About 11 months ago, John Paul and I embarked on a very special trip. Through the efforts of three amazing professors - Simon Billinge (Columbia), Peter Green (Michigan), and Sossina Haile (CalTech) - the two of us, along with about 50 other young scientists, attended the 1st Joint U.S.-Africa Materials Initiative (JUAMI for short) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We traveled the thousands of miles to attend the JUAMI Materials Research School on materials for sustainable energy. We also came to meet each other and see how we could move forward in our scientific careers by working together.
SciBridge developed as a way for us to keep building the connections between scientists in east Africa and the United States. We believe that a sustainable energy future requires an "all hands on deck" approach. We hope that these scientific connections lead to more full-fledged research collaborations between the U.S. and Africa. As a way to start the conversation, SciBridge uses experiment kits on different topics in nanoscience that were developed at UCLA and the California NanoSystems Institute. These kits are assembled in the U.S. and shipped to the collaborating university in east Africa, bypassing the need for significant research infrastructure. We then invite a U.S. researcher to give a live web seminar to the students, which is followed by a discussion session. It is here that the SciBridge is built - this is the most important part of the experience.
Our first SciBridge will happen later this month - most of the experimental kit is at Makerere University (we're waiting for the final critical item, titanium dioxide, to arrive). We are very grateful to Dr. Jia Ming Chen, Prof. Sarah Tolbert, and UCLA/CNSI for sending the first kit! John Paul will lead his undergraduate physics students in a dye-sensitized solar cell experiment, which will be followed by a web seminar from Reeja Jayan, a postdoctoral fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (thank you Reeja!) We are very excited to see how our first connection proceeds, and we hope the students have a great time making the solar cells and discussing solar energy in general. After this experiment, we will begin seeking funds to grow our program so we can send more kits to students!