JR Biotek-Plant Cell Atlas (PCA) Africa PhD Scholars Mentoring Program

Mentoring a new cadre of African crop scientists and global research leaders

The JR Biotek-PCA Africa PhD Scholars Mentoring Program aims to provide high-quality personalized mentoring to support the research career progression of outstanding PhD researchers involved in crop agricultural research in African universities. The program is designed to complement existing academic efforts by providing new perspectives and avenues for selected mentees to refine, develop and conduct high-quality research that generates meaningful outcomes aimed at addressing Africa’s challenges in line with the Sustainable Development Goals 1 (No Poverty), 2 (Zero Hunger), 4 (Quality Education) and 13 (Climate Action). The world class research training and mentoring will be a major boost to personal and professional development of the scholars, as well as provide them with unique opportunities for research capacity development, knowledge transfer, and equitable partnerships with scientists at world leading research institutions across the globe.

Mentoring Page Banner Image

The Inaugural Ceremony (8th JUNE 2022)

We are excited to officially launch the inaugural JR Biotek-PCA Mentoring Program through a virtual opening ceremony taking place on 8th June 2022. The event will include a keynote delivered by Dr Nicola Patron (a research leader in synthetic biology at the Earlham Institute, United Kingdom), followed by presentations by Dr Seung Yon (Sue) Rhee (a leading plant scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Plant Science, Stanford University, USA), and Dr Carol Ibe (plant scientist at the John Innes Centre, United Kingdom and founder of JR Biotek Foundation, USA). The ceremony will also include panel discussion sessions by distinguished scientists from leading research institutions in Africa, Europe and USA, followed by a stimulating Q&A session and networking.


Dr. Nicola Patron

Dr. Nicola Patron

Principal Investigator, Plant Molecular and Synthetic Biology, Earlham Institute, UK

Dr. Seung Yon

Dr. Seung Yon (Sue) Rhee

Senior Staff Member, Plant Biology Department, Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford, USA

Dr. Carol N. Ibe

Plant Scientist (John Innes Centre, UK); Founder & President of JR Biotek Foundation, USA

Meet the 2022 inaugural class of JR Biotek-Plant Cell Atlas
global mentoring program

Joan Kimutai

Joan Kimutai

Ph.D. student in Plant Breeding, University of Ghana, Ghana


Velma Okaron

Ph.D. student in Plant Breeding, Makerere University, Uganda

Benjamin Narh

Benjamin Narh-Madey

MPhil Student in Genetics and Plant Breeding, University of Ghana, Ghana


Vincent Opuku

Ph.D. student in Crop Science (Plant Physiology), University of Cape Coast, Ghana

Person Icon

Firezer Girma

Ph.D. student in Plant breeding, Jimma University, Ethiopia

Olubukola Lawal

Olubukola Lawal

Ph.D. student in Plant Physiology and Biochemistry, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Nigeria

Idris Adejumobi

Idris Adejumobi

Ph.D. student in Plant Science, University of Kisangani, DR Congo

Nii Ayi Ankrah

Nii-Ayi Ankrah

Ph.D. student in Cytogenetics, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana

Lami Jinatu

Lami Jinatu

Ph.D. student in Entomology, University of Ghana, Ghana

Tokunbo G

Tokunbo Gbadeyan

Ph.D. student in Plant Science (Pathology), Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria

Matilda N

Matilda Mdyetseni

Ph.D. student in Crop and Soil Science (Pathology), Luanar-Bunda Compass, Malawi

Rukiya Danful

Rukiya Danful

Ph.D. student in Plant breeding, University of Ghana

Marie Cece

Marie Cece

Ph.D. student in Plant Science, University Joseph KI-ZERBO, Burkina Faso

Doris Mensah

Doris Mensah

Ph.D. student in Plant Pathology, University of Cape Coast, Ghana

Anthony Mabele

Anthony Mabele

Ph.D. student in Molecular Plant Virology, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Kenya.


Our mentors are research experts at leading research institutions across the globe. They are from a diverse research background and are committed to support a cadre of African crop agricultural scientists and future global leaders.

