When John Mwero looks at charred sugar cane ash he sees sturdy bridges, soaring skyscrapers and stable roads. He's convinced that bagasse ash – the residue that's left after processors suck out the sugar and burn the cane, has the potential to make cement stronger and cheaper.
By Lauren Everitt as published by our partner allAfrica
To test his hunch, Mwero is conducting research towards his PhD degree – and confronting multiple challenges. After two degrees at the University of Nairobi and several stints with area consultants and contractors, Mwero knew civil engineering was his niche.
But funds for doctoral students are limited, advisors are in short supply and critical research equipment may be unavailable or broken.
Many students take seven to 10 years to earn their degrees, which is a long time by the standards of African universities.
"If you need to do a test and there is no money," he says, "you have to go and work and get the money. You eat some of it and do other things with some and save a bit for research, so it becomes an uphill task."
Luckily for him, Mwero's work caught the attention of the Regional Initiative in Science and Education (RISE), which supports promising science and engineering students pursuing advanced degrees in sub-Saharan Africa. Through gifted scholars like Mwero, the program hopes to boost higher education in engineering and science across the continent – mainly through a series of international networks that connect universities, students, civil society and industry.
Arlen Hastings is executive director of the Science Initiative Group, which launched RISE. "The rationale behind the program," she says, "was that there are many pockets of excellence around Africa, but there aren't that many African universities, outside of South Africa, that have the capacity to provide comprehensive PhD programs in science and engineering. However, if you take elements, pieces from each of a bunch, you can put together a pretty strong education."
For Mwero, the RISE network proved invaluable. "If you were to do an engineering PhD here, there would be a lot of challenges if I wasn't in a network like that," he says.
Read the full article here.