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January 2014

Three months into Princeton University’s rigorous mathematics doctoral program, Phillip Griffiths wanted to drop out. A graduate of Wake Forest College in Winston-Salem, N.C., where the math curriculum concentrated on first- and second-year courses, Griffiths felt woefully less prepared than the students who had come from major universities and, as undergraduates, had already taken graduate courses. His peers, he says, “were used to a competitive environment that was new to me.” Over a cup of coffee or tea in the common room, they would probe him about his knowledge of the latest theorems, which he’d never even heard of. So he drove home to North Carolina with the notion of transferring to a school there.

His father, who’d had a hardscrabble early life and ended up working in forestry, would have none of it. He “read me the Riot Act and basically said for me to get my tail back up to Princeton and get to work,” Griffiths recalls. He followed his father’s order, and that fateful decision in 1959 turned out to be a boon not only for mathematics, but also for administration at two of the most prestigious academic institutions in the U.S., as well as for math education worldwide.

Article and video here.

December 2013

The Regional Initiative in Science and Education, RISE – a major project aimed at boosting higher education in Africa in sciences and engineering through postgraduate training in university-based networks – has been granted US$5 million for three years from its major donor.

The third and final grant from The Carnegie Corporation of New York brings the total funding for the programme to just over US$15 million, as announced by grant administrator the Science Initiative Group, or SIG, in the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton in the United States, on Thursday 19 December. Article here.

December 2013

The Science Initiative Group (SIG) at the Institute for Advanced Study announces a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY) to fund the Regional Initiative in Science and Education (RISE) in Africa for 2014-2016. The award of $4,999,500 represents the third and final grant by CCNY in support of RISE, bringing the total CCNY funding for RISE to more than $15 million since 2008. Full press release here.

December 2013

Understanding the genetic makeup of black tea is a pressing goal for scientists in southern Africa. The graduate students supervised by Zeno Apostolides, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Pretoria, have identified a DNA sequence that is associated with drought tolerance in the plant, and their ongoing research could be applied to produce drought-resistant varieties of other crops in Africa.

Although such work is relevant and promising, it falls outside the priorities of South African government funding, Apostolides said. Graduate students at the University of Pretoria must seek support elsewhere, and in this case, their research grants come all the way from Princeton.

This month, the Regional Initiative in Science and Education or RISE, a program run by the Institute for Advanced Study, received its third and final grant from the Carnegie Corp. of New York. Since 2008, Carnegie has given RISE more than $15 million to train scientists and engineers in sub-Saharan Africa.

Article here.

December 2013

In this podcast, Pelly Malebe, a PhD student at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, discusses her academic journey – from the ideas that inspired her as a young student on first being introduced to DNA, to her hopes and aspirations for her research today and in the future.

Malebe describes how an early fascination with genetics has now translated into doctoral research on the tea grown in Sub-Saharan Africa, with a focus on developing varieties that are better adapted to climate change and altered growing conditions. She also outlines her thoughts on the relationship between research and industry in Africa, and the challenges around forging science-led development across the continent. 

The interview was recorded in South Africa in October this year, during the annual conference of RISE (the Regional Initiative in Science and Education), a network coordinated by the Science Initiative Group at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, United States, and supported by grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Podcast here.

December 2013

A tree transplanted from Asia is helping Ugandans in a number of ways, and one of them is natural healing. This video highlights the research done by Patrick Ogwang of RISE-AFNNET and his colleagues. Video here.

December 2013

SciDev presents a monthly podcast to keep people in the loop about science and technology news related to global development. In this podcast, listeners hear about the rise of African innovation and how the UN is addressing climate change.

PhD student Pelly Malebe and SciDev editor Kaz Janowski talk about the bright future for Africa’s scientists at the Regional Initiative in Science and Education (RISE) conference in Johannesburg, South Africa. Jonathan Ledgard, director of the new Afrotech initiative at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, discusses the challenges and opportunities for Africa in the digital age. Podcast here.

November 2013

The University of Malawi (UNIMA) has announced that it has a new Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Kalenga Saka (also of RISE-SABINA), who has replaced Dr. Emmuel Fabiano. Article here.

November 2013

In SciDev.Net's new podcast series, ‘PhDs in Focus’, SciDev.Net puts the spotlight on some of the personal PhD stories behind the headlines. They will be interviewing PhD students and graduates about their routes through academia — the challenges they’ve overcome, their thinking on science-led development and how their careers fit into these wider debates. SciDev.Net will also be asking them for their suggestions for how doctoral programmes in Africa can expand and improve.

The series launches with an interview with Dr Sithabile Tirivarombo, a Zimbabwean water resource scientist who recently graduated with a PhD in water resource science from Rhodes University, South Africa.

In a wide-ranging discussion, Tirivarombo shares her thoughts on: the different obstacles and opportunities she has encountered on her path through higher education; Zimbabwe’s ‘brain drain’ problem and the impact of political instability on researchers; issues of gender equity in African universities; and how she sees her research contributing to science-led development in Southern Africa.

Tirivarombo’s doctoral programme was funded by RISE, the Regional Initiative in Science and Education, a network coordinated by the Science Initiative Group at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, United States, and supported by grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Podcast here.

September 2013

Since its establishment in 2005, the African Mathematics Millennium Science Initiative (AMMSI) has concentrated on promoting mathematics in Sub-Sahara African countries because, at the time of its establishment, it was anticipated that a Millennium Science project would be initiated for the Mediterranean countries, to involve Southern Europe and North Africa.  The project never materialized.  Over the years, there has been concern about exclusion of North Africa from AMMSI’s activities, particularly since some of the countries in this region are equally in need of the kind of support provided by AMMSI. Consequently, the AMMSI Programme Committee recently resolved to establish an AMMSI North Africa Region consisting of the following countries: Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia.  The country of South Sudan now becomes part  AMMSI Eastern Africa, due to the close economic and political ties it has with Eastern Africa.  The Programme Committee also approved the appointment of Prof. Nouzha El Yacoubi, of University Mohammed V – Agdal, Morocco, as the first AMMSI Regional Coordinator for North Africa.

The establishment of the North Africa Region will impact on AMMSI’s activities, including MARM, Postgraduate Scholarships (through IMU) and LMS-AMMSI Conference Grants.

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