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Make Mathematics speak to the public & link it to economic growth, Minister Musenero appeals to Mathematicians

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By Ritah Namisango

The Minister for Science, Technology and Innovations, Hon. Dr. Monica Musenero called upon mathematicians to ensure that mathematics speaks to the public in a language they could understand and use for economic development. This was during the opening of the four-day joint African-Nordic Mathematics conference that was held at Makerere University under the theme, “Celebrating 20 Years with ISP/EAUMP/SIDA, 10 Years with CIMO/HEI-ICI and Commencing the NORHED II-Funded Mathematics for Sustainable Development Project from 1st to 4th August, 2023.

The Conference brings on board over 150 mathematicians from 15 countries including Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Zambia, Namibia, Ethiopia, Botswana, South Africa, Australia, Norway, Hungary, Denmark, Germany, USA and Uganda the host.

The conference is aimed at stimulating regional and international collaboration in training, research and outreach; honouring Professor Leif Abrahamsson for his great contribution to the development of mathematics in the East African region and beyond; celebrating the new Mathematics initiative MATH4SD in the region under NORHED-II as well as providing a forum for interaction among mathematicians from Africa and beyond with a view of sharing experiences in mathematical training, research and outreach activities.

Officially opening the Conference, Hon. Monica Musenero, an alumna of Makerere University informed the mathematicians that linking mathematics with science, technology and innovation is a key driver to economic development. So, when people are isolated and separated from such an important subject, leaving it in an academic corner, we miss 50% of the development. She appealed to the mathematics researchers to break down their findings to make them relevant to the entire public. She advocated for mathematics publications that can be read, understood and appreciated by the public for economic growth.

Hon. Dr. Monica Musenero Masanza (Right) presents the award to Prof. Leif Abrahamsson (Left) during the opening ceremony of the joint conference. Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda.
Hon. Dr. Monica Musenero Masanza (Right) presents the award to Prof. Leif Abrahamsson (Left) during the opening ceremony of the joint conference.

“If we are to have our economy grow, then we are going to come back to the corner of science and start to interpret what it means. We really need to functionalize the definition of mathematics. In simple terms, science is knowledge. I can speak that to a kindergarten pupil and they understand it. I am sure that people here have very specialized knowledge, but it has to be translated into technology and simply using mathematics to develop tools. I am sure there are very many tools that have been developed. However, for the public, we find it difficult to see those tools. So, we need to understand them such that they can speak and make sense to us,” Hon. Musenero said.

The Minister said that the academia struggle to find funds partly because some of the people who would provide those funds are not able to translate the mathematics language. She stated that if they could focus on translating the mathematics to make it visible, then obtaining funds would be quite easy. She thus urged the researchers to use their findings to create knowledge and develop tools to find solutions to people’s problems, where they live, work and spend their day to day lives.

“I would like to bring this from our side by saying that, please let mathematics speak to us. Make the PhDs speak to us. In science we do research and generate knowledge, but the knowledge must be transformed into tools. For instance, we used calculators in schools, but we never realized the mathematics in those calculators. That is a task that we have to walk this journey to translate the science into enterprises, such that we can bring about our socio-economic transformation.” She remarked.

Some of the participants follow proceedings during the opening ceremony of the Joint African-Nordic Conference in Mathematics. Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda.
Some of the participants follow proceedings during the opening ceremony of the Joint African-Nordic Conference in Mathematics.

Speaking about transforming Uganda’s economy, Hon. Musenero said that the country is focused on the socio-economic transformation. She stated that Science is no longer just a sector, but an approach to economic development. She highlighted that in order to take science as an approach, we can only do that if we are able to bridge the gap between knowledge and understanding. She emphasized that research is the only avenue for production of high caliber human resources as well as the best input into a country’s human capital.  “When the nation is engaged in research, it rapidly increases its human capital and following closely would be the development of the nation and the transition from a commodity based economy to a science led economy.”

On behalf of the Government of Uganda, the Hon. Musenero acknowledged the Nordic governments for the generous support towards the advancement of research and innovations in mathematics in Uganda. She also committed to working with key players to ensure that the investments would be effectively translated to ably formulate well informed policies that will lead to sustainable development as well as development of tools and innovations.

