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News > Careers > Women in Science

Women in Science

Liz is working hard to reduce the mosquito population, as a control tool for malaria. Find out more about her PhD at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
18 May 2022
Written by Liz Pretorius (Westwood)
Guinea-Bissau
Careers
Liz Pretorius
Liz Pretorius

I have a beautifully illustrated children’s book called ‘Women in Science’. Each page is dedicated to one scientist. In it are some of the women you would expect, such as Marie Curie and Jane Goodall, but there are also lesser-known scientists. Women such as the chemist Alice Ball, who is remembered for finding a cure for leprosy, and Katherine Johnson, a physicist and mathematician, who was one of the leading mathematicians on the Apollo missions to the moon. Where would we be without these women?

Until recently, I didn’t really think of myself as a scientist. I initially studied accountancy at university before changing to Zoology, and then worked as a manager in a safari lodge in South Africa for a few years. As I see it, a lucky few have a clear direction, the rest of us stumble along and try different things until we find something that fits relatively well. I am most certainly in the latter camp; however, I did know one thing growing up, I wanted my life to be an adventure.

After completing my Master's in the Control of Infectious Disease from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in 2017/2018, I was offered a job working there. I started my PhD in 2019, and now consider myself a medical entomologist, a woman who studies insects of medical importance.

My PhD focuses on the use of ivermectin to control the mosquitoes that spread malaria. I work on a large clinical trial on the Bijagós Archipelago, 50km off the small West African nation of Guinea-Bissau. These remote islands are thick with untouched jungle and beautiful white-sand beaches. They are home to West African manatees (or dugongs) and giant green sea turtles. The people of the Bijagós are warm and fun-loving, and I am extremely proud of being part of their community. We are administering ivermectin and an anti-malarial drug to the entire population, 28,000 people in total. When administered at a high enough dose, ivermectin makes your blood poisonous to mosquitoes, so we would expect the mosquito population to be greatly reduced. But hey, this is science, who knows what will happen?

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