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View Vacancy -- Head of Station / Senior Investigator Scientist - GAM - 147

Open Date
22/03/2016 10:00
Close Date
22/04/2016 23:55
MRC Unit The Gambia
Established in 1947, the Medical Research Council Unit in The Gambia has an international reputation for ground-breaking research into some of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the tropics. The overall goal of the Unit is to improve the health of people in developing countries by aiming for excellence in research, health care and training. The research programme of the Unit spans from basic scientific research (nutrition, immunology, microbiology and molecular biology) to clinical studies, large epidemiological studies, intervention trials and translational research. The field and laboratory-based work draws on excellent research and clinical facilities and attracts international funding.  The Unit has about 150 scientists, clinicians and senior administrative staff from many parts of the world, as well as visiting researchers, and over 850 support staff.  There are also field stations – Basse, Keneba and Walikunda - each in a different ecological setting, providing varied research opportunities.
MRC - 3
The Gambia
£37,024 - £43,520 + allowances
Fixed Term
Full Time
3 years

The MRC Unit, The Gambia is the Council's largest establishment conducting medical research in a developing country. The Unit aims to improve the health of people in low-income countries by excellence in multi-disciplinary research programmes.


We wish to appoint a Head of Station to join the Nutrition Theme based at our Field Station in Keneba. This post offers exceptional opportunities to conduct in-depth studies at a well-equipped field laboratory. Current research focuses on understanding the mechanisms linking diet and disease within 4 sub-programmes: Early Growth & Development; Iron, Infection & Anaemia; Calcium, Vitamin D and Bone Health; and Nutritional Genetics and Epigenetics. You will have the opportunity to develop a research plan within one of these areas. In addition to undertaking research you will have day-to-day responsibility for the management of the field station, staff (approx. 200) and budget and resource planning. We will consider both clinical and non-clinical applicants.


You will be supported from the main MRC Unit at Fajara, which has excellent facilities for immunology and laboratory sciences, genetics, epidemiology/statistics and clinical and public health medicine. The Nutrition Theme is directed by Professor Andrew Prentice, based at, and linked to the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. 


You will have experience in international nutrition science or a related discipline, demonstrated research leadership and management skills, excellent communication skills and written and spoken English.  

Overall purpose:

To conduct research projects within the overall priority areas for the Nutrition Theme of MRC Unit, The Gambia (MRCG).

To lead in the local management of scientific, financial, administrative and clinical aspects of Keneba Field Station.


Main duties / key responsibilities:

Key responsibilities are divided into 5 broad areas:


Scientific: The mission of the Nutrition Theme at MRCG is to contribute to international efforts to improve the health and welfare of poor people through basic and applied research. The post holder will be responsible, in partnership with Professor Prentice for maximising productivity in this respect and to:


  • develop and execute their own programme of research;
  • assist Professor Prentice in integrating nutrition into other research programmes in The Gambia where appropriate, and in encouraging other MRC scientists to engage in the research in Keneba;
  • have joint responsibility for coordinating the needs of each of the scientific programmes and ensuring that they are appropriately resourced, as well as maintaining a vigorous scientific atmosphere through meetings, seminars and journal clubs;
  • represent Keneba on the Scientific Coordinating Committee (SCC) which meets monthly in Fajara, and other meetings as required


Administrative: The Head of Station assumes overall administrative responsibility for Keneba Field Station reporting to the Head of the Nutrition Theme (Professor Prentice), The Unit Director (Prof D’Alessandro) and Director of Operations (Mr Vives-Tomas).  This includes: the recurrent budget; capital equipment and capital estates planning and expenditure; managing and appraising staff; transport; buildings and grounds; safety; data management; and ensuring that SCC/Ethics approval is obtained for all research. The Field Station Administrator in Keneba, and administrative staff at MRC Unit, The Gambia, under the Director of Operations, provide support in all these matters. Staff in each of these categories are line-managed from MRC Fajara.