To the mathematics researchers and graduates supported under the NORAD program, the Minister invited them to a dialogue so that they discuss strategies that will benefit the country.  “I invite the Masters and PhD graduates, especially those from Uganda for a dialogue to see how to develop our country together and retain you in the country. We badly need you now, but many have in the past exited the country because they have not been seeing where else to go. We also need to find a way on how those who already left the country can come back home to work together.”

The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe commended the Nordic governments of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark for supporting Makerere University and other regional universities in the areas of human resources capacity building, research, library sciences and information technology and infrastructure development.

Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe (Left) and Hon. Dr. Monica Musenero (Right) share a light moment during the Conference. Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe (Left) and Hon. Dr. Monica Musenero (Right) share a light moment during the Conference.

“The Nordic support has greatly played a relevant role in helping Makerere University to deliver our core functions which are teaching, research and innovations and partnerships. Makerere University has benefited significantly from the very strong relationship and support from the Nordic countries. In particular, I must say that Sida and NORAD have helped us to come out of those difficult years and they have helped us to train more than 600 PhDs over the last 20 years. We are indeed very grateful,” Prof. Nawangwe said.

Prof. Nawangwe called upon staff, individuals and universities from Africa that had received the NORAD and Sida support to use it for capacity development and multiply the benefits of that capacity. He said that if that support is put to good use, it will help Africa to get out of the prevailing circle of poverty.

The Vice Chancellor underscored the value of mathematics. He categorically stated that mathematics is the mother of all sciences, and without it, we could not get anywhere. According to Prof. Nawangwe, the work of mathematicians is the foundation of everything that we want to do in science and developing our countries.

During the opening ceremony, Makerere University recognized Professor Leif Abrahamsson for his valuable and selfless contribution towards the development of mathematics in the East African region and Uganda in particular.

 “Today, we are honoring you Professor Leif Abrahamsson for the work you have done. As part of establishing everlasting memories of you in the East African region, Makerere University will establish the Leif Abrahamsson Chair for supporting mathematics in the Region.”

The Vice Chancellor noted that to solicit for funds to support the region in Mathematics, there is need to use the name ‘Leif Abrahamsson’ to permanently get support for Mathematics. He revealed to the participants that through this Chair, the University would target to raise at least USD 500,000 per year to support Mathematics in the East African region.

Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe addresses participants at the Joint African-Nordic Conference in Mathematics. Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda.
Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe addresses participants at the Joint African-Nordic Conference in Mathematics.

Prof. Bengt-Ove Turreson, the Director-International Science Program (ISP) said that ISP at Uppsala University-Sweden works to strengthen the scientific knowledge, research capacity and postgraduate education in the basic sciences that include mathematics, physics and chemistry in countries where such capacity is non-existing or weak.

As they celebrated 20 years of existence of the Eastern Africa Universities Mathematics Programme (EAUMP), Prof. Bengt-Ove Turreson recalled that in the early stages things quite difficult, but became better in 2002 when EAUMP was established. The network which started with three (3) countries namely Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, was later extended to Rwanda and Zambia, and it has played an important role in building human capacity. In the recent years, ISP started supporting PhD programs in the region. They started with supporting four (4) research groups.

“What we are doing in terms of global research is very unique. There is no other country that does this kind of work. All the countries are proud of the work we have been doing. We started working in 1961. We provide long-term funding, coordination and mentoring to research groups and regional scientific networks at universities and research institutes in low and lower-middle income countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Our main funding comes from the Swedish Government through the Swedish Development Cooperation Agency (Sida),” said the Director.

Prof. Turreson remarked that in addition to seminars such as the ongoing mathematics conference at Makerere University, EAUMP would establish summer schools to bring on board young mathematicians from the different parts of the world to enhance the new modern mathematics.

The Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) disclosed that mathematics is proven to be indispensable to human development and economic growth since the time of the industrial revolution.

“The third revolution brought about by the advance in communication and information technology finds its origin from applied mathematics and physics to a larger extent. We are now in the fourth industrial revolution which has been brought largely by data and artificial intelligence, which too find their roots from different parts of mathematics such as probability and statistics. The initiatives that involve AI or data science are driven by mathematics. Therefore, for the region to catch up with technological advances, it should prioritize mathematics, education and research,” said Prof Rai, Deputy Executive Secretary-IUCEA who represented the Executive Secretary- Prof. Gaspard Banyankimbona.

Prof. Idris Rai as part of the panelists during the Conference. Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda. East Africa.
Prof. Idris Rai as part of the panelists during the Conference.

