The unlikely path that Thumbi Ndung’u followed to become a world-class AIDS researcher began in a rural highland village in Kenya. Ndung’u grew up with five brothers and five sisters in a house with no running water or electricity. He picked coffee beans and milked the family cows when he wasn’t at school. By Kenyan standards, he was middle class, and his father was a hardworking teacher at a neighborhood school. It would take a series of lucky breaks for this gifted scientist to wend his way to the Ph.D. program at Harvard University, becoming the first scientist to clone HIV subtype C—the most prevalent strain of HIV in Africa and one long ignored by Western scientists.