External liaison: The Head of Station is responsible for local representation and promotion of the Nutrition Theme and Keneba Field Station. Among other duties the post holder will attend the Joint Coordinating Meetings with the Gambian Government and take a proactive approach in maintaining strong links with relevant government departments, the National Nutrition Agency (NaNA) and international agencies.

Clinical: The post holder will be required to oversee the clinical aspects of the field station in close collaboration with the Head of Clinical Services.

Clinical duties (for clinical appointee):

In addition, you will be responsible (along with other medical staff) for the primary health care of children and adults from local villages and will share the teaching and training roles of the unit. The field station runs an outpatient, ambulatory and emergency service for local villagers. There is no inpatient service and patients requiring hospital investigation or admission are transferred to other clinic facilities in The Gambia.  All clinical events are captured within a clinical database. The doctors at Keneba see all children under three presenting at the clinic and any other children or adults about whom the local nurses are concerned. All new births are reviewed within 5 days in their homes. The unit has a regular ‘call clinic’ for growth monitoring and immunisation in children under two and a midwife run antenatal clinic. Clinical duties will include participation in the clinics and in the on-call emergency rota with the other resident physicians. Supervision of the nursing/midwifery staff will be shared with the other clinicians in Keneba. You will also be active in our treatment centre for severely malnourished children and you may be required to act as the dedicated medical liaison for other clinical research projects in Keneba.


Clinical supervision will be provided through liaison with senior clinicians and paediatricians at the MRC Unit, The Gambia (Fajara), in agreement with Professor Umberto D’Alessandro (Director).


Teaching and Training Duties

The Nutrition Theme has a strong cadre of PhD and MSc students and young post-docs and Keneba hosts medical and nutrition students on electives.  In addition the MRC runs a number of training programmes for junior staff members. You will be expected to take part in teaching activities and community health education.  


Working relationships:

Line manager: Head of Nutrition Theme (Professor Andrew Prentice).

Other significant working relationships:

Director (Professor D’Alessandro), Director of Operations (Mr Vives-Tomas) and staff at MRC Unit, The Gambia

Staff at MRC Keneba Field Station.

Staff at MRC International Nutrition Group, LSHTM.

Staff at MRC, Human Nutrition Research, Cambridge.



Key Responsibilities

Manage all aspects of your own research and the research programmes in Keneba.

Assist in managing and planning resources for Keneba.

Manage and appraise field station staff.

Oversee and perform (if applicable) clinical duties

Write scientific reports and publications.

Work under pressure and within the constraints of an overseas site.

Assist with research funding applications as required.

Additional information:

Any other duties as appropriate to a Band 3 post.


Education / Qualifications / Training required:


PhD or equivalent in a nutrition-related topic or medical degree.

Clinical training in paediatrics to at least MRCPCH level or equivalent (if clinical appointee).



DTM&H qualification or equivalent (if clinical appointee).

MD or PhD (if clinical appointee).

Previous work experience required:


Evidence of research excellence.



Prior overseas research or clinical experience in developing countries.

Training in nutritional science.

Knowledge and experience:


Managing a research team and supporting science programmes.

Managing and planning budgets and resources, keeping appropriate financial records in accordance with financial regulations.

Research experience and peer-reviewed publications.

Competent data analysis and statistical skills.



Prior formal experience of clinical or scientific teaching.

Prior experience of supervising student projects (audits etc).

Personal skills/behaviours/qualities:


To manage and lead a team as well as have a flexible approach to team working; work independently; be assertive whilst retaining a professional manner; able to work under pressure without compromising work quality.

To maintain and develop new relationships with colleagues and collaborators and work with a range of professionals/cultures.

Good time management, organisational and prioritising skills.

Competent IT skills.

Excellent written and spoken English and communication skills.

Desire to work in The Gambia.

Willingness to live and work at a remote site.



Willingness to travel overseas on short-term trips as dictated by the work.

