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Biophysicist in Profile

Sabella Kiprono

Sabella Kiprono

March 2023 // 1984

Sabella Kiprono grew up in rural areas of Kenya, where she developed an interest in scientific research even as a young child. In 2004, she entered a Bachelor of Education program at Egerton University, studying science education and focus­ing on botany, zoology, and chemistry. “This ignited my inter­est in how microorganisms cause diseases and has driven my passion to study and conduct research in microbiology,” she shares. Because she found research so fulfilling, following completion of her undergraduate studies, she enrolled in a master’s program in biology at Saint Louis University in the Philippines.

In 2014, Kiprono began her PhD program in microbiology at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China. “I got excited about the area of biofabrications of microor­ganisms and I trained in a Biomaterials, Biomacromolecular, and Biofabrication laboratory,” she explains. “Specifically, my training was on the biofabrication of microbial cells. I gener­ated complex constructs (i.e., functional microbial cells) by encoating microbial surfaces with biocompatible materials that can be used for various applications in biomedical and environmental sciences. During my PhD is when my interest in biophysics began.”

After earning her PhD she accepted a position at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology in Kakamega, Kenya. She has remained at the institution, both running a research lab and teaching. “My current research is to design delivery systems by using encapsulated probiotic (Lactococcus spp.) and loading/adsorbing the encapsulated surface with antioxidants and performing in vitro release,” Kiprono details. “The goal of the proposed research is to develop a novel algi­nate-based system for the co-delivery of probiotics (Lactococ­cus spp.) and antioxidants to enhance the bioavailability of the individual components to promote digestive health.”

Her secondary project is an ethnomedical survey to document the knowledge of the medicinal uses of stingless bee honey. Studies on the antimicrobial properties of stingless bee honey are currently ongoing.

The biggest challenge Kiprono has faced in her career has been, like many biophysicists, balancing the competing de­mands of research, teaching, lab management, and acquiring grant funding. “I always try to balance my research with other tasks so as to succeed,” she reveals.

Outside of this workload, she has also organized several local networking events through the Biophysical Society’s Net­working Event Mini-Grant program. “Networking events are very good experiences since we do interact with scientists from various sectors, thus sharing ideas and forming collabo­rations,” she explains. Through the Society, she has expanded her network of both local and international scientists and has developed collaborations.

When not working, Kiprono enjoys exercising, traveling to find adventures, and spending time with family and friends.

She offers this advice for those who are starting careers in biophysics: “Biophysics is the face of the world in the near future and I would encourage the young people just starting their careers in biophysics that this is an interdisciplinary field that will prepare you for various opportunities from research to entrepreneurship in a wide array of fields where the knowl­edge and techniques of physics theories and practices are being employed to understand problems in the life sciences’ various biological phenomena.”

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