Prof. Idris Rai assured participants that the interactions, engagements and networking of researchers will bring out more collaborative research activities to the region in addition to expanding knowledge in research and mathematics.

Counting the gains, Prof. Stephen Luketero, the overall coordinator of the Eastern Africa Universities Mathematics Programme (EAUMP) that was established in 2002, to alleviate the dismal state of Mathematics in Eastern Africa noted that with support and funding from Sida and NORHED, the region has been enriched with numerous developments in terms of knowledge. He stated that a substantial number of PhDs has been produced across the region in excess of 50 PhDs and countless number of masters. He also noticed that as a result, the number of females enrolling for PhDs in Mathematics was tremendously increasing.

“We have been able to have quite a big number of students in pursuit of the doctorates and post doctorates over a time. The research groups have been formed and out of such research collaborations, it is quite easy for the teams to come together and participate in writing research grants that can enhance research within the region. There was a wing that was created to cater for the advancement of knowledge and progression of female students and this has also run very well. Quite a number of graduates we are producing have been able to bridge the gap between male and female mathematicians.” Prof. Luketero said.

Speaking about Sida, ISP, NORAD support, CIMO and the achievements and future of EAUMP/NORHED, Prof. John Magero Mango the EAUMP Internetwork Coordinator said that with support under the NORDIC program, they have trained 11 PhDs in mathematics of which 5 are from Makerere University and 6 from University of Dar es Salaam. In addition, he stated that over 100 Masters have been supported with over 100 publications.

Prof. John Mango, addresses the Conference. Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda. East Africa.
Prof. John Mango, addresses the Conference.

“The NORAD fund at Makerere University from 2021 to 2026 is supporting five (5) PhDs. We evaluated our progress and as we review the curriculum which we formed under Sida, we are also concentrating on the outreach programs for Data Computation skills via mathematics. Those are key innovations that are worth recognizing at this moment under the support of our NORDIC friends. Under CIMO, we have greatly benefitted in extending our knowledge to the local industries.” Prof. Mango said.

The Principal, College of Natural Sciences at Makerere University, Prof. Winston T. Ireeta mentioned that organizing such a conference that brings on board 15 countries was a great achievement for the College, the Mathematics Department and Makerere University at large.

He said, “This gives us credibility and great visibility as Makerere University. We also have some goals we have set up to achieve some of which are through collaborations and interacting with others. Let us work on achieving them. Collaborations and networking are very important.”

Prof. Winston Tumps Ireeta, Principal, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS). Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda. East Africa.
Prof. Winston Tumps Ireeta, Principal, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS).

He applauded the Local Organizing Committee chaired by Dr. Godwin Kakuba and the professors who have greatly helped during examinations and PhD defenses. He also thanked the funders of the mathematics projects, ISP and Nordic governments for the support they have rendered in the promotion of mathematics.

Taking stock of the collaborations with major universities in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Zambia, Ethiopia, Finland, Norway and many other universities in the region, Dr.  Godwin Kakuba, the Head of the Department of Mathematics at Makerere University said hosting the conference provided a platform to celebrate the collaborations that had enabled the department to grow to such strength.

“As the head of department, I am very proud of these achievements and very optimistic about the future with profound joy.  When we look back to so many years ago, about 20 years, the number of PhDs was minimum, but now, having a PhD has become normal. The department of mathematics is therefore ready to take that direction towards transforming Makerere University into a research-led institution,” he remarked.

Dr. Godwin Kakuba, Head of the Department of Mathematics, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS). Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda. East Africa.
Dr. Godwin Kakuba, Head of the Department of Mathematics, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS).

Dr. Kakuba added that they will always measure their strengths annually basing on the number of publications made, the number of graduate students trained, number of research workshops and conferences organized and hosted as well as the goals achieved each year.

During the four day conference, research papers and poster presentations focused on the following areas: Algebra, Graph Theory, Real and Complex Analysis, Topology and Geometry, Dynamical Systems, Experimental Pure Mathematics, Biomathematics, Data Science, Biostatistics, ODES and PDES, Financial/Insurance Mathematics, Numerical Analysis, Fluid Dynamics, Operations Research, Stochastics, Applied Probability and Mathematical Statistics, Mathematics Education, Optimization, Bioinformatics, Clifford and Hypercomplex analysis as well as Combinatorics.