MRC Unit The Gambia

The MRC Unit The Gambia represents the UK’s major public investment in medical research in a developing country. A long established Unit (over 50 years), which works closely with The Gambia Government, it is an important part of the community and one of the top employers in the country. The overall aim of the Unit is to improve the health of people in low-income countries by aiming at excellence in research programmes.

Keneba Field Station

MRC Keneba has an international reputation for its work on diet-disease interactions in sub-Saharan Africa. Although the great majority of research in Keneba has been directed towards nutrition in recent decades we strongly encourage and welcome researchers from the Disease Control and Elimination (DCE) and Vaccines and Immunity (VI) themes to engage with research in Keneba.  

Most of the past work has focussed on growth failure and its associated pathology in children, and on the nutrition of reproductive women. This work continues to be broadened and forms the basis of a number of on-going projects which fall under the four sub-programmes. Early Growth & Development; Iron, Infection & Anaemia; Calcium, Vitamin D and Bone Health; and Nutritional Genetics and Epigenetics. 

Keneba Field Station, based approximately 100 miles by road from the capital, Banjul, and the main MRC Laboratories at Fajara, consists of a self-contained site with laboratories, a clinic, administrative infrastructure, staff housing, and all necessary support facilities such as generators, transport, computing, etc. Keneba is attached to a remote village and serves a number of other villages in the West Kiang region.

The resident senior staff currently comprises:

1 Senior Investigator Scientist/Head of Station (this post)

1 Paediatric/Registrar/Head of Clinical Services

2 Research Scientists (1 based in Fajara)

6 Gambian Scientists (2 currently completing a PhD and 1 appointed as Deputy Head of Station)

2 West African Physicians

1 Data Manager/Database developer

1 Administrator

2 Midwives

Visiting Workers (a variable number)

The field station is supported by frequent visits from staff at Fajara and collaborating scientists in the UK and elsewhere. The scientific programme involves close collaborations with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, MRC Human Nutrition Research in Cambridge and with other research programmes within The Gambia.

There is considerable scope for the post holder to pursue their own research relevant to the overall programme of nutrition research. The precise nature of this work will depend on the successful candidate's prior experience and interests. Considerable assistance in designing appropriate research proposals will be given and they will undergo peer review. There will be multiple opportunities to be involved in other research protocols. We anticipate that the successful candidate will conduct research at the interface between basic and clinical science in order best to exploit the special opportunities offered field laboratories adjacent to the population base.

The post holder will be required to live in Keneba for the majority of their contract though some preparatory and time might be required at LSHTM by mutual negotiation with Professor Prentice.

The salary will be commensurate with qualifications and experience on pay scale Band 3 (£37,024-£43,520 per annum).  For displaced staff we offer overseas allowances, furnished accommodation, flights, excellent holiday entitlement, membership of MRC final salary pension scheme and other benefits.  The post is for 3 years.

Applicants are strongly advised to contact Prof Andrew Prentice or the current incumbent Dr Rita Wegmuller to discuss Keneba and the research opportunities offered by this post before submitting an application. 

Please ensure that you include a copy of your CV, covering letter and contact details for three professional referees within your application.

The MRC is a great place to work and progress your career, be it in scientific research or the support functions.

The MRC is a unique working environment where our researchers are rewarded by world class innovation and collaboration opportunities that the MRC name brings. The MRC is an excellent place to develop yourself further and a range of training & development opportunities will be available to you, including professional registration with the Science Council.

Choosing to come to work at the MRC means that you will have access to a whole host of benefits from a final salary pension scheme and excellent holiday entitlement to access to employee shopping/travel discounts and salary sacrifice cycle to work scheme and childcare vouchers, as well as the chance to put the MRC on your CV in the future.


Our success is dependent upon our ability to embrace diversity and draw on the skills, understanding and experience of all our people. We welcome applications from all sections of the community irrespective of gender, race, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, disability or age. As "Disability Confident" employers, we guarantee to interview all applicants with disabilities who meet the minimum criteria for the vacancy.


Final appointments will be subject to pre-employment screening.

This opportunity is closed to applications.