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Bartholomew Ondigo On His PhD Defense

Bartholomew Ondigo, Ph.D.

Dr. Bartholomew Ondigo has been mentored through his immunology Ph.D. program at Maseno University in Kenya by Dr. Chandy John (U of M) and Dr. Ayub Ofulla (Maseno University).

Dr. Ondigo has been supported through Dr. John's D43 training grant and was also a 2012-13 Fogarty Global Health Fellow. He is now working as a researcher on Dr. John's malaria research studies in Kisumu, Kenya. We congratulate him on his hard work and fine scientific achievements. 

The following piece, "Reflections On My Ph.D. Defense Day" was written by Dr. Ondigo:

"Its over. The time of the dreaded PhD thesis defense has passed." These are the words that passed through my mind after I had just defended.

On 8 August 2013, I had to summarize my four-year research studies to a panel of 12 - 15 faculty members. This panel would determine whether I got the Ph.D. or not (failed).  

After 40 minutes of PowerPoint presentation and 3 hours of questioning by the faculty (making a total of 220 minutes), I achieved my goal.

I was tense, though I had prepared as advised by my supervisors. My thesis was entitled "Validation of a cytometric multiplex assay and examination of antibody responses to Plasmodium falciparum antigens in the highlands of western Kenya during a period of low malaria transmission".

All of my supervisors had insisted that for me to pass the defense, I had to read and master the contents of my thesis adequately ("inside out"). I had to prepare myself not to be over-confident and, at the same time, not to show the examiners that I don't "own" the thesis. I was a little bit optimistic that all would go well in the defense since we Ph.D. students all review each other's academic work. 

I gathered the following pointers when preparing to thesis defense, which I am happy to share with fellow students:

  1. Take time to respond to questions asked by faculty members.
  2. As a student often before responding to the question start with the phrase, " Good question."
  3. Before the D-day of thesis defense, plan for a mock presentation among your fellow colleagues in the laboratory. 
  4. On the D-day, defend your work and interpretation - you are the expert.
I am happy to say that the four years spent in the laboratory performing experiments will shape my future global health research endeavors.

Good luck!
Be part of the action with a Doris Duke ICRF program award!

University of Minnesota Medical School students are encouraged to apply for the Doris Duke International Clinical Research Fellowships program (ICRF). These fellowships provide an outstanding opportunity for financial and mentored support for medical students to complete a year of clinical research with University of Minnesota researchers and their collaborators at partner sites in Uganda or Kenya.

Fellows receive a living stipend of $29,000, plus health insurance, research funding, and travel expenses for the duration of the program. Prior clinical and research experience and a clear commitment to global health research will be important criteria in assessing students for the fellowships. Three fellowships will be awarded each year.

Applications are available now and are due on January 14, 2014.

The University of Minnesota's partnerships with Makerere University in Uganda and the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and Maseno University in Kenya focus on the interrelated areas of infection, nutrition and neurodevelopment. 

Doris Duke ICRF fellows will conduct research in these critical areas of health in low-income countries.  Learn more about research projects and mentors

Students enrolled at any U.S.-based medical school to be eligible for the ICRF.  Questions may be directed to Molly McCoy ( or 612-624-9749).

Hamre Awarded 2013-14 Fogarty Fellowship

Karen Elaine Stella Hamre, MPH
Current course of study: Doctor of Philosophy in Epidemiology, University of Minnesota School of Public Health

Congratulations to Karen Hamre, who has been awarded a Fogarty fellowship for 2013-14. Learn more about her project and goals, in her own words:

Highland areas (>1,500m above sea level) are targeted for malaria elimination due to their unstable transmission patterns. Unlike in malaria holoendemic regions where partial immunities to malaria are built-up and sustained through years of infectious mosquito bites, populations in highland areas are susceptible to epidemics as their immune responses wane due to the highly seasonal and sporadic nature of transmission.

Dr. Chandy John and his colleagues at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), Dr. John Vulule and Dr. George Ayodo, have been conducting research in the highland areas of Kipsamoite and Kapsisiywa in western Kenya for over a decade. 

Through his active and passive surveillance studies, he reported evidence of local malaria transmission interruption from April 2007-March 2008 after the Kenyan Ministry of Health implemented annual indoor residual spraying and switched to first-line artemisinin-combination therapy anti-malarial drugs for treatment of uncomplicated malaria. 

Interrupting local transmission is the first step towards the elimination stage.

During my 11 months in Kisumu, Kenya, as a Fogarty Global Health Scholar, I plan to utilize the rich data Dr. John is collecting on anthropogenic (e.g., roof structure, wall material, bednet usage, numbers in household), demographic (e.g., age, gender), entomologic (e.g., vector density and species), environmental (e.g., rainfall and temperature), and spatial (e.g., global positioning information of households, schools, forests, swamps) factors to study the epidemiology of malaria across time and transmission patterns in the same study population and location.

I intend to contribute to the understanding of the epidemiology of malaria in this highland area by making comparisons of predictors of malaria risk before and after interruption of transmission.

