Boniface Mailu, Ph.D., scientist and mentor
"My son had malaria when he was eight months old. My daughter had it when she was even younger....For me, the scene just calls for more work from our scientists and our community."
-Boniface Mailu, Ph.D., Seattle BioMed scientist
Boniface recovers from malaria
Boniface (with his daughter) earns a Ph.D. in biochemistry
Boniface Mailu, Ph.D., Seattle BioMed postdoctoral scientist in the Gardner lab, suffered and survived several bouts of malaria by his second birthday in his native Mombasa, Kenya. Today, he is dedicating his career to infectious disease research.
On having malaria
Mailu's memory of his childhood is still very fresh. "I can remember when I was sick from malaria. I remember having this regimen of malaria treatment," he recalls. "I’d start by taking four tablets the first hour, and then after every four hours I would take two more tablets. I must admit, I don’t like taking tablets now because I think I've had enough for a lifetime."
From seminary to Mombasa
Mailu's first major step on his journey to eventually becoming a scientist at Seattle BioMed occurred when I was in grade school. "My parents were strict Catholics, and at some point when I was growing up, I joined a school which normally led to priesthood," said Mailu. He spent just one year in a seminary, soon realizing that priesthood was not meant to be his path in life. "I had to convince my parents to let me leave seminary, so we made a bet: If I was the best student, then I could transfer schools." Within three months, Mailu was the best student, and he moved to another school that taught the sciences. "That’s where my passion for science began!"
After graduating high school in Mombasa, Mailu went to university and studied biochemistry. "I had a chance to visit a research institution called International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in Nairobi, Kenya, where I met an American scientist who was articulating scientific issues on insects and diseases so well. I asked him what I needed to do to become a scientist and articulate issues as well as he did." He told Mailu the next stop on his journey to becoming a scientists should be earning a Ph.D. in biochemistry.
Translating a biochemistry degree to malaria research and training
Today Mailu is a Seattle BioMed scientist studying the malaria parasite. He works in the lab of Malcolm Gardner, Ph.D., one of the scientists who first cracked the malaria genome code.
Mailu also participates in BioQuest, Seattle BioMed’s science education program. BioQuest gives Mailu an opportunity to pay forward the value he gained from good mentors along his own journey by mentoring teens to pursue futures steeped in science. He helps young men and women understand malaria, how the parasite works and urges teens to find their own pathways to doing something to advance infectious disease research.
Breakthrough Fund supporters can help ensure training opportunities for the next generation of scientists. Learn more about Seattle BioMed's training programs.