solutions to these weed-choked lands.