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Daily Nation : February 10th 2014
2 Monday, January 11, 2010 DAILY NATION CAREER SO YOU WANT TO BE AN IMMUNOLOGIST... A career of painstaking care The job is like walking a never ending journey of discoveries BY PAULINE KAIRU Polinekairu@yahoo.com K ennedy Muna lost his aunt to Aids when he was only 18. He wondered then what this immunosuppression thing he was hearing and reading about was. “It made me very curious. And when I got to university and realised it was something I could learn and get to work with, I got even more curious. To date, I am still expanding my knowledge on it,” says the immunologist. The career, he adds, is like walking a never ending journey of discoveries. It deals with the relationship between the body systems, pathogens, and immunity. Although as a child he often said he would work as a doctor, he never imagined having to work with this complex network called the immune system. “It’s like a calling for which you must develop sincere interest in the conditions that affect human beings,” he says. Muna works in a biomedical re- search environment, in which studies are conducted about the functioning of the immune system. He is the head of department of the medical laboratory at the Mount Kenya University Laboratories. Muna is currently doing research on intestinal schistosomiasis, commonly known as bilharzia. His objective is to come up with a vaccine candidate to guard the body against the parasite. Because the job entails knowing the immune system in its entirety, being an immunologist is an allencompassing medical discipline, which requires him to know the anatomy of a person very well. Many diseases are caused when the immune system behaves incorrectly, he says. Immunologists like immune system disorders, while others enhance this to become physician-scientists who combine laboratory research with patient care. Muna took a Bachelor of Science in medical laboratory and sciences, and followed it up with a Master’s in immunology at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. It was while doing his Master’s that he developed interest in schistosomiasis, which was part of his project. He is still focusing on other aspects of the research in his PhD studies at MKU. This means he has to spend a lot of his time in the lab looking down the microscope. This, he says, calls for a lot of pa- tience. “It may take ages. You may take all your years trying to come up with a vaccine, so you should not be someone who loses hope easily. If one method fails, you find another way. If that one too fails, you have to find another one,” he says. Secondary school students eye- PAULINE KAIRU | DAILY NATION You may take all your years trying to come up with a vaccine, so you should not be someone who loses hope easily. Kennedy Muno, immunologist him therefore try to understand how and why the immune system has malfunctioned and allowed disease to creep in. “An immunologist is expected to know the physical, chemical and physiological characteristics of the the immune system,” he says. These are often networks of cells embedded within the various tissues located throughout the body. You must understand the smallest details about the immune system because the job is characterised by painstaking care and detailed examination, Muna explains. Immunologists can specialise in clinician immunology, or engage in research to develop better ways of diagnosing and providing treatment for many immunological conditions. Immunology can be broken down into various specialisation, including clinical immunology, diagnostic immunology, and immunotherapy. One can also specialise in cancer immunology and reproductive immunology. Immunologists also include physicians who treat patients with ing this career, says Muna, must be very interested in general biology and chemistry because one must understand well the many reactions that take place in the body, and more specifically, the way the body works. Mathematics is also important because the data produced by the diagnostic machines must be calculated and computed. Because animals too suffer immu- nological conditions, immunologists may also work in veterinary sciences or in the pharmaceutical and biotechnical industries, helping to develop new medical products and therapies. DESIRED QUALITIES •Keen •Determined •Patient •Team player Wanted skill that local universities won’t supply SPECIAL REPORT CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 programme to another, and also from one academic institution to the next. Generally, it bridges business and computer science, using the theoretical foundations of information and computation to study various business models and related algorithmic processes within the computer science discipline. According to Prof Atieno, or- ganisations cannot effectively and efficiently do business without solid IS setups for connecting systems within as well as with its supplychain stake holders, such as vendors and distributors. Yet, many students aren’t aware of the possibility of a career in this field. In fact, the study found that only 11 per cent of those interviewed knew about IS analysis as a possible area of specialisation. “Information systems as an aca- demic discipline seems to be largely unknown to high school students in Kenya, making it impossible for them to select it as an area of specialisation in their university education,” it states. “The net effect is that the level of IS education in the country has suffered, resulting