Dr Melissa Kapulu

Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI)

When Dr Melissa Kapulu was a child she had a dream one night that she was working in a remote area, wearing a white lab coat. Many years later, with a lot of hard work and tenacity, that dream has become a reality.

Born in Zambia, Melissa has always had a passion for science. After completing her primary and secondary education she attended the University of Zambia where she finished her undergraduate degree in molecular biology and genetics. After receiving commonwealth funding Melissa moved to London to complete her masters in immunology of infectious disease, at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In 2007 Melissa returned to Zambia to apply for further commonwealth funding to undertake a PhD in Oxford.

With funding at the ready, Melissa emailed Professor Adrian Hill and unexpectedly received an email back from him within 24 hours. She started her PhD with Professors Adrian Hill and Sarah Gilbert at the Jenner Institute in March 2009, and completed her studies in 2013.

Arriving in Oxford with her four year old daughter Grace, Melissa says that Oxford University’s relationship with local childcare services has been very useful in enabling her to study and balance life at home as a single mother.

In May 2013, Melissa relocated to Kenya where she now joins Professor Kevin Marsh and his Kenya based Oxford research group in the field.

“The nursery Grace attended in Oxford was right across the road from my work, so I could just drop her off on my way in to the lab every morning,” she says.

“The support I have received from the department was wonderful, in 2009 when I first came to meet with Adrian I was amazed at how cool he was. I remember when I told him I was coming to Oxford with my daughter he called his wife straight away to ask about childcare.

“The Jenner Institute also made my transition from Oxford to Kenya as smooth as possible. Adrian, Sarah, Kevin and Gary have all been amazing, I feel like I’m being fathered and mothered at the same time. It’s been like that from day one.”