Dr. Damaris Odeny

Dr. Damaris Odeny

Cluster Leader - Genomics, Pre-breeding & Bioinformatics, ICRISAT, Nairobi, Kenya

Dr. Seung Yon

Dr. Seung Yon (Sue) Rhee

Senior Staff Member, Plant Biology Department, Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford, USA

Dr. Cosmos Magorokosho

Maize Breeding and Seed Systems consultancy, Zimbabwe


Prof. Marisa Otegui

Department of Botany, University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA

Dr. Michelle Facette

Dr. Michelle Facette

Assistant Professor, Biology Department, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA

Dr. Ruth N. Prempeh

Senior Research Scientist & Head of Molecular Biology Section, CSIR-Crops Research Institute, Ghana

Dr. Samuel Leiboff

Assistant Professor, Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Oregon State University, USA

Nicole Choquette

Crop Science Department, Plant Breeding Consortium, North Carolina State University, USA

Prof. Beatrice

Prof. Beatrice Were

Associate Professor of Genetics, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Eldoret, Kenya

Flavia Bossi

Dr. Flavia Bossi

Senior Research Associate, Plant Biology, Carnegie Institution, Stanford, USA

Jales Fonseca

Dr. Jales Fonseca

Genetics & Plant Breeding Texas A&M University, Texas, USA

Prof. Marian Quain

Prof. Marian Quain

Chief Research Scientist at CSIR-Crops Research Institute and Associate Professor, CSIR College of Science & Tech, Ghana

Dr. Karine Prado

Dr. Karine Prado

Senior Research Associate, Plant Biology/Global Ecology Carnegie Institute for Science, Stanford, USA

Dr. Sibongile Mafu

Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA

Dr. James Mickley

Dr. James Mickley

Hebarium Curator, Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Oregon University, USA

Dr. Devang Mehta

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, KU Leuven, Belgium

Dr. Suryatapa Ghosh Jha

Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology, W. M. Keck Science Department, Claremont Colleges, Southern California, USA

Dr. Rose A

Dr. Rose Marks

NSF Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Horticulture, Michigan State University, USA

Dr. Oluwaseyi Shorinola

Plant genetics, BASF Belgium

Dr. Chloé Orland

Dr. Chloé Orland

Aquatic ecology University of California-USA

Dr. Margaret Frank

Assistant Professor, School of Integrative Plant Science Plant Biology Section, Cornell University, USA

Prof. Julia Sibiya

Associate Professor of Plant Breeding, SAEES, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Dr. Tim Kloppe

Dr. Tim Kloppe

Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, North Carolina State University, USA

Jason Thomas

Dr. Jason Thomas

Postdoctoral Fellow, Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford, USA

Dr. Cathrine Ziyomo

Dr. Cathrine Ziyomo

BecA-International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Nairobi, Kenya

Prof. Dean Hesterberg

Research Scientist & Soil Science Advisor, LNLS, Brazilian Center for Research in Energy and Materials, Brazil

Anna Dye

Plant and Microbial Biology, North Carolina State University, USA

Professor Sushma Naithani

Prof. Sushma Naithani

Associate Professor Senior Research, Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Oregon State University, USA

Dr. Joanna Feehan

Postdoctoral Fellow, Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford, USA

Dr. Dinakaran Elango

Postdoctoral research scientist , Department of Agronomy

The Organising Team


Opeoluwa Oyewole

PhD Scholar, University of Nebraska Medical Center, USA


Velma Okaron

PhD Scholar, Makerere University, Uganda (and JR Biotek Alumna)


Ayomide Olukerede

PhD Scholar, John Innes Centre, UK


Elena Lazarus

Scientific Coordinator, Rhee Lab, Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford, USA

Important Dates

2nd June 2022

Mentor training at
2.30 pm

zoom logo

8th June 2022

Official launch & opening ceremony at
2.30 pm

zoom logo

13th June 2022

One-on-One mentoring commences

30th November 2022

Official closing event


About the PCA

The PCA (Plant Cell Atlas) initiative is a community resource that comprehensively describes the state of various plant cell types and integrates high-resolution location information of nucleic acids, proteins, and metabolites within plant cells. The PCA network offers a wide range of skills and resources in imaging, proteomics, genomics, nanotechnology, and data science, and we are pleased to work together to support the career development and advancement of exceptional early-career crop scientists across Africa.

About JR Biotek

JR Biotek Foundation is a United States non-profit (501c3) organization that is advancing bioscience education, research, and innovation for Africa’s sustainable development. We utilize a grassroot, bottom-up approach to upskill early-career agricultural scientists in African nations, equipping them with relevant skillset to solve pressing local challenges, particularly, food and nutrition insecurity. Our goal is to bridge the chronic scientific knowledge and skills gaps that are hampering the application of modern biotechnologies for sustainable food production. To date, we have collaborated with the University of Cambridge (UK) and universities and research institutions in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Benin Republic, and mobilized research experts from leading global research institutions to deliver world-class training aimed at strengthening local research capacity. These programs are having a far-reaching impact across 20+ African countries.