Natural Sciences

CoNAS Annual Report 2023

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Cover page of the CoNAS Annual Report 2023. College of Natural Sciences, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.

The College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS) is one of the 10 constituent Colleges of Makerere University with over 2,000 students and 153 members of staff spread across 2 schools and seven departments namely: School of Physical Sciences (Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Geology and Petroleum Studies) and School Biosciences (Departments of Plant Sciences, Microbiology and Biotechnology; Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries Sciences; and Department of Biochemistry and Sports Sciences). The College is the cradle of basic sciences at Makerere providing a foundation for all applied sciences offered at the University. This report is a presentation of the performance of the College in 2023.

Key highlights include performance of the College at the 74th graduation of Makerere University, the award of an Honorary Doctor of Science to Prof. Leif Abrahamsson for his contribution to the development of Mathematics in the East African region, the development of an E-Supervision Web Portal (https:/mastersresearch.ug/) to support the tracking of Masters Research supervision processes, the formation and operationalization of the Biology Society of Uganda (BioSU), support rendered towards the development of aquaculture in the country, the development of five high-value nutritious products (baby food, sauce, maize meal, snacks, and seasoning) using Mukene through the NutriFish Project, the development of an application for tracking fish catches as a measure to prevent overfishing, development of solar tent driers – greenhouse-like structures that reduce the risk of contamination – provide clean and efficient storage and drying, especially during the wet season subsequently reducing post-harvest losses, equipping students and members of the general public with skills needed in the installation and maintenance of solar energy Photovoltaic systems and biogas plants, the Joint African- Nordic Conference in Mathematics, as well as the 2023 Eastern Africa Algebra Research Group and Women in Sage workshops. The report also highlights the research grants received in the course of the year, conferences held, community engagements, activities by students, awards received by the different members of staff, staff publications, and matters of Human Resources at the College.

Management conveys appreciation to all development partners and the Government of Uganda for the support extended towards the different projects at the College. We also thank the University Council and Management for creating a conducive environment for both staff and students to explore their full potential.

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Natural Sciences

Equipping Students with Bioprospecting and Product Development Skills

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Dr. Alice Nabatanzi, Lecturer, Department of Plant Sciences, Microbiology and Biotechnology, School of Biosciences, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University, Kampala Uganda.

By Dr. Alice Nabatanzi

As we train Scientists we ought to equip them with skills that will help them survive beyond the Laboratories, beyond University, and beyond Academia. Thus, the need to Bioprospect and acquire product development skills.

I am therefore proud of what my 2024 Biotechnology Product Development Class has been able to achieve.

Following bioprospecting and entrepreneurial training, students developed the following products: Exotic beard oil, Herbal cough mixture, Power candy, Laundry bar soap, Moringa snack bars, Prudy Organic hair dye, Hair food, Syphilis remedy, Cornstarch based bioplastic, Nash probiotic drink, Dental care herbal mouthwash, Rosemary – lemongrass infused vinegar, Tea tree hand wash, Scented candles, Aloe fruit jam, Herbal bloom shower gel, Custard, Beetroot yoghurt, Dewormer, Stomach pain killers, Liquid organic fertilizers, Face scrub, Mosquito repellant scented air diffuser, Underarm whitening oil, Essential oil deodorant, Ria hair conditioner, Shower gels, Crochet jacket among others.

I am confident that with subsequent incubation, start-ups will emerge.


“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.”

Robert Greene


“Build your skills not your resume.”

Sheryl Sandberg

Dr. Alice Nabatanzi is a Lecturer of Phytomedicine and Nutraceuticals in the Department of Plant Sciences, Microbiology and Biotechnology, School of Bio-sciences, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University.

