Tapoka Mkandawire


PhD Student, Wellcome Sanger Institute

What do I do?

I study how bacteria in our guts “talk” to a parasitic whip worm that can infect us– if we can understand the messages the bacteria send we may be able to beat the disease. I get to travel to Africa and South America to collect samples for my research and grow bacteria and worms in the lab.

Me in 3 (Three words to describe me)

  • Persevering
  • Friendly
  • Open to new ideas

Fascinating facts about me

I love trying new food, my favourite colour is pink and if I could have any pet it would be a hedgehog! I love being outdoors
doing photography.

Skills I use in my job:

Observation - I have to look at tiny bacteria and worms under a microscope

Organisation - I need to be organised in my job so I make lists of all the tasks I need to do

Communication - When I have done a project, I write it up in a journal so I can tell others about my research findings

Teamwork - I work with other scientists around the world, it is important that we can all work together to contribute to a project

Can you extract DNA from Fruit?

To study bacteria and worms, I have to extract their DNA. Every living thing on the planet has DNA and it is quite easy to the get it out using some basic household items: Salt, water, washing up liquid and alcohol!

Make sure you get an adult to help you.

See how it’s done here:

Download profile in pdf