Kamela Ng Awarded Doctorate after Successfully Defending her PhD

Defending her PhD thesis over Zoom was not exactly what Kamela Ng had in mind when she began her research 3 years ago. This defense was a culmination of years of hard work, learning by doing, surmounting obstacles, living in 3 different countries in Europe, and many enriching experiences. Before beginning her PhD degree, Kamela completed a bachelor’s and master’s degree in the Philippines, in general biology (focused on immunology) and microbiology (focused on drug resistance in bacteria). “It was those years that really sparked my interest in research.”

In her MSc thesis, she collected samples in slaughterhouses and learned firsthand of the risk of transmission of zoonotic drug-resistant bacteria among butchers without PPE. This inspired her to pursue research on drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) – coined as the ‘national disease of the Philippines’. She worked with the team at the Philippine Genome Center that conducted pioneering research on whole genomes of Philippine drug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis strains. Her interest on this topic formed the basis of her application to the Erasmus Mundus International Doctorate in Transdisciplinary Global Health Solutions program.

It was in 2016 that she began pursuing her PhD in ITM Antwerp, Belgium, AIGHD Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and ISGlobal, Barcelona, Spain under the supervision of many established researchers including Prof. dr. Frank G. J. Cobelens and Dr. Frank van Leth. Her completed PhD, entitled “Utilization of molecular resistance test results as tools to support public health efforts for improved control of rifampicin-resistant tuberculosis (RR-TB)” addressed diagnostic challenges that affect the interruption of RR-TB transmission and developed an early warning tool for RR-TB control through statistical modeling of routine Xpert data from Rwanda. She has undergone transdisciplinary research training during her PhD, benefiting from interactions with a diverse group of National TB Control Program managers, TB diagnostic test and connectivity software developers, staff of TB supranational reference laboratory, scientists and policymakers from the WHO, and doctors caring for the TB patient.

Kamela’s experience over the past 3 years has had its challenges, but it has been far more gratifying than she could have imagined. “Having been able to work with all of my supervisors has been very rewarding. They have become my role models. I really learned a great deal from them, including how to stay calm and focused despite trying times. Their support and mentorship will forever remain a major part of my achievements. I really look forward to the day I can do the same for someone else.”

What’s next for Kamela?

“It all started with a tweet,” that’s how Kamela Ng ended up at her current job in Boston, USA. Before defending her PhD, she already started working as a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School under the mentorship of Prof. dr. Megan B. Murray, who posted about a research opportunity on Twitter last year. Kamela, who had not yet defended her PhD at the time, was inspired to apply to the position by her co-promoter, dr. Frank van Leth, who notified her of the tweet. She was successful in her job search and moved to Boston in 2019 feeling grateful to continue to be working on TB.

Kamela aimed to defend her PhD in January, however, due to administrative delays and the pandemic, this date was postponed until June. Kamela successfully defended her PhD earlier this month in front of her supervisors and committee members, family, friends, and colleagues, with her husband as her paranymph. We congratulate her and wish her the best in her future endeavours.