Today the world marks yet another World AIDS Day. Did you know that 41% of new HIV infections are among young people? That means that every 30 seconds, yet another young person gets infected with the deadly virus! Does that scare you enough? Does it worry you as a young person? Does it encourage you to become more careful in your sexual life? If not, then with all due respect, you must be on some serious intellectual contraceptives. But there’s only one kind of contraceptive that Linzie Juma recommends; condoms. Matter of fact, she says her work has made her so conscious of the ravaging effects of HIV/AIDS in the country that she takes every opportunity she gets to sensitize the youth about leading responsible sexual lives.
Linzie Juma graduated from JKUAT with honours in B.Sc. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. She works as an Assistant Research Officer at KEMRI, particularly in partnership between KEMRI and the University Of Maryland/CDC that deals with research in HIV. Among her responsibilities include doing all molecular HIV testing to support the National Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) program and Epidemiological research at the KEMRI lab.
Linzie is by design a happy person. Very positive in her life perspectives, a visionary and an intellectual persona, and this is not a subjective statement. It’s a statement of fact, though I’ve learnt to respect anyone who studied and loves anything with Chemistry in it. That subject gave me hell on Earth. If in the course of your conversation she doesn’t happen to mention the significant role God has played in her life, then she will be discussing yet another important subject, most likely something that would positively transform the society. Driven by what she considers her God-given purpose, Linzie executes her work passionately, and says she can’t trade it for anything else. Her ambition is to see a generation that is free of the HIV/AIDS monster.
We snatched Linzie off her busy schedule to share her experience in her work, her life in JKUAT and her purpose in life.
What has been your professional journey like, from student to your current position?
It hasn’t been easy. The economy seemed unforgiving, but I was relentless in my search for the ‘perfect job.’ Networking was my in. As soon as I got my first academic attachment, I started setting up meetings with everyone I knew in industries of interest to me, including my current boss. I think I was better prepared with the job-hunting process than most of my peers. I began looking for work in my field before my final exams. By the time I graduated, I had already been through the search and negotiation process with two different internships. I knew finding a job in a bad economy was very difficult so after my internship with KEMRI CIPDCR Busia -that was immediately after my final exam- I fortunately landed several short contracts –temporary employee- in the same facility before getting my current position.
Apart from the academic provision, what role has JKUAT played in your career development?
So much I learned from JKUAT, but just to mention a few; When I Joined JKUAT a very immature, lonely, and neurotic person, I set out to transform myself. I was a member of the Hands of Compassion Ministry, and I Later became the Chairlady of CBF-Coast Brethren Fellowship. This helped me nature my leadership skills and I learned how to listen and resolve personal issues and create peace among a team, how to hold a group of people together, and how to deal with troubled people constructively. Not only did I empower myself, but I empowered the other group members, too.
It was an amazing and wonderful time, and I learned great things and became an adult
Do you think studying at JKUAT has made you uniquely equipped and qualified to handle various jobs and initiatives? If yes, kindly elaborate.
Absolute Yes. Apart from the intensive academic knowledge, some of the most useful skills I have are derived from my stay in Juja Boys. The different clubs in JKUAT and not forgetting the common university Units that students take for granted have imparted in me strong problem-solving skills and made me a value-added and innovative solution-provider.
What are your most treasured memories of JKUAT while you were a student?
Visiting orphanages and playing with the kids all day. Unashamed Praise.
In your current position and all other initiatives you have handled before, what keeps you going and what has been your work/life philosophy or principle?
Stephen Colbert, I quote him every day; “If we’d all stuck with our first dream, the world would be overrun with cowboys and princesses. So whatever your dream is right now, if you don’t achieve it, you haven’t failed, and you’re not some loser. But just as importantly — and this is the part I may not get right and you may not listen to — if you do get your dream, you are not a winner.
I am driven to be the best at what I do and fortunately, I work in a place where l have opportunities to develop my skills, take on interesting projects, and work with people I can really learn from. Some of the most innovative thinkers work here and that’s a big reason why I would love to build a career here. Am currently working on a few projects and there are plans underway for both Masters and PHD scholarship come next year.
If you were to go back in time and become an undergraduate student at JKUAT again, what would you do differently?
I would make more connections with the lectures and students. Because you never know who you will meet where.
What’s your word of advice to the current and prospective JKUAT students taking the course you studied at the University?
Study from day one. Keep a sense of perspective. Join a club. Serve in Ministry. Choose your friends wisely and make connections. You can never miss a job. University is a completely different world compared to what you’re used to so take every opportunity you get and make the most of it. Most importantly, enjoy yourself. Talk to students doing your course in the years above you about available units, coursework, anything and everything because they have already gone through it all. Set high personal and academic standards for yourself, and live up to them.
Would you recommend to someone the course you studied at the University? Kindly explain.
Yes. You study Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, You carry answers to all human health related quiz. And this is it: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology offer humankind the tools to improve our quality of life –this may be through the development of a novel drug, the generation of a drought resistant crop plant, or the understanding of what controls an individual’s health. When you understand this importance, you will love Biochemistry.
How do you intend to contribute to the society using your expertise?
Being a part of the workforce for any period of time, I have at least some level of professional expertise plus certain unique set of skills, knowledge and experience that I believe make me an asset to in the society. Am not planning hoard it away like a squirrel stashes nuts, am not saving all that goodness for myself. I have a dream of helping those living with Neglected Tropical diseases like jiggers. And two, am planning to put up a national club for creating HIV/AIDS awareness differently among the youths. And to help parents talk freely with their children about sexual activities.
What do you consider your life’s purpose, and how do you live up to accomplishing it each and every day?
My life’s purpose is to help and to inspire others from great research in the medical field, and with words that comes from my heart. Am a good motivator by the way. Robin Sharma said, the purpose of life is a life of purpose. Am true to who I am and express my authentic gift. Life is neutral and meaningless without a purpose and one thing that I have made a routine in my life is to peruse my purpose everyday with passion. Finding a way to use your passions to give back to the world will give your life ultimate meaning. This makes me live to fulfill my life purpose.
As the World prepares to mark the World AIDS Day, get the latest fact sheet on HIV/AIDS from the World Health Organization (WHO) here.