Parasite Immuno-epidemiology Group (P.I.G)

OAK Foundation Fellows

OAK Fellows updates.

Chakawa Mazvita

Photo of Chakawa Mazvita

The OAK scholarship enabled Mazvita to complete her master’s degree in biotechnology at the University of Zimbabwe. Through this funding, she conducted research investigating Immuno-Epidemiology of Helicobacter pylori-Associated Autoimmunity in Zimbabwean patients. With guidance from her dissertation mentors and colleagues from the Asthma, Allergy, and Immune Dysfunction clinic, where most of her studies were conducted, they were able to publish a research article from her findings. The OAK scholarship provided funding  for her to present her work at the International Union of Immunological Societies (IUIS) conference in Beijing, China in 2018. Mazvita also got an opportunity to work with other OAK-funded scientists in projects outside of her area of focus. As a budding scientist, collaborating with other scientists expanded her research experience and challenged her critical thinking skills. Some of the collaborative work she did includes investigations of pediatric schistosomiasis infection in some endemic provinces in Zimbabwe (Mashonaland east and west). Collaborative work enabled her to conduct research in the field where she was able to appreciate data collection and general research ethics involved in community-based field work. Overall, as an OAK scholarship recipient, not only did she complete her master’s degree in biotechnology, but the funding afforded her considerable research experience that positioned her for acceptance into a highly competitive post-graduate program in the USA. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Biomedical sciences at Tulane university in New Orleans, USA.

Chasara Caroline

Photo of Chakawa Mazvita

The OAK scholarship granted Caroline an opportunity to advance her career. Through supported studying, she received a Master of Science Degree in Biotechnology at the University of Zimbabwe. Her MSc research focused on the characterisation of grass pollen allergens in Zimbabwe and optimisation of allergy diagnosis.  She is currently pursuing a PhD program aimed at identifying key biomarkers for HIV-infected cells in lymphoid node tissues to facilitate specific cell targeting and elimination.

Choto Emilia

Photo of Choto Emilia

Emilia Choto is a proud OAK Scholarship recipient from March 2018 to March 2021. The scholarship helped her acquire a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Public Health from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (2021). She specialised in the immunological studies of infectious diseases and cancer. Through the OAK fellowship, Emilia gained critical academic skills such as manuscript writing, grant application skills, conducting research,  field work management, presentation skills and stress management. These skills have made her an advanced researcher and marketable in the academic field.

After graduating with her PhD, she was engaged in research at the University of Zimbabwe in the Biotechnology and Biochemistry Department. Thereafter, she became a lecturer in the Biotechnology Department at the University of Chinhoyi  from 2021 to 2022.  Currently, she is a lecturer at the newly established,  School of Medical and Health Sciences at Great Zimbabwe University. She is leading the pathology department and engaged as an immunology lecturer.

Dube Yvonne

Photo of Chakawa Mazvita

The OAK scholarship has initiated a career niche in immunology and infectious diseases research for Yvonne. As a research student, she gained the confidence to successfully focus on research that will have an impact on global health without being crippled educationally from lack of finances and resources. She gained skills that are prerequisites for a PhD, these include data analysis, analytical thinking and scientific writing. Additionally, through the OAK Foundation, she co-authored a published paper. Her career goals have indeed exceeded her expectations. Currently, she is pursuing her PhD studies at one of the most prestigious universities, The Peter Doherty Institute of Infection and Immunity Institute at the University of Melbourne, Australia. As a second year student, her research focuses on antibody immunity to malaria in pregnant women from Malawi in which she hopes the findings will contribute to delivering zero malaria. This pathway would not have been possible if it was not for the OAK scholarship.

Ndarukwa Pisirai

Photo of Ndarukwa Pisirai

As an OAK Scholarship recipient,  Pisirai was able to acquire a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Public Health from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (2019).  Through the OAK fellowship, he was appointed a Research Fellow in the School of Nursing and Public Health (UKZN). In this role, he actively engaged in research activities and provided supervision to PhD students. Moreover, he has gained valuable insight through mentorship in supervision from Prof Moses John Chimbari. Some of his current responsibilities include conducting research, writing grant proposals and supervising  students as assigned from time to time by the Department of Public Health at UKZN. Since 2021, he  has  also been engaged as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Health Sciences at Bindura University of Science Education.


The OAK Foundation Scholarship’s impact has influenced him to establish a specialist clinic (Health Wave) in Allergology, Asthma and Clinical Immunology practice in Harare, Zimbabwe. This has become one of the very specialised services in the country that provides diagnostics and clinical management pathways in allergies, asthma and immunology. It gives hope to the previously misdiagnosed and mismanaged population of Zimbabwe. The clinic provides specialised care in certain areas and to date, it has been able to provide rapid diagnosis in allergology, asthma, COPD, immunological conditions including other respiratory conditions and COVID 19. Desensitisation as a treatment pathway for allergies is also offered at the clinic.. This was rarely being done in the country and has become integral in the health care systems and delivery.


The OAK Scholarship has helped Pisirai publish more than 13 scientific articles. He belongs to a panel of experts in Infection Prevention and Control for the Ministry of Health and Child Care. As a result of him belonging to this panel, he has spearheaded training in COVID 19 Infection Prevention and Control among Health Care Workers and members of the Chitungwiza Civil Services which included the Zimbabwe Republic Police and Registrar of Births, Deaths and Passport Office.

Ndlovu Vuyelwa

Photo of Ndlovu Vuyelwa

The funds Vuyelwa received from the OAK Foundation enabled her to explore the relationship between exposure to Imbrasia belina, a popular edible insect in Zimbabwe, and population wide allergic sensitisation in a rural community. This work has garnered considerable interest in allergic diseases amongst various stakeholders.  Vuyelwa is heading a newly established department of Environmental Health at the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. The Department seeks to strengthen the field of Environmental and Public Health in Zimbabwe through hands-on learning and training, as well as active collaboration with key stakeholders. For instance, interest in my OAK funded work led to a collaboration with the department of Biology and Biochemistry. A paper entitled “Molecular detection of Imbrasia belina proteins associated with allergic reactions on harvesters and consumers from selected districts in Matabeleland: A comparative study” has been submitted to a peer reviewed journal. 

Vuyelwa’s research interests are focused on understanding the complex interplay of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors to understand communicable and non-communicable diseases NCDs in Zimbabwe. The work also extends to finding contextually relevant solutions to benefit community health. Vuyelwa is currently setting up a multidisciplinary research group to establish a comprehensive regional profile for medicinal plants utilised in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe.

Pfavayi Lorraine

Photo of Pfavayi Lorraine

Lorraine has been fortunate enough to receive funding for both her Master's and PhD degrees through the OAK scholarship program. The financial support provided by the scholarship allowed her to pursue her PhD studies at one of the most prestigious universities, the University of Oxford. Both her MSc and PhD studies focused on allergic diseases in areas co-endemic with parasitic infections to improve diagnosis, quantification and characterisation of these diseases. Through this work, she has contributed significantly to knowledge generation and exchange by leading four first-author publications and co-authoring five academic papers. During her time as an OAK fellow, she has gained invaluable research experience and had the privilege of collaborating with leading experts in allergology, mycology and neglected tropical diseases. She is now working as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Institute of Immunology and Infection Research, University of Edinburgh, while also applying for early career research grants to further develop her skills, with the hope of establishing her own research group.

List of publications from the OAK fellows