Specifically, I aim to determine where clustering of incidence occurs (i.e., identify 'hot spots' of malaria) after the period of interruption, and evaluate whether these clusters and related predicting ecologic risk factors correlate with those reported during epidemic and non-epidemic months before interruption.

Understanding how malaria interruption may affect several predictors of risk in highland settings will help inform future targeted control and elimination strategies.

For more information on the Fogarty fellowships, visit the Global Peds website

Applications Now Being Accepted

The Northern Pacific Global Health Research Fellows Training Consortium is now accepting applications for the 2013-2014 Fogarty Global Health Fellows. Eligible candidates are:

  • UMN or UMN-affiliated post-doctoral trainees (medical residents, medical speciality fellows, post-doctoral fellows - including international trainees affiliated with UMN programs) 
  • US citizens or permanent residents
This is a fantastic opportunity for 11 months of on-site training and mentorship in global health, with well-established research sites in Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, Peru, Thailand and China. 

Designed for residents and fellows who would like to make a career in global health research, the candidate could use the on-site year to gain firm grounding in a global
health research project.

Full details of the fellowship and application materials are available at

The basic details of the fellowship are summarized here. Please contact Molly McCoy ( if you would like further details.

Please spread the word to qualified fellows and residents to consider applying if they are interested in global health research.

Be sure to circulate this info among your international colleagues, as well: international PhD students and residents/fellows/post-docs may also apply to the program if they are affiliated with UMN programs.

Doris Duke International Clinical Research Fellowships

Screenshot from the Doris Duke Foundation Oct 10, 2012

Applications for Doris Duke International clinical research fellowships will be accepted starting November 2012.

Three fellowships per year will be awarded by the University of Minnesota for fellowships beginning in summer 2013.

About the Fellowships

The goal of the Doris Duke  international clinical research fellowship is to encourage medical students to pursue clinical research careers by exposing them to research opportunities in developing countries.  

Students participating in this program will take a year out from medical school to conduct clinical research abroad under the direction of a mentor working in global health and will complete related coursework.  

U.S. medical students selected for fellowships will receive:

•    a living stipend
•    health insurance
•    paid travel expenses
•    research funds

Why Apply For A Doris Duke International Clinical Research Fellowship Through the UMN?

The University of Minnesota (UMN) project PI and the co-investigators at UMN and in Uganda and Kenya have extensive experience with international research projects for medical students.  

Our longstanding partnerships with Makerere University in Uganda and the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and Maseno University in Kenya focus on critical, inter-related areas of health in low-income countries:

•    Infection
•    Nutrition
•    Neurodevelopment
•    Neurocognitive and behavioral outcomes

Our experience in this research and the opportunity for interdisciplinary training afforded by a UMN presence at these sites should offer students highly relevant training in international research.

The possibility of research in other important health issues in these countries also exists, e.g., for students with interest in e.g., in sickle cell disease, cancer, mental health and zoonotic disease.

We work to make sure the students have appropriate mentors in the research area, and support, including regulatory support, for their research in these areas, prior to agreeing to student involvement in such a project. 

Our international medical student research experience is intended to be meaningful for the student and useful for the research site. In collaboration with the international partner site, fellows will receive training in:

•    research and ethics
•    in-depth global health
•    practical on-site research methods

University of Minnesota Mentors

David Boulware
Paul Bohjanen
Anne Parker Frosch
Chandy John
Kirsten Nielsen
Timothy Schacker

Makerere University, Uganda Mentors

Robert Opoka
Richard Idro
Sarah Kiguli
Andrew Kambugu
David Meya
Moses Joloba

KEMRI and Maseno University, Kisumu, Kenya Mentors

Wilson Odero
Ayub Ofulla
John Vulule
George Ayodo

Application Process

Application materials will be available through the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation website in November 2012.  Please check this page for a link and more information about applying as it becomes available.  Applications will be due January 15, 2013.  

For more information, contact Molly McCoy, Research Program Manager, at or 612-624-9749.

To help foster the next generation of global health scientists, Fogarty International Center and its partners at the National Institutes of Health are building a network of U.S. academic institutions to provide early-career physicians, veterinarians, dentists and scientists with a significant mentored research experience in a developing country.

About $20.3 million will be awarded over the next five years to support 400 early-career health scientists on 11-month research fellowships in 27 low- and middle-income countries.  The Fogarty Global Health Program for Fellows and Scholars will provide five consortia of academic institutions with about $4 million each, to support the training activities of a total of 20 partner institutions.

The University of Minnesota is part of the Northern and Pacific Universities Global Health Consortium, which includes the University of Washington, the University of Minnesota, the University of Michigan and the University of Hawaii.

The University of Minnesota was one of one of only two universities in the Midwest to receive a Fogarty award.

The award builds on UMN's strong global health research programs in Uganda and Kenya.

"This award will allow UMN to foster the next generation of global health researchers and confirms UMN's role as a leader in global health research and education," stated Dr. Chandy John, UMN principal investigator on the award and director of the Division of Global Pediatrics.

Application materials are at