Below is the report on our first African Coordinators Workshop which was held last summer. The report is compiled by John Paul Eneku, our primary SciBridge coordinator in Africa.
Scibridge Project-Uganda Chapter has six member universities spread evenly across the country,
Uganda. Two universities are located in the central region (Makerere University and Kyambogo
University); another two lie in the eastern region (Islamic University in Uganda and Busitema
University). While northern and western regions has each one university- Gulu University and
Mbarara University of Science and Technology, respectively. They are all public or state owned
universities. Makerere University is the overall coordination center and is managed by Mr. Eneku
John Paul (MSc), Lecturer at the department of physics. The department of physics in each member
university is the primary participating unit and undergraduate students of Bachelor of Science
(Bsc) in physics plus their staff are involved in the collaboration and even graduate (MSc) students
in some cases.
The academic dialogue between Ugandan universities (students/staff) with their counterparts in
the United States began in October 2014, with a novel science experiment kit (dye sensitized solar
cell). In September 2014, a total of six experiment kits were sent to Uganda from University of
Texas at Austin (one kit per university). The kits were mobilized and delivered under coordination
of Dr. Veronica Augustyn (then a Postdoctoral Fellow) and a team of volunteer students of the
same university. The benefiting universities supplement the kits with supplies that are readily
available locally. These first kits had been assembled at The University of Texas at Austin but the
experiment was originally developed at the California NanoSystems Institute at the University of
California, Los Angeles. Thanks to the Materials Research Society Foundation Grassroots Grant
which enabled the purchase of the kit supplies and shipping. The solar cell experiment allows
Ugandan students to explore the relationship between materials, nanotechnology, energy and light.
Once a class of students performed the experiments under the supervision of their lecturer, a web-
seminar is arranged involving a U.S. researcher (live online), the students and their lecturer.
Activity photos are taken and posted on the project websites: www.scibridge.org;
www.facebook.com/scibridge; www.twitter.com/scibridge. On these websites, all participants
(U.S. and African scientists) including the public follow collaboration events, receive latest news
and easily network.
Beyond the experiment exercise, students are inspired and motivated to do further investigations
in the area of the experiment. Subsequently, in February 2015, again six additional kits were sent to Uganda (one per university) as additional supplies to support individual student projects on dye-
sensitized solar cells. The scibridge project values the individual investigations as an important process of becoming a scientist. In all member universities quite a number of final year BSc
physics students (undergraduates) routinely conduct individual investigation projects in dye
sensitized solar cells. The research project is a requirement contained in their university
curriculum. Students’ investigations explore the potential in natural dye extracts obtained from
their rich-local environment as photosensitizers for dye sensitized solar cells. In one of the
universities (Mbarara University of Science & Technology), even graduate MSc students
completed researched topics in the area of dye sensitized solar cells.
In April 2015, Ocean optics donated UV-VIS spectrometer to the scibridge project and later in the same month it was delivered to Uganda. The instrument supports students research related to dye-
sensitized solar cells and in particular analyzing transmittance and absorbance of visible radiation by dye extracts (organic compounds) under investigation for use as photosensitizers in the solar
cell. It’s a single instrument and so it is being shared among the six member universities.
In May 2015, a second experiment developed by Texas Materials Institute, University of Texas
was delivered to Uganda. In this experiment, students build an aluminum/air (Al/air) battery and
then use this battery to light different color LED lights and power any other devices. Thanks to the
Materials Research Society grant that funded the development of the kits and shipping.
More experiments continue to be designed and assembled by the U.S based collaborators led by
Scibridge group of North Carolina State University (U.S home of Scibridge). This activity is
headed by Dr. Veronica Augustyn, Assistant Professor of the Department of Materials Science and
Engineering in the same university.
Generally, since the start of the scibridge project in October 2014, there has been a beehive of
experiment and research activity at all member universities through the years 2014 and 2015. The
records can be found on the project web-platforms. Due to inevitable challenges and interruptions
the project activities slowed down in the year 2016. Whereas the project started way back in
October 2014, no joint status review was conducted. The first project review for the Ugandan
network was then held on July 1st, 2017 and participants were coordinators from all the six member
universities. This workshop reviewed the project activities in the previous two years of its
existence in Uganda. The activities included: to receive feedback on activities progress,
experiences, challenges and make recommendations going forward. Work plans were drawn for
the current and future activities. The workshop also provided an opportunity to receive a feedback
report by Scibridge African organizer following a collaboration visit he completed to North
Carolina State University (main Scibridge collaborator in the U.S.) between 17th-30th September 2016. Thanks to North Carolina State University for the East Africa Strategic Initiative grant that
funded the collaboration visit of September 2016 and this workshop event.
Further details of the aforementioned project activities are contained in the preceding pages of
Below is the full report as penned by John Paul Eneku available for download if you want to keep reading.