Gift in action - Helena Vrbová Scholarship

Helena Vrobova
Helena Vrbová at work in Mandang, Papua New Guinea. Credit: Professor Gerta Vrbová

In 1979, LSHTM student Dr Helena Vrbová took on an exciting role researching malaria in Madang, Papua New Guinea.

She was thrilled to be able to put all that she had learned into practice and she immersed herself in the project and local community.  Sadly, just three years later, whilst still working in Madang, Helena tragically died.  She was just 29 years old.

To commemorate Helena’s life and her commitment to the eradication of malaria her mother, Professor Gerta Vrbová, established the endowed Helena Vrbová Scholarship.

She wanted to enable students who were as passionate about the eradication of malaria as her daughter to take on international research projects without financial restrictions holding them back.

The Helena Vrbová Scholarship gives much needed financial support to at least one student a year, enabling them to undertake an international research project.  The School manages the highly competitive application process where each proposed project is assessed by the panel alongside the student’s funding requirements. In 2015 recipient Athena Li used the scholarship to fund an exciting project, part of which was conducted in Brazil.

"For me, there is comfort to know that what Helena started and valued, is continuing."

Professor Gerta Vrbová


Athena Li, Helena Vrbová Scholarship recipient out in the field
Athena Li, Helena Vrbová Scholarship recipient out in the field. Credit: Athena Li.

"This scholarship greatly enhanced my experience and created numerous learning opportunities. I was able to setup a new project identifying novel antibody epitopes against Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax. I was able to learn new techniques in immunology, proteomics and bioinformatics, which were combined to build a most comprehensive overview of immune responses against the parasite. I greatly enjoyed the cultural exchange with our Brazilian collaborators and the results of my project will provide a better understanding of the immune responses against Malaria, which will go on to inform the development of vaccines and serosurveillance tools. Receiving this Scholarship has helped me grow as a young scientist and having graduated from my Master’s degree with distinction, I am now studying for a Doctoral degree on immune responses against Influenza vaccination in Hong Kong."

Athena Li, MSc Immunology of Infectious Diseases (2015)

"In the future, I hope to continue making contributions on vaccine design against infectious diseases of public health concern. I have been very fortunate to receive the Helena Vrbová scholarship and I am extremely grateful to it for advancing my career goals."

Athena Li, MSc Immunology of Infectious Diseases (2015)

If you would like to find out more about giving in memory please contact the Development and Alumni Relations Office T: +44 (0)20 7927 4772 E: