ILRI MSc Graduate Fellowship – Molecular characterization of zoonotic pathogens that cause abortion in livestock in northern Kenya

  • Nairobi, Kenya
  • Full-time
  • CapDev

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) seeks to recruit an MSc graduate fellow to undertake research on the common zoonotic pathogens that cause abortion in livestock in northern Kenya. The fellow will work closely with the research team from the Co-infection project at ILRI and will be hosted by the Animal and Human Health (AHH) program at ILRI.

ILRI works with partners worldwide to enhance the roles that livestock play in food security and poverty alleviation, principally in Africa and Asia. The outcomes of these research partnerships help people in developing countries keep their farm animals’ alive and productive, increase and sustain their livestock and farm productivity, find profitable markets for their animal products, and reduce the risk of livestock-related diseases.

The AHH program seeks to effectively manage or eliminate livestock, zoonotic and food-borne diseases that matter to the poor through the generation and use of knowledge, technologies and products, leading to higher farmer incomes and better health and nutrition for consumers and livestock. .

About the position

The project “Co-infection with Rift Valley fever virus, Brucella spp and Coxiella burnetii in humans and animals in Kenya: Disease burden and ecological factors” or Co-infection project in short, aims to build capacity for bio-surveillance of the three zoonotic pathogens (mentioned above). Diseases caused by these pathogens are associated with huge socio-economic losses especially in marginalized areas in developing countries yet data on their occurrence patterns are scanty. The project will develop risk maps, estimate socio-economic burden, and genotype isolated agents to obtain new knowledge that can be used to refine existing surveillance and response strategies.

The three pathogens prioritized for this project invariably cause abortion in livestock and febrile illnesses in humans. A surveillance system has already been developed to support early detection and response to abortion syndromes in livestock to limit human infections that often occur as livestock owners assist aborting animals, handle fetal membranes or consume raw milk from affected animals. The MSc student will be responsible for laboratory analysis of samples collected from this work to enable the project determine infectious agent(s) that cause these syndromes. Multiple samples including tissues from aborted fetuses, fetal membranes, blood and serum samples from the dam, as well as swabs will be collected and stored in TRizol.   

Key responsibilities:

The MSc fellow to be recruited into the project will:

  • Develop an MSc research proposal in line with the requirements of the university of admission.
  • Develop a protocol for screening blood, serum samples and tissue samples for a range of potential abortifacients in livestock.
  • Process the samples mentioned above for molecular analysis.
  • Extract nucleic material from the samples and screen them using standard RT-PCR techniques.
  • Process the positive samples detected for genome sequencing to determine the genetic diversity of agents detected.
  • Upload all the data obtained from the work to the project database hosted at the ILRI servers.
  • Analyze results obtained and draft a thesis and at least one journal publication.


The ideal candidate should:

  • Have registered in a recognized university and is currently pursuing an MSc in molecular biology, bioinformatics or related field.
  • Have completed their course work and is ready to begin the research component of their study.
  • Possess working experience in molecular screening techniques including RT PCR.
  • Possess working knowledge of MS Office applications.
  • Demonstrate good understanding of data handling techniques, analysis, especially involving use of statistical packages such as STATA, R or Python.
  • Demonstrate excellent written and verbal communication skills in English
  • Show ability to work as part of a team.

Location: ILRI Nairobi, Kenya.

Duration: 12 months (1 August 2022- 31 July 2023)

Terms of appointment and benefits: ILRI will offer a monthly stipend to cover living expenses in the project location, medical insurance, and cover research expenses. The fellow will receive capacity development opportunities from ILRI. The successful applicant will be expected to register at recognized university. University fees will be paid by the project.

How to apply:

All applications MUST include the following (applications not containing these documents will not be considered):

  • A cover letter addressed to Head of Capacity Development, expressing interest in the fellowship position and the motivation. The position title and reference number (REF GF/ILRI/AHH/07/2022:) should be clearly marked on the subject line of the cover letter.
  • CV, including names and addresses (including telephone and email) of three referees who are knowledgeable about the candidate’s professional qualifications and work experience.
  • Academic qualification certificates/transcripts.

Applications must be submitted by clicking on the tab "APPLY NOW" on or before 1 July 2022.

Due to the volume of applications, only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

ILRI does not charge a fee at any stage of the recruitment process (application, interview meeting, processing or training). ILRI also does not concern itself with information on applicants' bank accounts.

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