in a deficiency in systems analysis and related skills.” Yet in other parts of the world, workforce focused at supplying this need was already being trained by the mid-1980s. Manufacturing companies wanted IS for many of their operations, such as forecasting sales, taking orders, and managing distribution of their products. In Kenya, Prof Atieno’s study further found that the awareness for the course, usually offered as a possible area of concentration among university business students, was not only low, but also occurred late. About 89 per cent of the students obtained IS awareness late, she established. Naturally, the choice of a field of specialisation is dependent upon its existence, a student’s awareness about it, its application in the real world, and the career projects it presents. Part of Prof Atieno’s study in- volved offering a course she called IS Concepts, so that she may observe the response of students thereafter. The result? About 92 per cent of the students “found the subject to be interesting at some level,” states the report, “with 72 per cent of them leaving open the possibility of changing to IS specialisation if given the opportunity.” This means that with improved early awareness, the course would be attractive. A scrutiny of the university admis- sion guidelines and process reveals that neither IS nor MIS is on the list of possible areas of specialisation. The overall problem, Prof Atieno says, is the assumption by the institutions of higher learning in Kenya that because they were offering robust computer science programmes, then IS analysis was taken care of. She argues that the large num- bers of computer scientists and programmers who are savvy in the development of computer systems and computer applications cannot compensate for the deficiency. In the end, Kenyan computer sci- ence graduates, despite being well trained, can only watch as organisations are pushed to hire IS personnel from outside the country. DAILY NATION Monday February 10, 2014 SMART MOVES How to warm your way into a job via email BY JULIAH KARIMI firstname.lastname@example.org As evening students, we often console ourselves that it is better and more productive to learn in the silence of the evening than in busy daytime. But when it comes to networking, day students have a larger chance of expanding their networks than evening students. Usually, the day student has more free time than the evening learner, who is most likely a working student like yours truly. Well, whichever your situation is, taking advantage of your free time to establish contacts is what will set you apart from the rest when you eventually start looking for a job. The same applies to the unemployed. They have more free time, which they can use not to lament but to engage in productive professional conversations. Every situation has an advantage. Social media Building a relevant professional network can help you sail to your dream career. This being an information and communication age, establishing professional relations is much easier than in previous times. Many more people now have access to the Internet, and therefore email. Companies are realising the effect of good customer service and public relations, and have opened up channels of communication. Social media has thus become the new outlet for complaints, job advertisements and product launches. Getting the most out of this should be your goal. The most important and oldest practice of networking is called cold-calling or cold-emailing. The latter is now considered the most useful way to build a network. The big question is, how do you network with thousands of strangers? Six Degrees of Separation An article in Ask.com talks about Six Degrees of Separation — a concept developed by Frigyes Karinthy. It is the idea that people are only six steps or fewer away from each other. In other words, everyone in the world can be connected to each other by six or fewer steps. I tend to find that there is some truth to it, more like the age old statement, “I know a person who knows someone who knows her”. For the job seeker, therefore, the most important thing is to identify where you want to work and slowly work your way inside. Think of it as a wall that you must pull down brick by brick. Find a way to gradually convince someone who works with the organisation to invite you to open events, where you could get the chance to network with the key decision makers. Use tact Maintain honesty when dealing with your initial contacts. Perseverance will ultimately endear you to the most important people. Be specific as well in what you want. Are you look- ing for an entry level position? How much are you willing to take? Are you willing to take a lower job for a start? Use tact to build your network. Begin by asking for advice. That way, you are less likely to get the dreaded response, “Who did you say you were again?” Building a relationship must be the goal of a cold email. Be brief. No one likes a long story that can be shortened into a brief paragraph. Do not bombard your contact with wordy emails that end nowhere and begin anywhere. Be keen on spellings. Keep the communication relevant all through. It is important that you respect your contact’s time and privacy. Writing too much to the extent of becoming a bother can easily end up in , “I can’t help you”, type of response. We are always scared of initiating conversations, but thinking of the end result should push us towards a fruitful networking relationship.
February 9th 2014
February 11th 2014