Her love for mosquitoes surpasses family time, perhaps.
Sheila is fascinated by how such a tiny insect, is also the deadliest on earth and does not regret spending more time with the ‘little fly’, more than her children and her home.
“I travel a lot supporting several countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Greater Mekong sub-region and Meso America. This means spending time away from home and my children. But again, as an entomologist, nothing beats time with the mosquitoes in the field.”
The 39-year-old was inspired to join the field of entomology by her undergraduate Professor Richard Mukabana, who had done several research projects on mosquito ecology.
"I travel a lot supporting several countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Greater Mekong sub-region and Meso America. This means spending time away from home and my children."
Sheila is passionate about research and has spent more than 10 years researching mosquito ecology and control. And despite spending several years studying mosquitoes and malaria transmission, she says she learns something new every day. She was attached to a project, which was evaluating herbal plants that repel mosquitoes.
The entomologist is more interested in empowering the National Malaria Control Programmes, to use entomological data to inform and shape vector control strategies.
“I work as a technical advisor for malaria at the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI). After my undergraduate at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Nairobi, I was fortunate to be one of the Master’s of Science scholarship recipients of a collaborative programme between the University of Nairobi and the Ifakara Health Institute (IHI) in Tanzania,” she said.
Upon completing her Master’s degree, she received a fully-funded scholarship to pursue a PhD in Infectious and Tropical Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK. Her PhD thesis was on determining the mode of action of spatial repellents for mosquito control.
Among her key achievements in the research is the development of spatial repellent efficacy testing procedures, which were included in the World Health Organisation official guidelines for testing spatial repellents.
“I also co-chair the Expanding the Vector Control Toolbox” of the Roll Back Malaria Vector Control Working Group.”
Her biggest moment as a malaria expert came when the world health body announced the recommendation of the RTS, S/AS01 (RTS, a vaccine against malaria in young children in sub-Saharan Africa.
“That was the best news this year.”
Sheila has had 15 peer-reviewed publications to her name.
Her long-term goal is to empower and mentor young women in science and specifically entomology.
“I am more confident now and have a plan in place.”