After 31 years with the International Livestock Research Institute, BecA-ILRI Hub's principal scientist and molecular parasitologist Roger Pelle is retiring. Throughout his time at ILRI, Pelle contributed research and expertise on topics like animal health, epidemiology and the control of African infectious livestock diseases.
Pelle’s journey of scientific inquiry began during his upbringing in Cameroon surrounded by agriculture and livestock. During primary school, he farmed chicken for eggs, and sugarcane that he could sell, looking for ways to increase productivity. It was during this time that his interest in biology and livestock originated and steered him towards a scientific path. Today, he is one of ILRI’s most frequently published scientists.
Pelle’s career has been distinguished: he has authored and co-authored numerous books, chapters and papers; he holds a research patent on East Coast Fever vaccine antigens discovery; and he has worked on building the capacity of scientists across and beyond Africa. Deputy Director of General Research and Development at ILRI, Iain Wright, especially recognizes Pelle for his ‘huge contribution in capacity building’, which he says has been enormously influential.
Capacity-building and transferring knowledge to young scientists, Pelle says, have been his most memorable contribution. Throughout his career, Pelle has supervised over ten PhD and MSc students, and trained over three hundred African scientists.
A key achievement for Pelle was the successful training of over 80 medical and veterinary staff in 36 African countries in the detection and identification of the highly pathogenic Avian Influenza virus in Dakar, Nairobi, Pretoria, and Yaoundé during the 2006-07 outbreaks. For many of these countries, it was the first time that veterinarians and public health scientists had come together in a collaborative effort. It was also the beginning of his work on One Health. Organizing everyone, he recalls, was crucial to the project's success.
Emeritus Fellow at ILRI Susan MacMillan, who has known Pelle since the start of his career at ILRI, says that he embodies ILRI’s principle that people matter most. She credits him with helping to build the organization’s lab culture through training, mentoring and advising young scientists who are entering the field. Of his strength in capacity building, MacMillan puts it best when she says that “Roger Pelle makes time for his students.”
Roger’s contributions to ILRI and the scientific field have been invaluable. However, despite the departure, he remains in good spirits about his next steps and looks forward to different experiences. He remains close to several universities in Cameroon, where he will continue to advise and supervise students, as he has done in the past. ILRI staff, and the countless scientists across Africa who have worked with him, are grateful for all his efforts. Whoever will replace him, MacMillan says, has “big, generous, warm and enabling shoes to fill.”
For more on ILRI's biosciences platform, The Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA)-ILRI Hub, see here.
For more on the Beca-ILRI Hub's research, see here.
Photo credit: Roger Pelle