Photo Gallery of some of the products

Pata Guard Herbal Dewormer. Products from Dr. Alice Nabatanzi's 2024 Biotechnology Product Development Class, Department of Plant Sciences, Microbiology and Biotechnology, School of Bio-sciences, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Pata Guard Herbal Dewormer.
Lemongrass-Rosemary Infused Vinegar. Products from Dr. Alice Nabatanzi's 2024 Biotechnology Product Development Class, Department of Plant Sciences, Microbiology and Biotechnology, School of Bio-sciences, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Lemongrass-Rosemary Infused Vinegar.
Avocorn. Products from Dr. Alice Nabatanzi's 2024 Biotechnology Product Development Class, Department of Plant Sciences, Microbiology and Biotechnology, School of Bio-sciences, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Avocorn.
Jackfruit Seed Juice. Products from Dr. Alice Nabatanzi's 2024 Biotechnology Product Development Class, Department of Plant Sciences, Microbiology and Biotechnology, School of Bio-sciences, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Jackfruit Seed Juice.
Pure Mint Mouthwash. Products from Dr. Alice Nabatanzi's 2024 Biotechnology Product Development Class, Department of Plant Sciences, Microbiology and Biotechnology, School of Bio-sciences, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Pure Mint Mouthwash.
Exotic Beard Oil. Products from Dr. Alice Nabatanzi's 2024 Biotechnology Product Development Class, Department of Plant Sciences, Microbiology and Biotechnology, School of Bio-sciences, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Exotic Beard Oil.
Crochet Jacket. Products from Dr. Alice Nabatanzi's 2024 Biotechnology Product Development Class, Department of Plant Sciences, Microbiology and Biotechnology, School of Bio-sciences, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Crochet Jacket.
AvoGlow. Products from Dr. Alice Nabatanzi's 2024 Biotechnology Product Development Class, Department of Plant Sciences, Microbiology and Biotechnology, School of Bio-sciences, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
AvoGlow.
Luxe Guard Scented Candles. Products from Dr. Alice Nabatanzi's 2024 Biotechnology Product Development Class, Department of Plant Sciences, Microbiology and Biotechnology, School of Bio-sciences, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Luxe Guard Scented Candles.
Moringa Snack Bar. Products from Dr. Alice Nabatanzi's 2024 Biotechnology Product Development Class, Department of Plant Sciences, Microbiology and Biotechnology, School of Bio-sciences, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Moringa Snack Bar.
Power Candy. Products from Dr. Alice Nabatanzi's 2024 Biotechnology Product Development Class, Department of Plant Sciences, Microbiology and Biotechnology, School of Bio-sciences, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Power Candy.

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Natural Sciences

15 PhD Positions: Human River Systems in the 21st century

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15 New Positions Open in the FWF PhD Program "Human River systems in the 21st century (HR21)". Application Deadline: 2nd April 2024. Austria. Europe

Highly qualified applicants from all over the world are invited to apply for the PhD Program “Human River systems in the 21st century (HR21)”. The 15 positions are fully funded and the Doctoral Programme is providing additional resources for conference presentations, retreats etc.

The 15 PhD research topics are:

  • Topic 1: Role of hydrological extremes (floods) for sediment transport and morphodynamics in the human-river system
  • Topic 2: Material resources demand and flows of hydraulic structures to prevent societal impact of extreme events (social ecology, environmental history)
  • Topic 3: Intermittent flow – hydrological effects and impacts on benthic communities, ecological state and functioning of riverine systems
  • Topic 4: Drought, low flow and warming – hydrological effects and impacts on the ecological state and functioning of river systems
  • Topic 5: Water transit time distributions as indicators for the vulnerability of riverine ecosystems under different pressures from social metabolism
  • Topic 6: Analyzing possible contributions of re-activated former watercourses towards a more sustainable transformation of industrialized riverine landscapes in urban areas
  • Topic 7: The role of the latest industrial revolutions on instream processes and ecological vulnerability of IRL
  • Topic 8: The effects of infrastructure development on ecological and ecosystem service network properties in river systems
  • Topic 9: The impact of urban settlements on organic matter and nutrient flows in industrialized riverine landscapes – What can we learn from the past?
  • Topic 10: Urban metabolism, a river’s ecohydrology and industrialization: Vienna and the Danube, 1800-2000
  • Topic 11: Impact of external organic matter sources on nutrient, sediment and water transport from cropland into streams
  • Topic 12: Impacts of bioenergy crops used as riparian buffer strips on stream ecosystems’ functioning
  • Topic 13: Sustainable hydropower & and the water-energy-food nexus in multi-stressed IRLs: Challenges and solutions for science & management
  • Topic 14: Integrated modelling of farmers’ climate change impact and adaptation appraisal to inform regional human river nexus management
  • Topic 15: Strategic planning approaches to territorial governance of industrialized riverine landscapes

For more information, please visit: https://short.boku.ac.at/q9ry2k

Application deadline: 2nd April 2024

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