BMB in Africa

Seeing the molecular beauty of life

Jessica Desamero
July 13, 2022

When Collins Maina was in secondary school in Kenya, a genetics class piqued his interest in science. He found especially fascinating how certain mutations can be disastrous to the well-being of organisms. And when he took his national exams, he was placed into a biochemistry program, which coincidentally turned out to be a good move for him.

Collins Maina earned his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from South Eastern Kenya University in November.
Collins Maina
Collins Maina earned his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology
from South Eastern Kenya University in November.

Maina attended South Eastern Kenya University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology in November. He said two particularly memorable classes were Biochemistry of Tumors and Biochemical Techniques and Instrumentation.

Not only were these classes interesting, he said, but he also was able to apply what he learned to his own life situation. Learning about the molecular and cellular bases of tumors helped him and his family when his grandfather developed prostate cancer.

“I remember I was the go-to guy for the family when they wanted to sort of analyze and translate the pathologist’s reports,” he said.

Learning about laboratory techniques in biochemistry was a highlight for Maina because of the physics involved. He was also able to carry and apply some of this knowledge to his career in industry as a medical representative.

In general, Maina said, biochemistry has helped him better understand what life is and how complex it is at the molecular level.

“It’s really fun knowing very well that beyond what you see in a person, you see there are a couple of three-letter sequences (codons) that determine who you are, determine the personality, determine so many things in your life — how a mishap in the placement of an amino acid, how a molecule that lacks the right conformation can have very detrimental effects on an organism,” he said. “At the basic level they are nothing more than molecules, very beautiful molecules.”

Maina values how relatable biochemistry is to real life. “If I don’t watch my health currently, I’m expecting to develop osteoporosis as I get into my 40s,” he said. “And so, it’s like reading the future.”

While applying to postgraduate programs and reading extensively about various areas of research, Maina has developed a passion for molecular microbiology and is particularly interested in quorum sensing, which involves responding to cell population density via gene regulation. He plans to continue his studies by earning a Master of Science degree, preferably in Canada, the United States, Scotland or New Zealand. He easily excelled in his undergraduate courses, but the high cost of and limited access to good schools make this goal quite difficult. Few research jobs are available in Kenya. Still, he remains hopeful.

Eventually, Maina said, he sees himself completing a Ph.D. program, doing a lot of research and retiring as a lecturer.

“I have so many questions I think I need to answer,” he said.

Enjoy reading ASBMB Today?

Become a member to receive the print edition monthly and the digital edition weekly.

Learn more
Jessica Desamero

Jessica Desamero is a graduate of the biochemistry Ph.D. program at the City University of New York Graduate Center. She volunteers with thescience outreach organization BioBus, and she is an ASBMB Today volunteer contributor.

Featured jobs

from the ASBMB career center

Get the latest from ASBMB Today

Enter your email address, and we’ll send you a weekly email with recent articles, interviews and more.

Latest in People

People highlights or most popular articles

More than just omics
Interview

More than just omics

May 21, 2024

Meet the three co-organizers of an intimate meeting that focuses on transcription from all angles.

2024 Goldwater scholars announced
Award

2024 Goldwater scholars announced

May 20, 2024

Thirteen of the scholarship recipients are ASBMB student members.

In memoriam: Edith C. Wolff
In Memoriam

In memoriam: Edith C. Wolff

May 20, 2024

She was an enzyme biochemist at the National Institutes of Health and a former assistant to the editor of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

This MOSAIC scholar believes in the power of perseverance
Diversity

This MOSAIC scholar believes in the power of perseverance

May 16, 2024

Wagner Silva Dantas aims to develop new approaches to reducing fat mass while preserving muscle mass by studying a crucial regulator for maintaining redox balance.

ASBMB honors 2024 outstanding student chapter
Student Chapters

ASBMB honors 2024 outstanding student chapter

May 15, 2024

Founded just three years ago, the University of South Alabama chapter shows leadership in educational activities, commitment to increasing public scientific awareness and more.

Honors for Shan, Landick and Bankston
Member News

Honors for Shan, Landick and Bankston

May 13, 2024

Awards, promotions, milestones and more. Find out what's going on the lives of ASBMB members.